Family draws us back to our prairie roots. This trip is mostly about birthday celebrations in my family and time to connect with Kirsten &; Scott, our Neville niece and nephew. They live in Esterhazy, a small town of 2,000 people.
Winnipeg is a 4 hour drive east and, seeking a city fix, we head there in a rented Toyota. We stop in Neepawa, birthplace of the famed Canadian author, Margaret Laurence, where her home has been turned into a museum. As well, Craig’s dad’s dad’s mother and some of her family, the Bloughs, lived in Neepawa, and we find some of their graves in the local cemetery.
It’s been a wet summer so far and the countryside is as green as we have ever seen it. Lots of standing water. Storm clouds threaten as we drive. Fortunately the sky clears as we head out of our hotel in downtown Winnipeg and we enjoy a gorgeous evening walking around “the Forks”, an area of restaurants, shops and outdoor plazas at the convergence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.
Walking around Winnipeg, we are struck by the amount of history here, particularly re: the metis and Louis Riel. Numerous images, statues, his tomb at the St. Boniface Cathedral cemetery, and even a smoothie stand (kinda tacky) commemorate this controversial metis leader who was tried and hung for treason in 1885. His Red River Rebellion resulted in the formation of the province of Manitoba. This rather bloody start is perhaps foreshadowing of Winnipeg’s later claim to fame as the murder capital of Canada. Thunder Bay has only recently taken this unsavoury title away from W’peg. Just this morning the intersection of Portage and Main is closed while police arrest a woman brandishing what turns out to be a fake gun. Mostly we find the city to be friendly and peaceful.
I see an old photo mounted on the wall of the CN station. Taken in the 1920s, it depicts Winnipeg society gathered in front of the Fort Garry hotel. My mother’s mother’s mother (that would be my great-grandmother) Maryanne MacNeill lived here at that time and I find myself looking for her in the photo. But, as a widowed mother of three, boarding-house owner, I doubt she would have been part of that milieu! Wondering if her house at 353 Cathedral Avenue still stands, we drive by on our way out of the city. As is the case with so many childhood memories, the house looks much smaller than I remember it.
A morning at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights is inspiring. Issues ranging from missing aboriginal women to gay marriage to the holocaust are addressed in a thought-provoking way.
A sunny afternoon pool-side is a great way to get some downtime after the intensity of the museum. How privileged we are to have been born part of the main-stream! When we make a point of talking to Kirsten and Scott about this, the maturity and open-mindedness evident in their responses surprises us.
We pass part of the drive back to Esterhazy playing various car games. Scott and Kirsten give us a run for our money in a geography game, knowing more about the world’s countries, cities and other geographic features than we did at their age. Dropping them at home, we agree that they have been fine travel companions. May there be many more trips together in the coming years!
By the way Scott, I won’t forget the gift of “Zacatecas”. You owe me!!