My house is peppered with Newfoundland photos, art, and prints. Over the holidays, we celebrated Tibb’s Eve and we took the kids Mummering. (Don’t know what either of those things are? I encourage you to Google the words…and prepare to smile.)
My oldest daughter chose a Newfoundland folk song to play on her ukulele at her Christmas concert.
Yet, we live on PEI.
And I’m the only Newfoundlander who resides in our house. Both my husband and oldest daughter were born in Ontario, with both of their childhoods occurring in PEI. My youngest is 100% PE-Islander.
So, why is there so much Newfoundland in my house?
You see, growing up on the Rock, I never celebrated Tibb’s Eve. Granted, I moved away before I was legal age, but still. Nor did I ever go Mummering. My parents were British, relatively new to the province, so we rarely partook in any “old-school” Newfoundland traditions.
I never had a cabin ‘round the bay. Or spent any time on a ski-doo.
I did go fishing with my dad as a kid and spent many a Sunday afternoon hiking through the woods with the dog.
I did go look at icebergs every spring when they arrived, despite, as a teen, thinking it was a “boring” activity to engage in.
I appreciate what a winter storm really is, and I still judge the severity of a wind by how many fences or rooftops were blown off.
And I did gain a respect that none other than a Newfoundlander has for the dangers of the ocean waters.
But growing up in this place, I didn’t always feel like I belonged.
We didn’t have any family there. No long history. No “you’re the great-granddaughter of so and so” and I didn’t have a single cousin nearby (unlike the typical double-digit numbers most of my friends had).
There were times, I felt very alone as a child. My heart as raw as the Atlantic Ocean. So much so, that as a teenager, I translated this sense of isolation into bitterness toward the place itself. I couldn’t wait to leave my place of birth. To head out and see the world. Experience life, you see. Find my own identity and such.
And I did do that. I spent time living in England, in Ontario, and in PEI.
But a funny thing happens when you leave a place.
My body and head certainly did get on that plane and fly away, but what I wouldn’t know until over a decade later was that I left half my heart behind.
That this place I was desperate to escape had embraced me and would always welcome me back. That I already belonged.
I did fall in love with the red shores of Prince Edward Island. Many people do. It’s beautiful here.
But the older I got, the more I realized that a huge part of me was shaped by the rocky edges of Newfoundland’s shores.
The very first time I took my husband to visit my home province (pre-kids), I saw Newfoundland through a whole other set of eyes. He was, to put it mildly, smitten. And so, while I was excited to visit with friends, he was taking in all the scenery, fascinated. And to hear him exclaim wildly about all the “mountains” (remember, he grew up on flat PEI…he thought the hills of the eastern part of Newfoundland were mountains) or the rocks that glaciers deposited hundreds of years ago…well, it made me stop and take in the beauty of a place I took for granted.
And then we had children, and I took those children to visit Newfoundland, and they fell in love. (Seriously, I think they were more excited than they would be at Disney World.) And because children ask a lot of questions, I found myself sharing the history of the place I left at the age of 18. And the more I shared, the more proud I became of this special place at the foot of the Atlantic Ocean.
My husband has accompanied me on several trips back to the Rock now, and he has told me I’m a different person there. More relaxed. At peace. Happy.
Now, some of that comes from being on vacation and just leaving the everyday stresses of life on the back burner.
But I do feel different there. I feel welcomed. At ease.
I tell people I can breathe there.
This is not to say I can’t breathe here, in PEI, or that I don’t feel welcomed here. I can and I do, but it’s different.
Because, you see, half my heart lives in Newfoundland, so when I visit, I have a whole heart. If I ever moved back to the Rock, no doubt I would leave half my heart behind in PEI, and the breathing would alter accordingly.
I’m so blessed to have the best of both worlds.
I am a Newfoundlander, and the older I get, the more I claim that title. It is part of my identity. It shaped my entire childhood, and it is an important part of who I am now, as an adult. Even though I haven’t lived in the province now for over twenty years, it’s still in my blood.
And I’ve also found a home, here, on Canada’s other east coast island. A place where you can always find a beach, no matter where you are, where people complain about “traffic jams” when it takes them 5-10 min longer to get anywhere, and where you’re likely to run into someone you know when you head out to a local restaurant or coffee shop.
My soul that formed in Rock has made room for sand.
And the rolling waves of the ocean call to me like a yearning I cannot ignore.
As the song goes, I am a Rock, I am an Island…but I’m not alone. While I may have turned my back on Newfoundland as an ignorant teenager, the place never held that against me. Like the comforting arms of a parent, it always welcomes me back home and puts the pieces of my heart back together.
So, the artwork, photos, and prints that don our walls at home serve to remind me of this part of myself. Of the place that embraces me, no matter what.
And this is why I write about Newfoundland. Because that is where my soul is complete. It’s where I feel whole.