“Where winds of hope and memory blew” is a line from the ending of Anne of the Island, where Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe finally admit their love for each other. A scary thing for most people, particularly for a young woman who had spent the first ten years of her life unloved, and a young man who had been at odds with her since they met.
The phrase also has another meaning for me, in regard to a special place and special memories. When I was growing up in Montreal, my family always came “home” to the Annapolis Valley for our summer vacations. Far from being “home” to me, my grandparents’ house in tiny Kingsport on the Midas Basin was a different world. I was used to city streets, the thunderstorms that rolled over Montreal on breathless, humid evenings, and the smells of the delicatessens and pizza parlours in our ethnically mixed neighbourhood. To go from a basement apartment to a tree-shaded old two-story house with salt breezes blowing in the windows, from riding my bike in the local park to diving off the wharf into cool, buoyant salt water,to explore the mysteries of an earthen cellar and watch sand-swallows swooping in and out of their nest-holes in the red sandstone bluffs overlooking the Basin,was pure magic.
In my childhood,Kingsport was a quaint collection of neatly-kept country houses and summer cottages, most owned by people my father had known all his life. There was a gas station, a canteen and a general store, where the owners had time to chat with a small girl. But time marches on. As the homes were handed down or sold, many fell into disrepair. The wharf blew away in a hurricane, the store and gas station closed.The old order has passed away.
Last spring, early in April, I took a drive to Kingsport for the first time in a few years. Early spring never shows country places at their best. The leafless trees emphasized every sagging roof and rickety porch. I parked by the beach and got out in a cold wind that spit rain in my face. The Basin was an ugly mud colour under the grey sky. I didn’t see a trace of the charm and grace I remembered. After a few minutes I drove away, feeling that it was lost forever.
Halfway home, the sun broke through the clouds and my mood lifted. Of course, the place I knew is not lost. It lives in my heart. And last week, I got an idea for a story set there at the turn of the last century, when Kingsport was a busy shipbuilding port. I’ve got one or two of Dad’s childhood stories in the plot – with names changed to protect the not-so-innocent. My couple, Worth and Joel, will find love like Anne and Gilbert, in a place where winds of hope and memory will always blow.