In Victoria for a few days. A wonderful event at Russell Books last night where Sarah de Leeuw and my husband John Pass gave gorgeous readings from their new books and where I distinguished myself by whacking my head on a low beam as I opened the event with my own reading. But a warm and generous crowd, old friends among them.
I was a child, then a young woman, in this city. Returning is always a little fraught, an object lesson in the twinned powers of memory and nostalgia. I think it’s true that nostos, the root of nostalgia, carries in it not only the notion of return (in epic poetry, from war or extensive journeys on the part of the hero) but also the sense of the restoration of one’s central identity. A longing for home and who you were there.
So here, in Fairfield, where my daughter and her boyfriend live, I can almost see the annex of Sir James Douglas Elementary School where I attended for two years — grades one and two — and where I learned to take such joy in books. Yesterday we walked downtown and I saw the old library on the corner of Yates and Blanchard where I received my first library card the summer before grade one. My older brothers taught me to write my name (I could already read) and most Saturdays my family visited the library for our week’s quota of books.
Walking back to this apartment yesterday, I recocgnized the tiled road signs set in the sidewalk and remembered my delight in them as a child. I could sound out their letters and know where I was.
I’m still doing that.