The Prodigal Child Returns

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As you can probably tell from the title, I’m home in New Brunswick this week with my mum. And having double-checked the meaning of that word “prodigal,” I’m not sure it’s appropriate. Even if I do fit the story of the prodigal child in some ways… I am the youngest, who did go away, and now returns hoping to be welcomed with open arms… I don’t fit the rest of the definition. Not rashly extravagant and wasteful. Okay… maybe extravagant… sometimes. But I’m not returning destitute having spent my inheritance. Funny that, although I know the story of the prodigal child, I never knew the exact meaning of “prodigal.”

So, yep, I’m here at Mum’s now. Hence the radio silence last week, and the lateness of this post. I flew down to Fredericton on Wednesday. Feeling a little nervous about being in crowded airports and on crowded planes. But, other than the sheer impossibility of understanding anything the security attendant said at the Ottawa airport, all was well. I mean… what with his wearing a mask, the plastic shield behind which he stood, the hurriedly shouted instructions, the robotic delivery, and the ambient noise… I stood there for a few seconds looking stupid, as if I’d never done this kind of thing before. Which I have… just not for a while.

I will say in my defence that the new security set-up at the Ottawa airport is near to impossible to navigate without dropping all one’s belongings onto the floor. The previous arrangement allowed me to calmly set a plastic bin on the rollers, then drop my stuff into it, then send it down the line to the X-ray machine, and reach for another bin. But now to make things move more smoothly. Presumably. Ha. They have two points of access in each line. One at the end, and a second one partway along the line.

And I was at the second. Which meant that there was no place to set a plastic bin to allow me to shrug off my coat and scarf. No place to set the bin to allow me to safely lift my carry-on into it. I had to pull a bin from underneath, balance it on a six inch ledge, put my stuff in it, and shove it through a slot in the plexiglass shield onto the rollers which were already moving because the guy at the first station had pushed his bin along. And mine kept sliding away before I had my stuff into it. And the attendant was shouting unintelligible instructions at me while I looked at him uncomprehendingly, arousing amused and superior looks from other travellers. Sigh. Sometimes travel makes me not like people as much as I usually do.

How do people who have never travelled find the courage to do so these days?

I’ve flown a lot over the years, been in tons of airports with attendants speaking numerous languages, and even I get confused. And the few seconds it takes to look carefully at the instructions in a new situation where the drill may not be the exact same as the last airport are almost never granted to travellers. Either by the security people or by other travellers.

And on Wednesday, after I’d cleared security, and was trying to push my feet back in my boots, grab my coat and carry-on, shove passport, boarding pass, and phone back in my bag, and check quickly to make sure I’d not left anything behind before the darned bin moved away… I wanted to yell… “I’m moving as fast as I can.”

Homeward bound

Having said all that, the flight attendant on my Montreal to Fredericton leg was lovely. When I asked if they had tea instead of soft drinks and juice, she sallied off to make it just for me. The plane was freezing and everyone had kept their coats on, even the crew. The hot tea went down a treat.

You know, every single time I fly into Fredericton I am amazed at all the trees. Seriously, from the air, New Brunswick seems to be mostly bush.

Wheels down

My sister picked me up at the airport, and dropped me off downtown to get my rental car. When I drove the rental car out of the parking lot at the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel (I know it’s the Crowne Plaza now, but it will always be the Beaverbrook to me) the setting sun was making downtown Fredericton look all golden and inviting. Not that it’s not inviting at other times. But you get my drift.

So instead of heading directly to Mum’s, I drove slowly around the block and along Queen Street pulling over every now and then to take photos. Because maybe the weather would be miserable for the next two weeks, and this would be my only chance.

Fredericton is a pretty photogenic city. Lots of old homes, trees, some lovely old churches. All the downtown street names definitely hearken back to its United Empire Loyalist history: Queen, King, Regent, York, Westmorland, Northumberland, George, Victoria. Then again most cities in the Commonwealth are the same.

But, I’ll just let you have a look at the sights I passed as I circled around the block and up Queen Street in the gentle late afternoon light last Wednesday.

Provincial Legislature Building
Christ Church Cathedral
King Street
Love these old houses
Lower Queen Street
Old city hall in the afternoon sunlight

Once over the bridge, I put the pedal to the metal and headed for home. Mum and Carolyn would be wondering what was taking me so long.

Only a mile from home, now.

My sister drove back to Ontario the next day. So it’s been just me and Mum since then.

I’ve been busy and yet not busy. Helping Mum, cooking things I think Mum will like and which she doesn’t usually get, drinking tea and chatting to neighbours and to Mum’s care-workers. She has a worker for a couple of hours in the morning and again in the late afternoon most days. I walked the trail a couple of cold sunny afternoons. I talk to Hubby on the phone every night. I’ve been knitting. Doing laundry. I drove into town to shop for groceries and books one day. But otherwise, I’ve just been at home with Mum. And somehow whenever I think I will open my iPad to start this post, I don’t. Other things get in the way.

Cold walk on the trail.
View up the Saint John River and across to Sugar Island from the trail.

This upcoming week I’ll be spending a bit more time in town. I’ve organized a “girls’ night out” with my three nieces, a great-niece, a great-niece-in-law, and an old friend who might as well be family. I am so looking forward to spending time with these girls. And I’ll be shopping and having lunch with my friend Debbie on Thursday.

I also hope to get into town on my own one afternoon, to stroll around downtown, take some photos, poke around in some shops. I love old downtown Fredericton. And yet I almost never see it on foot anymore. I’m either on my way to or from the airport in a car. I want to be a tourist for a day in my own hometown.

Fredericton from the north side on a blowy, sleety shopping day.

You know, I’ve been musing about the whole prodigal child thing since I started writing this. My first few attempts at adulting did not go well. And I’m thinking that back in the eighties, when I returned from the big city, left my much-hated, stressful sales job, and limped back home to lick my wounds, metaphorically speaking, I was a prodigal child. I was welcomed with open arms by Mum and my step-father. And after a year, newly licensed as a teacher, and nourished by my time at home rediscovering who I really was, and who and what I really wanted to be, I returned to Ottawa. There was no squandered inheritance. But everything else fits.

How lucky we prodigal children are to have such parents, eh?

And I guess when we return now, it’s payback time. Because it’s Mum who needs us these days. And not the other way round.

I’m not sure I be able to post again until I’m back in Ottawa, my friends. But I do have a treat for you later this week. A travel post. All about Scotland. Not written by me. And that’s all I’m saying. You’ll just have to stop by and read it.

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34 thoughts on “The Prodigal Child Returns”

  1. I loved that video of the plane preparing to land – it is the only part of flying I can enjoy and it is always so exciting to find yourself quickly descending to a whole new place. Even if that place is home. Like you, I returned home in the 80s so I could sort out what I was going to do with my stalled life – no questions asked, familiar sights and sounds – and I do miss that sometimes, even though I have a home of my own. Enjoy your time and all the chatting.

    1. Thanks, Annie. “Stalled life” that is exactly the phrase. Except perhaps not drastic enough for me… I think I was in free-fall. Glad I had family to catch me.

  2. Oh yes , airports must be so stressful now . You brought back lots of unpleasant memories . I haven’t been in one since Covid & it was bad enough before – without a mask . I can just remember the thrill of the early days though . Max & I never flew as children so our first flight was together as adults . We were so excited & couldn’t understand why everyone else looked so bored .
    Your home town is beautiful especially the cathedral . Thanks for pausing to take the photos . You must be enjoying this quiet time with your mum , cocooned from the chilly world outside & she must be really pleased to have your company .

    1. I do think airports are needlessly stressful in some ways. Can’t do anything about the long lines, but at least we can be helpful to each other instead of critical and shouty. I witnessed a woman trying to speak to an attendant in the security area, saying “no English, no English” Can only imagine her panic.

  3. I thoroughly enjoy your posts, although this one was bittersweet as my Mum passed away recently. Enjoy your time with your Mum.

  4. Such a gift to get to spend time with your Mom… enjoy every minute of it.
    Thank you for your beautiful photos, and for thinking of us and taking the time to share the beauty. It makes me realize that I must get to Canada one day soon!

  5. I’ve been to Fredericton exactly once, to do some genealogical research on the Dorans and Sweeneys, who came to the Miramichi from Ireland in the early 1800s, spent 2 generations there, then headed for the balmy climes of Minnesota. I found Fredericton to be a delightful city, and I wish I’d had more time there. Your pictures bring it all back. Glad you’re enjoying your visit!

  6. Home sweet home! I remember those days with the fondest memories! Coming home to loving arms to our roles reversing. It’s not an easy time, but we do our best!
    I just love the grey skies pic. It’s a framer!
    We are booked to go away in February … our fingers are crossed!
    All the best …

    1. The role reversal is difficult at times. Very easy at other times. Hope you get to go away in February, Robin. We are booked for a week of skiing in Quebec at the end of January. Our fingers are crossed as well.

  7. I would love to visit your town-it looks enchanting. I finally was able to return to Montreal & Quebec City to visit family a couple of weeks ago. UGH. Traveling from LAX , California to Canada was not for the faint of heart. Covid tests, ArriveCAN app, upload proof of vaccination & Covid test, wait for approval and QR code. But once we were in the air-we felt safe and calm. Air Canada was great about reminders that your mask must remain on. Once we arrived in Canada, my sister was randomly chosen to be covid tested again-(Canada tests 50% of International incoming travelers-I love Canada!- so wise) That took awhile. Then we finally were greeted by our family. Tearful reunion -the last time we were together was March 2020- when we returned to CA to be locked down. I love love love Montreal and Quebec City. My nephew attends art school in Montreal, so we spent one night there and went to brunch at Bar George, walked 13,000 steps, then headed to Quebec City. My niece lives walking distance to Old Quebec City, where we spent a few days then headed to their Chalet in St Isidore. After some confusion with acceptable Covid tests to return to USA-we reluctantly left our beloved Canada after 8 days. Poutine, chocolate, croissants, expresso, crepes, baguettes, raclette, such a delight. And didn’t gain a pound due to the over 10,000 steps per day. Canada-be still my heart.

    1. My friend and I were planning a shopping weekend in Montreal this winter, her flying up from Fredericton, me taking the train from Ottawa. Not sure this will happen now. I love, Montreal. And Quebec City. We always try to stay in the old city. Park the car and pick it up three days later because we walk everywhere. Maybe next year. 😕

  8. It was a flight from the nightmare indeed. I was only in Austria by car since Covid-can’t imagine flying again,after your story.
    Fredericton is such a lovely town-beautiful photos!
    Sending love to you and your Mum,enjoy both the time together and meeting friends and family
    Dottoressa

    1. Thanks, Dottoressa. I’m trying to record as much of my visit as I can. Not just for the blog. Mum doesn’t get out and about downtown anymore. She’s enjoying the photos as well.

  9. Hi Sue, Fredericton looks beautiful , especially in the afternoon sunshine. Thanks for stopping to capture the moments and sharing with us.
    Enjoy this special time, back home with your mum ( I hope she’s keeping well ) and your planned occasions with family and friends. I hope Caroline’s move goes smoothly for her and is as hassle free as these things can be.
    Sympathies re your airport security experience. No matter how many times we experience it, there’s always the one that turns into a struggle. Then trying to hear instructions clearly, when people are wearing masks and visors and also behind screens is just so difficult. 😫
    Let’s hope it’s better for your return flight.
    Take care, Rosie xxx

    1. Like I said to Wendy, I do think that not enough effort is made to make the experience less stressful. Thankfully returning home means security at the Fredericton airport which is always a much more friendly place.

  10. Just thinking about going through airport security and customs give me the vapours! I think your Ottawa airport attendant must have trained at Pearson airport in Toronto! That is the absolute worst airport in the history of airports anywhere. My sister spent 3 1/2 hours through security and customs trying to make a connecting flight from Toronto to Halifax. Of course she and the rest of her fellows did not make it and then they dealt with the pandemonium of trying to book for the next available flight. You would think airports would have worked out by now the best practices, signage and designs to move large numbers of people through efficiently and humanely. Can you imagine trying to navigate these hellish airports if you could not speak English or could not read or, heaven forbid, be elderly, infirm and alone? There are better designed airports out there in the wider world, I just wish Ontario had a few of them!

    1. I always think of that poor Polish man who died in the Vancouver airport trying to navigate his way out. I think we too often assume that if something is easy and obvious for us it will be easy for others.

  11. A close friend and I shared coffee time together this morning for the first time in months. It was delightful. One of the many things we shared was how much we enjoy following your blog. You make it seem as if you are truly visiting with us and not just showing off some fancy room, clothing, or accomplishments. Thank you for all you do to share the joys of common life!
    Holiday Greetings to you and your family from Iowa, which today feels like a huge wind tunnel!

  12. So glad you arrived safely Sue and the photos of your hometown are lovely. Enjoy your time with your Mum and as Elaine said, we will all be here when you get back.

  13. I’m envious. I always loved shopping in downtown Fredericton much more than any mall any day. I especially miss a snowy Christmas time trudge from my childhood home and if I chose the longer route, of the full length of Church Street, past the Cathedral to Queen Street. The house you showed I think has housed the art gallery for quite a few years now. I follow the gallery on Facebook still. Thank you for this post. I’ll visit home vicariously through you.

  14. Ugh! I know what you mean. I had almost thought I’d figured out systems that worked for jumping all those airport hurdles. . . but that was before the pandemic. It’s even worse now, as we found on our recent travels. Like you, though, we did find one flight attendant who knew the value of a decent cup of tea (well, as decent as can be made without bringing a kettle to a full boil;-)
    Fredericton is such a beautiful little city, and I’d love to visit it again. Once wasn’t enough and that was ten years ago already! And I know exactly what you mean about never getting a chance to explore or just wander your old stomping grounds when you go back as the returning/prodigal daughter. I’m glad to hear you’re finding time to do a bit of that and even more that you’re having such a good visit with your mom.
    And I’m pretty excited about the Scottish post. If I were to guess, I’d wonder if the writer’s name begins with “W”. . . .

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