Welcome To Cannington.

Not too many people know Cannington, Ontario. Every person who asks where I came from seems baffled when I respond, “lots of places” and put Cannington on that list. I don’t know how to accurately describe the changes I went through in the few years I spent there. They were tremendous and had the biggest impact on the person I have become.

I was fifteen when my mother met Glenn. I didn’t like him at all, and not just because he was taking up my mother’s time. The first dinner we had together, I deemed him a demanding man-child. My mother placed a plate in front of him at the table and he didn’t say, “Thanks, honey” or “This looks great”. He said, “What, no gravy? No carrots?” I smirked at him from the opposite end of the table and said, “You have legs, get them yourself.” In hindsight, I can see how my sarcastic response could have been taken so badly, but at that moment it was like a bomb had gone off. Everyone stared at me in shocked silence before the words started flying.

The son of a bitch yelled at me like he thought he was my father and my mother stood by and let him reprimand me. I was so angry I couldn’t speak so I fled to the safety of my room and wept.

It was inevitable that my mother and Glenn would move in together. The house itself was beautiful, complete with a back patio and vegetable garden. Walking around, all I could think was how happy Mom, Ash and I would have been there without Glenn and his family. It wasn’t so much that I hated them, it’s that they treated me like an outsider. As the first few months went by, I felt abandoned by my sister and mother, completely alone in a way I had never been before. They fit into this new family in a way I knew I never could.

Ashley made an effort to include me, and even when she bonded with our new stepbrother and his friends, she always made time for me. So we would walk into town and go to the library together, visit the cute little boutiques and eat lunch at the diner. It took very little convincing to get my mother to buy us little mickeys of vodka and we’d drink and smoke weed in the basement. Ash did it to party, I did it to escape. 

My mom got really sick a few years after we moved. Meningitis. She was delirious and unresponsive so my sister and stepfather took her to hospital. I refused to go because ever since the death of my father I try to avoid hospitals unless I’m dragged there in an ambulance. They make me feel panicked and uncomfortable. Ashley called me while they waited for news and told me she overheard the doctors saying something about meningitis. I knew that was bad, but didn’t tell her too much about it.

The only time I really bonded with Glenn was when my mother was sick. We didn’t have anything in common except the long drives to school and a love of Creedence Clearwater Revival. “Bad Moon Rising” became our anthem. My sis convinced me to visit mom in the hospital, and it remains one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

As much as I loved my mother, I got to a point where I couldn’t live with Glenn any more. His constant referrals to me as “The Other One” were dehumanizing and he refused to try to understand my struggle with depression. He thought I was lazy and blatantly preferred my sister, so I did what I’m good at. I ran away.

Cannington bore witness to my darkest hours and greatest transformation. So when my mother moved back to live with my aunt, I knew I’d end up going back there. On a sunny weekend in April, Ashley and I made the trip there together for the first time in a decade. We walked the streets in town where we spent so much time when we were young and full of dreams. Our lives have changed beyond recognition in the time we’ve spent away, and although I spent so many years unhappy there, going back was its own brand of catharsis.

Sometimes you have to go back to see just how far you’ve come.

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Sorting out my life by writing about it.

2 thoughts on “Welcome To Cannington.

  1. Your conclusion struck me as something well worth considering. By the time I was 9, I realized that most of the kids I went to school with had never traveled away from their birth city. I had already lived in 5 other cities in 5 other states. My hometown is OKC, but, like my subsequent homes, there is no trace of where I lived as a child except in my memory. Going back, then, is never going to physically happen. So I will have to rely on my unreliable memories (transformed, I’m sure, by time and repeated use) to get a feel for how far I’ve come from the fearless little fart I remember being, through the period of betrayal and mis-use and the decades of stumbling toward regaining my fearlessness. No matter what anyone may think of me now, I know that I have certainly come a long way — for the better! I used to think growing up in one small town must be so much better than moving so much — a community full of people you know like your own siblings and parents must give a person such a sense of security and belonging. But now I realize that I’m better off with the physical distance from, as well as the time elapsed since I was set up for a future of serial self-sabotage. If I had since continued to live within blocks of where my fearless air was wiped off my attitude, I might not ever have been able to remember the good for the proximity of the bad. As it is, I can leave the bad far away and long ago, and focus my memory’s attention on the things that saved me. This is what works for me.

    1. You make a very good point, and sometimes you really do need that distance and time to see how far you’ve come (and even to make sure you don’t end up regressing). While some pretty bad things happened to me in Cannington, I’m still a thousand miles away from the place where some of the more horrific things that happened to me in early childhood occurred. I grew up in Newfoundland and moved to Ontario when I was 12. I haven’t been back to Newfoundland in almost fourteen years. I’m not sure if going back would show me how far I’ve progressed or if I’d end up being overwhelmed with bad memories. Folks who stay in the same town all their lives might not have the same perspective people like you and I have. Moving away from the places that shape you seems to be the healthiest thing, or at least is does in my experience.

      It’s important to take time to appreciate how you’ve grown and I’m happy to hear you’ve come a long way from where you started! Life is all about learning and growing and changing. To stay the same is to perish.

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