“So, are you staying in Winnipeg?”
Yes, no, I don’t know.
I love it here, I hate it, I read columns such as this and cheer. I have a run-down condo in Osborne Village and I can’t just walk away. I have friends that, in times like these, seem a sea of open arms, placed strategically in dim-lit corners of the city, always there to share a beer, a laugh, a rant or just a perfect sigh in silence.
What lies outside the city is scary. What lies inside, is walled in stone. You can climb on out, but then you’re cut off from home.
I was born at the Health Sciences Centre, 1981, and cradled in my birth mother’s arms for days until the papers were signed and a social worker spirited me away, out into the muted skies of a Canadian November. Three days after I was born, in an office somewhere downtown, my parents signed on another dotted line, bundled me against the cold and carried me home to the southern end of Winnipeg.
This was the transfer that would make me a Winnipegger. My birth family headed out West, to Alberta and British Columbia and all the opportunities that sparkled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. My father, an American transplant who came up in the great wave of academics to move north in the late 1960s, stayed right here.
“Winnipeg was the right place for me,” he’d always say. “If I hadn’t come here, we never would have had you.”
The mysteries of life are always such: who would we have been, if conceived a day later, or a month?
But for an adopted child, it’s even that much more provincial: in our families, we are the product of a pinpoint place and time. For the first 18 years of my life, knowing nothing of my birth family or how I came to be, I knew only that I belonged to Winnipeg. My life, as far as I longest knew it, began in an office somewhere downtown, fully formed with ten toes and a thumb that didn’t work, and bundled against the city’s chill.
I was simply Winnipeg’s daughter. Unknown and still unfolding, my fate then tied to the city’s own.
I started Nothing in Winnipeg a couple of years ago, on a whim. It was to be my love letter to the city, or my goodbye, and it was never clear to me which was which. I erased everything last week, spiked my old layout and went incredibly literal for this one: it is a blank page.
“Are you going to stay in Winnipeg?”
I stayed in Winnipeg dreaming of the Free Press, and then I stayed hoping to find a way to make that work.
I stayed because, if nothing else, life is easy here, and that’s as valid a concern as any. You can carve out your space to hibernate.
“You’d love New York,” friends promised me, but I didn’t love it at all. After only two days, I just wanted to be alone, wanted to walk down streets without having to fight for every cubic foot of space in which to breathe, watch, and just exist. I opened doors with my elbows. I stared doe-eyed and frightened at a grocery line that numbered as many as a hundred.
My shoes speak of bigger dreams, but my lungs belong to Winnipeg.
This is just a rambling, just a vent to say: I don’t know.
I don’t know where I will go. I used to dream of Portland, the most wonderful city I’ve ever known. I used to dream of Toronto. I used to dream of packing up and traveling Europe, just to look and write and be. Now with the future so wide open, dreams have run together and blurred. Who knows what they’ll be.
Besides, I can’t really leave the Jets behind now, can I?