In Appreciation of Growing Up

West Vancouver

Do you ever have those days when you are just at loose ends? That was me this morning. I didn’t have a lot of energy, didn’t have anything specific that I had to do and it was a wet drizzly day. I could easily have pulled on my jammies and gone back to bed, but I knew that wouldn’t really help. I didn’t have quite enough energy to muster up a run but knew I needed to get out and get some exercise. Closets are sorted and the yard is ready for the onslaught of November rains. What to do, what to do? And then I knew what I needed to do. I needed to go back to my roots.

Fortunately, my roots, or the area I grew up in, are only a 20 minute drive away. I was headed to Ambleside and a walk on the sea wall. There’sĀ just something about going back to West Vancouver that calms me and in some ways, reconnects me. It’s familiar and holds so many memories and firsts. First school, first best friend, first kiss, first party, first driving lesson in a standard…..you get the picture. For me, going back to West Van and walking the seawall can clear my head and remind me about what is important. Family, friends and belonging.

West Vancouver is not necessarily the same place today that it was when I was growing up. The majority of the ranchers and cute little bungalows are gone. Replaced with huge, gated homes. Not many kids walk or ride their bikes to school anymore. Park Royal Shopping Centre has doubled in size and increased its profile. Bonnie Belle Makeup has been replaced by Sephora and Bootlegger by Banana Republic. Most people I knew have either moved away or, in the case of my parents friends, have passed away. But you know what, it’s okay. Times have changed everywhere and selfishly, West Vancouver gave me what I needed and I’m grateful for that. What did it give me? So many things.

An appreciation of nature. There are so many fabulous outdoor spots in West Vancouver that it’s sometimes hard to know where to go. Not just the sandy, park like beaches of Ambleside and Dundarave but also the rocky, often deserted, beaches between 29th and 31st streets. The trails and rocky bays of Lighthouse Park. For so many years I was convinced that the boogie man lived there. The mountains. A family friend had a cabin up Hollyburn Mt and we would hike up there in the summer and swim in the extraordinarily cold glacial lakes. Access to the island and Whistler were only minutes away. Believe it or not I did my first overnight Girl Guide camp out at the top of the British Properties. Somewhere up there amongst all those new homes is a trail leading up to beautiful wooded spot where we (gasp) lit fires and slept under the trees.

An appreciation of a good school. I still keep in touch with some of the people I went to West Bay Elementary School with (thanks to Facebook) and have such great memories of that school. Sports day three legged races, music class with Mr Rose, the annual track and field day at West Van High track, and of course those after school dances. It was such a simple time in my life but it was also a lot of life lessons. Like the time Katherine Taylor hit me over the head with her metal lunch box. Lesson learned? Don’t be friends with kids with metal lunch boxes. Walking to school, starting in Kindergarten, was not only accepted but pretty much mandatory. Lessons learned? Get over your fear of dogs, loud trucks and the weird kids who lived along the way.

An appreciation of community. May Day Parade 1974. I was one of the flower girls in the parade. Not only did I get to ride on the float but I got to dance around the maypole in my pretty pink dress. My daughter will be very jealous one day. If I ever tell her. West Van in the 70 was really just a small municipality. The ice rink on 22nd street is still there. I wonder if they still have Teen Night every Saturday? The aquatic centre didn’t exist then. If you wanted to take a swimming lessons, the rec centre assigned you an instructor and you went to somebody’s house and learnt to swim in their pool. If you wanted to hang out at a pool you went to the outdoor pool at Ambleside. Kids all took the bus. Everywhere. There were crazy people around then too but we all just accepted them and they lived their lives in their own way.

Really, I could go on forever. So many memories of people and places and events, all just a short drive away yet really so far away. I came home after my walk with a better outlook on my day. For me, The Best Thing in Life today is being able to just go home for a quick visit and a reminder of some of the important things in life.

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Life Lessons

bag lady

My daughter and three of her friends had an opportunity to be involved in an event at BC Place this past week. Four excited six year olds and I piled into my truck and headed downtown from North Vancouver. They sang songs, played clapping games and talked about meeting their favorite soccer players. As we approached the East Side, my daughter asked if we were getting close to the homeless people. We had driven this route before and had had some discussions about people living on the streets. For some reason it was a source of fascination and tonight was no different as the four of them had some interesting questions.

I’ve never been bothered by East Hastings St. Yes, you need to keep your head down and avoid eye contact but really these people are, for the most part, harmless. I’m not a big person but I’ve never felt threatened on the odd occasion I’ve had to walk through the Main and Hastings area. There are parts of Surrey that scare me more. During the Olympics in 2010, everyone was concerned about how it would look to the rest of the world but honestly, it’s just another part of what makes this city what it is. No, it’s not as pretty as Stanley Park or Grouse Mountain. It’s not an area you might want to take people to on a city tour. But, it’s a part of Vancouver that has always been there and will probably never change.

So as we stop at every red light between Clarke andĀ Carrall my six year old tells me that one of her friends has never seen a homeless person and could I please explain it to her. At this point I am bombarded with questions from all four of them. Why are they homeless? Where do they sleep? Why are they selling stuff on the street? If they don’t have any stuff why are they selling what they have? What do they need money for? What do they eat? Why is that man waving his hands in the air like he’s swatting a bee? That man doesn’t have a shirt on. Can’t he afford clothes? Are they ALL homeless? I did my best to answer them and I would like to apologize to their parents if they now have a few new words in their vocabulary.

I know they are young, but it does reminded me that we live in a bubble out here in Deep Cove. It’s a lovely bubble, but it is just that. We drop off our unwanted clothes at the charity box near Safeway and many of the girls collect money for charity at their birthdays parties instead of gifts, but the reality is that they have no idea why somebody would even need our charity. They all have comfortable homes, clothes and never miss a meal (or a snack for that matter). It’s a hard thing for them to understand at this point in their lives and just driving through the East Side once or twice doesn’t go far enough in explaining it.

So as we turn the corner at Hastings and Carrall Street and the scenery changes, the questions come to an end and the topic turns to what they will eat at the soccer game. Can we have a hot dog and popcorn? Do they have ice cream at the stadium? These questions I can answer. The girls may have moved on, but their questions, and my realization of how little they know of the world outside of our neighborhood, have me thinking. Is there more that I could be doing to educate my young daughter? I’m doing my best to show her The Best Things in Life, but should I be doing more to show her the other side of life?