#YEG: Coming Home Again for the First Time

Ottawa-based author Dan Rubinstein rediscovers Edmonton through the eyes of his twin daughters.

Illustration Emily Chu

This summer, my family and I will drive around Lake Superior and across the prairies to Edmonton. My twin daughters were born in the city, but have not been back since we moved to Ontario in 2008. Maggie and Daisy were not quite four years old when we left Alberta, and their recollections are scant but strong, the essence of their early years distilled into a handful of images and feelings. The wading pools in the Legislature plaza. The long plastic slides at Kinsmen Park. Our purple garage, lined with sunflowers, below their bedroom window.

My wife and I want to re-introduce the girls to some of the places and people they knew in Edmonton. To show them where, and with whom, we came together as a family. We will visit the neo-natal intensive care unit at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Maggie and Daisy were born three months premature and lived in isolation at the Alex for six weeks, a blur of doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists that tapered into a comforting rhythm of world-class care. We will knock on the door of the century-old farmhouse we owned in Allendale and ask to look around inside. The mural on their bedroom wall will likely be gone – childless couples generally don’t like bunnies – but the front porch may still be askew.

Even though the girls have pretty much outgrown playgrounds, we will also tour the south-side parks that kept us sane those first few summers. One in particular, Parkallen’s Ellingston Park, capped an idyllic night. On June 21, 2005, our first longest day of the year as parents, Lisa and I had a blissful dinner on the patio of the Highlevel Diner. The girls slept in their double stroller throughout the entire meal, and our pediatrician happened to be sitting – proudly, we suspected – a few tables away. Afterwards, the sun still bright at 10 p.m., we walked to the park and sat on a bench to give Maggie and Daisy their bottles, our own bottle of wine giving the sky an exceptionally vivid glow.

On the cusp of driving back to Edmonton, flooding with memories of the girls’ anxious arrival, I think back to that night, to the feeling that we had made it through the long cold winter and wet spring, that we had turned a corner, that everything would be all right. And it was.

Dan Rubinstein is a National Magazine Award-winning writer and editor who lives in Ottawa. His first book, Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act, was published in April by ECW Press.

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