I called home yesterday to my mum’s house, where everyone had gathered to celebrate my little brother’s 19th birthday. They were eating teriyaki chicken, and my grama’s scalloped potatoes with corn flakes on top.
I could hear cutlery clanking against plates in the background, and I knew exactly what they looked like because this scene has played out for every birthday. The birthday guest of honour sits at the head of the table, flanked by grama on the left, sibling on the right. Mum sits at the other table end, close to the kitchen. My little sister dims the dining room lights and mum comes around the corner, face aglow with the candles in front of her, atop a homemade chocolate cake as everyone sings happy birthday.
“We were just saying to each other how weird it was that you aren’t here,” my mum told me, from 5,000 km away.
“I know. I’ll be home for the next birthday though!” I cheerily forced out. (I will indeed by flying home in less than a month for wedding prep, three days before my own birthday)
My brother took a break between corn flake potato scoops to thank me for the card and Rolling Stone subscription.
“What’s it like up there?” he asked.
“Funny you should ask, it’s snowing and cold and today we even had to go out to buy toques and gloves,” I said, amazing myself even at how inappropriate the weather is here, at least in terms of September.
“Really,” he said, stating it, not asking. “We’re here in like shorts and T-Shirts, it must’ve been 25 out today,” he tried not to gloat. Yesterday marked the calendar start to fall, and I watched big fat snowflakes fall on the roof of my truck from my balcony doorway.
“I can’t wait to come home,” I said. I do have that to look forward to, the visit home and the wedding that’s becoming so real and exciting. But what happens when I don’t have a visit home to look forward to? When it’s dark out for most of the day here and colder than any temperature my skin and bones have known before? What happens when there’s no escape in sight and the people who make winters pass faster are all back home?
When the only thing I want to do os skate the canal and eat Beavertails? Then what?