Our guest contributor is Leah Fries, a recent high school graduate who is excited to embark on all the adventures that make up life. She is a writer, artist and dreamer who possesses a quick wit and a kind soul. Her essay The Spirit of Qu’Appelle was selected as a winner of the 2014-2015 Qu’Appelle Spirit Award. I’m glad I get to be her aunt.
Being a grown up isn’t as fun as it was growing up, and I’m glad I got to do that here. Leah Fries
Leah has managed to capture life growing up in a small town. The beauty, the angst, the humour and the special spirit you come to recognize living there. As a young adult what once may have seemed scary now provides the beacon pointing the way home.
The Spirit of Qu’Appelle
There’s a reason small towns are small – because not a lot of people want to live in them. To many people, Qu’Appelle must seem like a place that isn’t important. People drive through every day on the 35 and they keep going. They don’t stop and they don’t come back. But for people like me, people that have lived here, we will never know that feeling of being able to leave this place. Maybe physically we’ll leave, but we can never really leave this town because this town will never leave us, no matter how far we go. This is a place that someone might not want to live in at first glance, and maybe not even after the second or third, but given a chance I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else. I haven’t lived in Qu’Appelle as long as a lot of people. Even people my age have lived here longer than me. I moved here with my family in the fall of 1999. I was 2 and a half years old. Now I am 18, and almost a high school graduate. Being a grown up isn’t as fun as it was growing up, and I’m glad I got to do that here. I’ve made a lot of memories, and I’ve learned a lot.
One of the first things I think of when I think of Qu’Appelle is the water tower. I was always scared of it when I was little; scared it would fall over and crush my house and flood the town. Yet whenever my family would be driving toward home at night on the highway, seeing that tiny blinking red light was always a source of comfort. It was always there, steady and consistent and always pointing the way home.
Going to school at James Hamblin School. For me, it was the absolute best experience. Unlike many others in my grade, I stayed at JHS until I was finished grade 9. I’d be lying if I said I never considered leaving early, which is why I don’t blame my friends that pursued their education somewhere else in grade 9. I wish they hadn’t done that though. They could have benefitted from the lesson we learned by staying: take pride in your community because it’s part of who you are. I learned about empathy there, and about respect and voice and kindness and how important all these things are. I am lucky enough to have gotten that lesson, and can thank James Hamblin School for nurturing me and pushing me to be who I am today. I will carry what I learned there with me always.
The spirit of this town can’t be summarized with descriptions and anecdotes. There is an underlying spirit here, and it is in everything we do. I feel it when I walk into a public building and I’m greeted by name. The spirit of the town is in the wind that breezes through the banners and flower baskets that hang on Main Street in the warmer seasons, and the Christmas decorations that sparkle in the winter. I feel it when I volunteer at the tourist booth every summer and I read our town’s proud history book. I see it when I look at our huge old town hall, its majestic appearance earning it the nickname Prairie Castle by my friends and myself. So many Summer Reading Programs and various other activities were spent there and not just by my friends and me, but many generations before us.
The spirit of Qu’Appelle is in our amazing Chinese restaurant, because like all small towns, we have a Chinese restaurant, and like all small town people, we know ours is the best.
I hold the spirit of this town every time I tell someone from Indian Head that they can say whatever they want about Qu’Appelle, at least we have an underpass. Maybe most critical, I can feel the spirit of Qu’Appelle when I visit our small cemetery with trees so tall they’re practically scraping the floors of heaven where our loved ones look down from.
The spirit of this town is alive and vibrant and I see it every day, in the small but important things that make this town what it is.
In the fall, I will be making the move to Edmonton. As author Robert Penn Warren wrote, “For west is where we all plan to go someday.” I grew up here, love it here, and learned a lot, but my time here is done. With the knowledge I gained here, I can spread my wings, and still carry the spirit of Qu’Appelle with me. I don`t know what my future will hold, but I do know that no matter where I go in life, no matter where I go from here, if I hear something calling me, I’ll know what it is and I’ll know it’s time to follow that blinking red light home again.
©2014,2015 Leah Fries
©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air
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