For my first 18 years of life, home for me was a townhouse in St. Albert owned by my parents. I really couldn’t have picked a more perfect place for a young person to grow up. Across the back alley was a playground, an elementary school, and a junior high school, both of which I attended for the first nine years of my schooling. It was so nice to be able to always go home for lunch and watch The Flintstones on CTV every weekday.
Across the alley and down a small hill was a soccer field, further on a baseball field, and much parkland, including acres of undeveloped forest. There were endless glorious quests for victory in the football games my friends and I would play, and when I played soccer for one year and my team beat all the other teams in our small city except the rep team.
Even cold winter days were fun, going sliding on the hills around the schools or playing King of the Castle on the piles of snow that were collected by the school parking lots. Last, but definitely not least, was the outdoor pool three blocks away.
It is funny, but even with all that I was restless and often unhappy. I will always remember being able to look out the upstairs windows in our townhouse and being able to see the hospital I was born in. I longed for the adventures I had seen on TV and read in the numerous books I had read.
I went through a lot, transitioning from being a St. Albert resident to a McCauley resident. In between there were times I lived in Vancouver, times I was homeless, and many different apartments that I kept moving from thinking it would improve my poor mental health to have a change. When I finally got to McCauley, I was taught something about how a neighborhood – a collection of houses of glass, nails, and wood – was something far different from a community: a collection of people who work together and interact to make something greater than the individual parts.
Moving here and taking part in the community meant a lot. Now, I was no longer isolated in a small apartment. I shared a house in a housing project and it took so much pressure off and truly eased my depressive tendencies. I would play sports with others in the community, something I had been unable to do since high school for lack of knowing where to go for sports or who to ask about getting to them.
I went through a profound change over the next 16 years. St. Albert was such a nice place, but the fact was it wasn’t a place for me anymore. It’s hard to live in the suburbs without a lot of support. I now have a great apartment for a very reasonable price. I have a place I can take pride in keeping clean and presentable not just for my landlord, but for my friends to come over any time they like. In the mornings I go to Spinelli’s Café and most of the time don’t have to say my breakfast order anymore – they just put it on and take my money.
McCauley has so much to offer I could never find in the other places I have lived. Incredible people like Gary Garrison and his partner Sara, both writers who help me in many different ways to pursue my chosen career as a writer. There are many others within just blocks who help and inspire me, too many to mention. I also have to admit I love the cultural restaurants here, and so many ones pop up that I can’t wait to try them all.
I may one day move back to St. Albert. I was born there and I still have enough friends to make a go of it, but for now McCauley is home and where I choose to live from deep in my heart.
Leif is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Seven of his paperbacks and four of his ebooks are available through the Edmonton Public Library.