One day in the final week before my retirement from my position at the University I took a stroll over to the Fine Arts building on the campus.
It’s been a long time since I visited this department even though it’s a short jaunt up the hill from the culinary department where I work. And it was a bit sentimental because I and this institution have a deeply personal history and I felt like I needed to revisit my “roots” and say goodbye.
My relationship to this campus isn’t only for the duration of my employment here of the last 7 years, but all the way back to 1976 when it was a college. This is where at 18 I began my Fine Arts degree, right here.
I opened the big glass door and stood in the foyer and memories came flooding back. The couch over there against the wall where we took breaks from our painting to have a smoke and talk with the instructor. The studios forested with easels, the smell of acrylics and oils, graphite and charcoal. My fingers stained with whatever medium I had been working with. I walked over to where the printing studio was but it no longer held the big press I had used for Lithographs and the silk screen frames were no longer there, it was now full of what looked like set design maquettes. I entered the vacant sculpture studio and saw that it hasn’t changed at all, the pleasant memory of working with the Lost Wax Method where I made a bronze cast of a bear in a cave, that I still have, and the unpleasant memory of working with resins. Nothing good came from that. I walked across the hall and peered in through the glass window in the door at the ceramics studio full of engaged students talking, laughing or quietly focused on the wheel. It looked just as I had left it. To add, this is where my mom when in her 50’s taught pottery in the evenings to Community Ed students.
It’s a heady place this campus. It witnessed many of my life changes and growth; a pivotal place. Every decade of my adult life is attached to this place.
This is where in my first year I moved out of my parents home and together with my boyfriend of 3 years also a fellow art student, and another art student got our first apartment. The second year my boyfriend went on a student exchange to Florida and left me on my own. His sister and a two of our friends, also students, shared a large house to finish out the second year. When my boyfriend came back for a visit we agreed to marry the following year. My mom and I window shopped for wedding dresses, but it had been a long year apart, and consequently I branched out socially; when he returned my feelings had changed and I broke up with him.
I had during that second year become involved in a small theatre group during my second year headed by an English Professor who wrote satirical musicals and this campus theatre is where I performed and sang in those plays publicly in my first ever stage appearance. I also fell in love with the piano player. Our little theatre group segued into a working band of 10 musicians and we played gigs that consisted of all original songs all over town developing a sizable following. Both the piano player, our lead singer, as well as our slide guitarist have continued on in very successful musical careers.
This campus is where we held our practice sessions, and when our drummer left for the Caribbean to work for Club Med another drummer came to try out and stayed. Turned out I would spend 5 years with this man and have a daughter. To add, a colleague I recently shared my office space with for the last seven years had years ago bought the house he had built in 1975, before he joined our band and when he was married. She bought it from his ex-wife. She and I discovered this when conversing over coffee break one day.
Of course woven through those happy events are some bitter lessons, some bad decisions, and maybe even a regret or two, but the truth of the matter is they were deep and in many ways profoundly enriching. So were the good times. Very much so.
This campus saw me return again in my 30’s to enroll to become a Baker, during which time my brother was dying from bowel cancer, and I returned again in my 40’s to become a chef. Then to return again in my 50’s as an employee working as a chef assistant.
Every decade of my adult life is attached to this place.
And now here I am. Was and was.
So now it must certainly be adieu mustn’t it? I really hesitate to be steadfast in anything final. Lets just say I will not be surprised if for some reason I find my footsteps once again carrying me back to embark on yet another enterprise in my 60th decade. But for now I give thanks and honor the memories, and for many ways in being a place of life experience and learning for me.
My last entry was quite some time ago, and as I write now I realize I just hadn’t felt compelled to come to my computer to write out what I was processing in my mind- which is different for me, writing things out is my usual behavior in matters of gaining mental clarity. In that hiatus I entered my 57th year on this planet, and came to a decision.
After some lengthy deliberation I officially gave my resignation notice as of June 19th. Doing this three years before I had planned gave me small pause, only small. I love where I work and will miss my colleagues, but it is time and I feel good about it. Once I finalized my decision I felt relieved and lightened.
I will have the flexibility now to care for my mother who will be 90 this year and lives on her own 45 minutes up Island-no more renting away from home and husband each winter as in the past three years. No mandatory daily, dark, early morning winter crossings to get to work either, I can go at my leisure.
Time also to bring all those things I left simmering on the back burner to the plate at last. Hopefully nothing vaporized over the years, I won’t know until I lift the lid and have a look ~
Adjustment will of course ensue but I’m ready to meet the challenges!
In a couple of days I’ll be vacating my vinyl cabin on the beach, and I’m kind of happy about it- well of course, I’ll be moving back to my own home after 3 months, and who does not want to be in their own home? It’s true I made the best of it, enjoying the simple solitude of my evenings here. No TV, no housework to speak of, nothing that ‘needs’ doing. Just me and my me-ness. This cabin served it’s winter purpose for me, allowing me close proximity to my mom during the shortest days of the year.
But lately I have been dealing with an agitated unsettledness and some emotional episodes of feeling pulled in too many directions; not cracking, but it felt close, which was a signal that I was reaching a saturation point of living in two places each winter over the last three years away from my husband, (but for the weekends) and of the continuous circle run between my mom, work and home. Not much down time.
But I’m now un-agitated and so far un-cracked, so that’s good.
Once back home I will still do the drive up to my mom’s after work to check in with her for a few hours, so I’ll still be Here and There, but the days are getting longer and won’t have to deal with dark boat rides home, and my summer lay off is in a couple of months.
You know it’s funny how in our 30’s and 40’s we never give our parents’ future a second thought. Thinking they’ll always be there, they’ll always have each others company and look after each other, and they’ll always be independent and strong.
We raise our children then turn to care for our parents. Natural order of things is all.
I had written about the familial significance of Surfside in a previous blog and now the week before vacating A48 at Surf Side, the trailer I was renting over the past winter just around the corner from where my parents former beach trailer sits, that has since been taken by my oldest brother and his family, a melancholy has surprised me.
Suddenly so much more poignant remembering it being the place where one day in May dad left for the hospital in Victoria never thinking – none of us thinking- he’d never be returning to the beach. Bowel cancer swiftly took him.
This is the place where we scattered his ashes way out past the sand bar that has since become full of coarse beach grass and pale bones of driftwood.
This is the place where his memorial bench is placed right about where the old fire pit used to be, 30 years ago, before the corporate changes at the park pushed their home back several feet from the beach.
My sister, mom and I
It’s where we held our last family reunion.This place too, the modest little home that they worked on together to make beautiful over 35 years. He didn’t have money to leave our mother, or big pensions from a hardworking life as a commercial painter to see her into old age , but he had this place, and it was hers, and it was enough.
Because it was where she felt her best, next to the ocean and under an open sky.
I think of my dad, 11 years gone. I remember him. A gentle, quite, and humble man with the patience of Job mom would say, and it was the truth. And I guess with my leaving here at the end of the month this unexpected rendered heart I feel, it’s as though I’m leaving him too somehow, leaving a life where he was, where they both were last together and happy.
I guess I’m saying good-by and it squeezes my heart.