Back to Beaconsfield

Mar 20, 2015

Yesterday, I spent the day at Beaconsfield Middle School. I had not been there since the last day of my Grade Six year in 1968.I don’t remember a lot about being there in Grade six. The inside of the building didn’t look familiar to me at all. Outside, the playground and the surrounding streets leading down to the water brought back memories. I remember the smell of the pulp mill that we smelled daily as we thronged onto the playground each morning waiting to enter the building. I remember too how much I did not want to be there. I had left all my friends , my school and the house I loved in Fredericton. I felt like I was in exile on the west side of Saint John. I do remember though that it was there in the back porch of a downstairs flat on City Line that the deep desire to be a teacher presented itself. Possibly the desire to be a mother and a writer was forming there as well. Yesterday, a girl asked me if I thought a would be a writer if Zac had not died. What a heavy ‘what if’ question. Life is so loaded with that question. What if we hadn’t moved to the west side ?, what if we hadn’t moved to the Kingston Peninsula ?, what if ?, what if ?, what if? I tried my best to answer that question, a question that I so often ask myself. When I hold ‘The Year Mrs Montague Cried’ and feel such gratitude for where the success of that book has taken me I can not help but feel the deep sorrow of the very existence of it. How can we ever trace all the what ifs of our lives? The ‘it is what it is’ of our lives is really the best we can do. So my ‘it is what it is’ took me back to Beaconsfield School yesterday. I spent a full day talking , reading, responding and answering questions from a great bunch of eager kids. Lily, the most enthusiastic and vocal student of the day was beside herself when her mom came and bought her all four of my books. Her EA has been reading Ten Thousand Truths to her and as I talked she vocalized her excitement . I read the class the last two chapters and she hung off every word. That was so much fun for me. Thank you Lily! Thank you to all the students , teachers, EA’s and especially to Mrs. McFadden for inviting me and introducing Beaconsfield Middle School to a writer who used to walk their halls.


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