Boy am I glad June is over. All that rain. And all those people gushing about the rain! The negativity drags me down like a wet mitt. Thanks for finally stopping by, July. Now shut your umbrellas and your yappers!
Hey, everyone everywhere talks about the weather. Right now, there are little green men on distant planets saying, Another meteor shower coming today, b’y. Yes, sir, put up the windows on the SuperSaucer and activate the dry-fit force field. Minus the b’y, of course. And in a whole other language.
But I challenge anywhere in the galaxy to compete with our obsession with the weather. Here in Newfoundland, it’s a non-stop, year-round conversation. Geographically inspired, I suppose: we are a pointy appendage of the earth jutting out into the North Atlantic like an index finger flipping Africa the bird. Na na na, we got food, you don’t. We’re just bitter because when this chunk of land broke off from Africa during Continental Drift, we left the tropical climate behind. And the zebras. Raw deal.
Our weather defines us. When we get 20 feet of snow, it makes the news. When we get a green Christmas, everyone complains that it’s just not “Christmassy” without the white stuff and that makes the news. (I pray for armed robberies and hijackings just so there’s something else to report on!) When it rains or hails or blows a gale, the chatter ensues. And when it’s warm, well hold onto your sweaty shorts, it’s the first thing to fall from our lips: Some hot t’day, maid! Garge, turn on the fan, I’m just about gone.
Let’s face it: we are not clinging to these shores for the weather. It’s putrid, with the exception of four to six weeks of the year, during which time you must nonetheless pack a wool sweater just in case the wind blows “nar’wes”, as grandfather would say. (If you’re a snow-savourin’ winter person, go shine your snowmobile with your EI check; this rant is not for you.)
We talk about the RDF (i.e. rain-drizzle-fog trio of dreariness) with a scowl every day of our windswept lives, and yet we stay here, hanging on for dear life as the wind yanks our flowers out of their pots and our fathers out of their boats. We cling like moss to a rock as snow beats down our fences, bends our shovels and breaks our backs. We hang on, waiting for the blink of summer to arrive with a couple gallons of blueberries, a few fresh cod, a half-dozen visits to the beach, and one-fifth of a tan, most likely the farmer kind. Then batten down the hatches, it’s mid-September and summer is a distant memory. (If you’re a leaf-loving autumn person, go knit a scarf; this verbage is for someone else.)
We’re a bunch of cling-ons. And since we’re not going anywhere, we really should stop complaining about the weather. Shut up or ship out. Maybe all you winter and autumn-lovin’ peeps got it right after all: Love it or leave it. Good for you (freaks).
Why do we stay here? Family, mostly.
But it’s something else too. Pride? Maybe. But it’s more than that. It’s a sense of belonging – which you become acutely aware of when you leave. I went to university just across the Gulf in Halifax, and as much as I loved that vibrant city, I was a foreigner in a foreign land. Do all displaced people feel this way? Maybe, but on a lesser scale, I reckon. Perhaps it’s the innate uniqueness of the Newfoundlander that makes the creature stand out from the crowd; a species of strange dialect and foolish disposition that can make blending in – an important achievement of the paranoid, unsure and immature almost-adult – virtually impossible.
The city of Halifax looked me square in the face and asked, Who the hell are you and what are you doing here? Frustrated and lost, I stared back and shouted, Where’s the chips, dressing and gravy, bitch? (Sadly, CD&G does not exist beyond this island.)
Here, my homeland asks me no questions and I tell it no lies. I am at ease. This is the weather-ravaged soil from which I came, and to which I shall return. I don’t quite fit anywhere else. And I certainly don’t sound right anywhere else.
So naturally I am happy to grow my son here, planted in home soil like rhubarb. Robust and resilient, with the makings of an awesomely delicious jam.
I have family and friends raising their youngsters on the mainland with only a sense of Newfoundland patriotism that their parents instill in them. I want to pity them for raising mainlanders instead of true Newfies, but perhaps they’re lucky in a whole other way: They get a taste of the magic when they come to visit Nan and Pop in the summer, and probably appreciate tenfold that which we often take for granted.
Most of them don’t choose to be away. They’d love to be back here, RDF and all. Even Andrea and Emily, my two AWESOME (caps intended) teenage nieces who were born and raised in Ontario, would move here in a heartbeat if jobs were plentiful in their mother’s career field, and if the price of housing was more congruous to the vast majority of salaries in any field. It’s out to lunch, forcing us to brown-bag-it. Dear Danny, I know you’re retired, working on your tan and making hockey pucks out of thousand-dollar bills, but tell me: when will this “have” province start coming through for the rest of us who are not knee-deep in oil and gas? My husband is the best teacher in the world and has been substituting for six years, hoping for a full-time job in a severely screwed-up system. (Don’t get me started.) If not for my job and my superfluous heap of talent, we’d be raising Max in the concrete jungle. Or a cardboard box.
Despite the stomach-turning weather and the transplanted loved ones in foreign soil, I am lucky to be able to make a go of it here. I am raising my boy like a proud Newfoundland flag (minus the pole).
He watches the tractor in the field behind the house roll hay into big, fat marshmallows. Big tractor, he points and shouts. Every tractor and truck is big, even the little ones.
He chases Nanny and Poppy Murphy on the trails of Mount Pearl, charming the passers-by with his Irish looks and dropped h’s.
Soon, he’ll play hockey in the cow-path streets of Torbay and fish side-by-side with his daddy at the pond just up the road. (When Turbo Ginger learns to reel in more than trouble.)
He’ll catch pricklies in a bucket down by the landwash in Badger’s Quay. Then stab them to death with a pointy stick. Excellent maiming, son!
He’ll collect flat stones on Cape Freels beach where Nanny Combden once hosted tea parties. Would you like some sand in your tea, madame? Why yes, yes I would.
He’ll go squishing toward Nanny’s house in his mucky rubber boots when his little stomach starts to rumble for a feed of cod tongues and homemade buttered bread. Now take off dem boots on the bridge, ya little rascal, I just cleaned the floor!
He’ll go to Fogo Island and stand on the very spot where Poppy Jim was born, and write his first bad poem about the sea that I’ll immortalize in a scrapbook.
And yes, half the time he’ll be wearing a sweater to ward off the biting nar’wes wind.
Rain. Drizzle. Fog. It’s wind at our backs, thrusting us forward. It’s cold in our bones, huddling us together for warmth, binding us forever.
So it’s settled. I hate the weather, but I’m going to (try to) stop grumbling about it. Because I’m raising a Newfie. A bayman, in fact. If the geographical location doesn’t ensure it, I will. (Trust me – I do not speak as clearly as I write.)