Friday, August 21, 2009

Flashback Friday: Weather, Pine Trees, and Swing Sets

"Dipping for memories" seems to be an appropriate way to describe how I retrieve my early childhood memories. Most of them, it seems, are rather wet.

Today when Brother Lawrence was talking in church he joked about how his family had been frequenting the Maadi House when they first arrived in Cairo from Calgary. Everyday he would make some remark to the lifeguard about what beautiful weather we're having. "It's a beautiful day out today," or "It's nice and warm, isn't it?"

He soon realized that people don't do that here. It's always a nice, sunny day. Always. So there's no point in commenting on it, a hard concept for someone who comes from a place where weather really is a prized conversation piece.

He joked, quite seriously though, that there is a 10-minute weather station in Canada that updates the weather report every 10 minutes and you need to check it before you go out because you never know if it's going to be warm, cold, snowy, sunny, rainy, hot or dry. People are always starting their conversations with, "Lovely weather we're having," or "It's rather cold today, isn't it?"

I told Andrew that was true, for Alberta, and that the weather seemed to change every 10 minutes as well. He still thinks Alberta is just plain cold, even though he saw how well chinooks warm things up.

When I first moved from British Columbia to Alberta I was very diligent about writing to my friends. I remember sitting at our kitchen table, writing a letter, and looking out the sliding glass doors into the little patch of lawn we called our backyard while the weather morphed from snow to sun to rain to sleet to snow to hail to sun... Every few sentences in my letter I would interject, "Hey! It stopped snowing!" only to nix that a few sentences later, "Well, I thought it had stopped snowing because the sun came out, but then it started to drizzle, and now it's snowing again."

The weather is never constant in Alberta and truly "nice" days occur so sporadically that commenting on the weather is perfectly normal.

Here we are full of hot, sunny days.

My early childhood memories are the polar opposite of Cairo, though. Wet, wet, wet. Puddles and clouds, rain coats and boots. Commenting on the fact that it was raining in Vancouver is as silly of an idea as commenting on the sun being out in Egypt. No one gave a second thought to a downpour breaking out unless it was abnormally torrential, which it sometimes was.

Once I was playing across the street with my friends Lindsey and Sam. It was raining a little too hard to play outside, so we were playing inside. The storm outside got worse and worse until it was absolutely raging. I was informed that it was probably best if I went home. My dad had to help me walk across the street, holding my hand the whole way, so that I wouldn't get swept away in the rushing river that our road had become. The wind was howling, thunder was cracking, and water was coming down in buckets; this was a powerful storm.

The power went out soon after we got home so we watched the storm from our bay window since there was nothing else to do, and because storms are beautiful to watch.

I was transfixed by the pattern the raindrops were making as they pelted the window when I heard a deafening *CRACK!* My head snapped up as my attention was drawn outside and across the street. I watched as the a tall, thick, sturdy pine tree fell, slowly and majestically, crushing everything in its way.

When the storm stopped, several neighbours on our street rushed out to see what the damage was. It was strange to see such a big tree lying across a splintered wreckage of fences. Luckily most of what it crushed was fences; it fell so it landed parallel to the line of houses on the street, instead of crashing into the houses, breaking down fence after fence after fence. The saddest part, besides seeing the tree looking so forlorn and out of place on the ground instead of reaching to the sky, was that it also crushed Lindsey and Sam's glorious swing set.

Their swing set was taller than the swing sets at the local playground and you could go so high; it really was like flying. Unfortunately, the sturdy steel frame had been warped and twisted into a letter M, having received a crushing blow from the pine tree next door, and it never got fixed.

It seemed to take forever for the men in the neighbourhood to clean up that colossal tree. I believe the deal was that if you helped, you got free firewood. Still, it took a long time.

You would think that after having a huge tree fall in our neighbourhood, we would have all been nervous about every little storm that passed through, but we weren't, because we couldn't be. It rained all the time. At least, from what I can remember.


  1. I was at work at the Maple Ridge Library when that happened...I just saw the aftermath. When we first moved to BC, David said "Mommy, does it rain EVERY day?"

  2. Of course we weren't worried. There were no more trees to fall down on top of our house after that. I do remember helping rake up branches and mess for hours across the street and Brent and Midori even gave me $20, a fortune to someone in grade 3 or 4.

  3. I thought the people with the pine trees had more than one in their backyard...did they end up cutting down the others? I can't quite remember.

  4. You have the coolest storm stories....I kinda want to live somewhere dangerous just so I have cool stories to tell. :)

  5. i vaguely remember that....

  6. strange coincidence that you wrote about this! i was just looking at photos that i dug up at my parent's house and they had a bunch of the tree on the broken swing set.

    your writing is so lovely, i very much look forward to your posts!

    take care, your beautiful family, too!

  7. Oh, Lindsey--can you scan and post one of the pictures? That would be cool to add to Nancy's note! (Hello, Lindsey, by the way!)

  8. Hi Mrs. Layton! It's been a while :P

    Aw! such a good idea! I would love to but sadly the pictures are 9 hours away from Vancouver and my parents don't have a scanner :(

    let me see what i can do.

  9. Thanks, Lindsey! I'm glad you enjoyed it. And it's always nice to hear from you.

    It would be interesting to see some pictures of the tree and swing set to see if they were really as big as I remember them being. I remember a lot of things being HUGE but I have a theory that that might be because I was so small.

  10. no, you were extremely petite, the swing set was gargantuan, even to my memory. it was one of my favourite things. hanging out on top of it being a creepy voyeur into the neighbour's yards when i was only 8 years old is still one of my favourite pastimes... that was a very awkward sentence...anyways...have fun where you're at, my anthropologic heart loves your stories.

  11. After the swing set was crushed we used pieces of it to help build a jungle gym in one of the neighbor's yard. I hope it's still there.

    Lindsey, being the older sister, was able to climb on top of the swing set when I was still too small to do so. She told me she could see Disney Land, I believed her and was very jealous. But I used to push my ... Read more imaginary friends on the swings, a thing Lindsey never did.

    It's a miracle the tree didn't hit a house even though it went through three backyards. I can't even imagine what would have happened.
    22 August at 10:35 · Delete