Edmonton is the city where my sons grew up. Edmonton Housing is where each of their formative years were spent. We lived our first eight years as Edmontonians inside the townhouses that represented poverty. I have often told my sons that they were very fortunate to not grow up surrounded by picket fences or people who groomed their lawns more than themselves.
Because we were at the low end of the financial scale inside of a rich province, we had to find pleasure in simple things. Small things like bike rides through Mill Woods Park with its giant hill that terrified my young boys and me.
The faster we pedalled down that hill the more terror would grow inside of each of us. It was the best feeling.
Eating apples and drinking water and feeling like champs because we had conquered that hill one more time, we would sit at the edge of the pond and watch the ducks and geese who had decided to live in a big city like us.
Our first winter we bundled up to go sliding down the east hill of Mill Woods Park. We zoomed down with the thrill that only a toboggan can give. We pulled our sled and slugged our way to the top and let the cold air splat on our faces one more time, turning us redder and redder. On our third time I was stopped and told that we must line up. We had to wait our turn. Sledding was standing in a queue. Sledding in a city was military precision.
On Canada Day we attended the first fireworks ever at Mill Woods Park. The scent of greasy hotdogs and salted popcorn ran up our noses. We were thrilled when the sky lit up like foreign northern lights. We “oohed” and “aahhed” with the strangers beside us. At the end of the show the metal fence from across the pond began to light up with letters. We shouted out what we saw with everyone. “C! – A!” and then silence. The letters had fizzled out. In front of C and A the letter I began to sparkle, and a confused murmur surrounded us. The letters were supposed to be I-G-A, the store that had sponsored the fireworks. We laughed because we were not screaming out the letters of C-a-n-a-d-a. We giggled our way home on the darkest of summer nights, me pushing the heavy stroller through gooey grass containing one three-year old boy while my two older little boys lagged behind me.
We were drunk on being out late on a July night. We had broke routine. We felt like rebels.
Saturdays spent in the dollar theatre after having bought our candy from the dollar store. Hiding our treats and peeling back the wrappers only after the lights had dimmed. We feared that the dollar theatre police would find us and toss us out onto the street, like the hooligans we were.
Simple times. Cheap movies. Hours at Mill Woods Park. My sons growing into men. Grandbabies being tucked into my greedy arms.
Future generations of us going back to Mill Woods Park. That’s Edmonton for me.
Norma Dunning is an Inuk writer, researcher and scholar who is currently completing her doctoral degree with Indigenous Peoples Education. Her first collection of poetry titled Eskimo Pie is scheduled for release if the Fall of 2019, her previous book of short stories, Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, was released in 2017.