Monday, August 2, 2010

Beyond Frank...

There is a part of me that can still feel the excitement…we were going on a vacation! And not only was it a vacation, but it was an over-night vacation. Mom and dad talked about it for weeks before we left. We didn’t have many opportunities growing up to get away from the dairy. After all, the cows needed to be milked every day, the milk processed and bottled and then delivered to waiting customers six days a week. Even now as I think back, I’m not sure how we were able to get away for even this short trip.

My mind rushed with the possibilities of what me might discover when dad said that we were going to Frank, Alberta. While I had never heard of that particular part of Canada, when he told us that there had been a major landslide that buried a small mining town at the turn of the 20th century, I fantasized about what we might find as we rummaged through the rocks once we got there. Would there be treasure or other “old” stuff that we might find? What if we found some bones of someone buried alive? That would be “so cool”…if not just a little bit scary for a little boy.

We finally started out on our adventure…the long awaited vacation. As we pulled out of our gravel driveway, the sky was dark with clouds and the threat of rain. We headed north up highway 95 toward the Canadian border. We crossed the border at Porthill and continued the drive toward Frank as we passed through Cranbrook…a not so unfamiliar destination of frequent Sunday drives. I barely noticed the rain as it started to fall, my mind racing with the thought of the explorations that was only a few hours away. As we continued toward Crowsnest Pass, the rain began to fall harder and the cloud cover seemed to thicken as we made our way up over the pass at 4,455 feet.

When we dropped over the top, my face was plastered to the cold, damp window. Surely I’d be able to see the huge mound of dirt and rocks that had buried this once bustling mining town. I was sure that dad would be pulling off the road any time now so we could go out and start to dig for old stuff. My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of dad talking to mom.

“Well, there it is,” I heard him say. I turned my head, peering out the window, only to see huge rocks bigger than our car strewn across the country-side. "Surely there was something wrong," I thought. "This can’t be it!" This was supposed to be a landslide, with dirt and little rocks that we could dig through. This was going to be an adventure where we were going to go digging and searching…and exploring. I could feel the burning of the tears as they started to well in my eyes, keeping my face pressed to the cold window so no one else could see.

Finally, I turned away from the window and asked if we were going to get to stop at all and check it out. I could see mom give dad a furtive glance. “It’s pretty wet out there in the rain, but I guess we can stop for a little bit if you kids want to,” he replied. We soon pulled off the side of the road, and pulling on our coats, we got out of the red Rambler station wagon and climbed around on a few rocks. There was no way we were going to be able to explore anything. The boulders we climbed across were too large to even try to budge. Our stop lasted only a few minutes before we were all getting cold and damp from the falling rain.

As I think back on that weekend of my youth, I’m reminded of the power of dreams. As the days dragged leading up to the “big vacation”, I couldn’t wait for the adventure to begin. My mind was filled with images and thoughts of all of the “what-if’s” that we might encounter. It gave me something to think about, something to ponder, something to hope and wish for. It also reminds me that sometimes our dreams are fulfilled in unexpected ways. In this case, there is a little more to the story.

We drove away from huge rocks and sandstone boulders and continued to drive further north into Alberta. Finally, someone asked where we were going.

“Mommy has always wanted to go to Banff and Lake Louise and since we’re this close, we’re going to drive up there,” dad responded.

“How far is it?” I asked.

“About another 200 miles,” he replied as he relit his pipe filled with his Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco. He rolled his window down a crack to allow the sweet fragrance of the smoke to escape as he drove along the Canadian Rockies toward our destination. It was nightfall by the time we reached Banff and found a place to stay. The air was still filled with the dampness of fallen rain. My heart filled with the weight of another disappointment.

The next morning, we were greeted with a cloudless sky as we awoke. The city of Banff wasn’t bustling on this Sunday morning as we searched for a place to eat breakfast, but at least the sun was shining and the air was warm. The food seemed tasteless as we sat in the Canadian restaurant and soon returned to the car to pack up for the drive back home. But before we headed south to return to the North Idaho dairy, dad started the 35 mile drive up to Lake Louise.

“What a waste,” I thought as we drove along the narrow two-lane highway. “We live by a lake. Why can’t we just go home.”

We finally reached the top of the nearly 2,000 foot climb up the mountain to the lake. As we turned a final corner, I felt like the air was knocked out of me! There in front of us was one of the most beautiful lakes I had ever seen with a huge, castle on the shore. This was a completely unexpected treasure that was delivered to us on this trip that had seemed such a disappointment to me.

I’ve discovered that dreams are like that. All too often, I get something built up in my mind about how great it is going to be…only to find that it wasn’t what I expected at all. Instead, something else is revealed during the “dream quest” which turns out to be even better.

I’m reminded of this trip down memory lane as I follow the dream quest of my sister, Deb. A pent-up dream of being a writer for years finally became a reality for her a year ago. Dreams of completing her first book, finding an agent, getting published and sharing her story have been left mostly unfilled. But like our trip to the Canadian Rockies as children, an even greater treasure is being revealed. Healing. Recognition as an amazing writer. The development of friendships and relationships that only occur through the willingness to share and be transparent. And ultimately, a book that will far exceed anything that she could have conceived when she started this journey.

Photo of Frank Landslide - by dimoreien on Bing Photos
Chateau Lake Louise - Bing photos

1 comment:

Deb Shucka said...

I'm typing this through tears. Thank you so much for the gift of these words - for the love in the ending and for your belief in my story, in me.

I love the metaphor - it's a perfect one for my last year, but it's just as perfect for you and your life right now. You're sitting at Frank, with Lake Louise still ahead of you.

The title made me think this piece was going to be about our brother in some way. Nice twist.

So this was a vacation that happened without me. I'm goosebumpy that you ended up at Lake Louise. How old were you? It's going to drive me crazy trying to figure out where I was during this adventure. There really is a Frank, Alberta? Wow!

Another really well-told story. I love the details about Dad's pipe smoke, the rainy window, your eagerness to hunt for treasures. The red rambler. Was it red? I don't have that memory. I always see green, which was Grandma and Grandpa's car, right?

I love your writing. I love seeing myself and our relationship through your eyes. I love you.