Wednesday, 06 September 2017 14:32

Hopping down the memory trail

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There probably were signs posted everywhere. Written in bold, black and certain lettering that said , “Don’t Feed the Wildlife.”

I cannot, however, spot them in any of the pictures we took.
Instead, in the crinkling album of developed-from-film photos, trapped on sticky paper and covered in cellophane, I see a background of pine and mountain and a lake so glacially blue that it seems the very shade of cold itself.
There are tumbles of rocks large enough to climb on. They’re next to a trail where tourists are intent on wringing every nickel’s worth out of their Canadian Rockies vacation, whether they arrived here by transcontinental air, by car, or in a luxury house on wheels.
In the pictures they carry picnic baskets and insulated lunch totes. They push rugged off-road strollers. They stoop thoughtfully to consider whether this or that berry, which looks like a raspberry or blueberry, actually is.
In the picture, I am very young. Twenty. Married a year, living in Calgary and working two hated jobs six days a week. Chefhusband is still a student cook, and we’re sharing a house with my sister and her husband and their first baby, who came into all of our lives and boldly declared a moratorium on sleep. (A baby who graduated from high school a few years ago.)
In turn, student-Chefhusband taught our nephew to blow bubbles in his mashed peas, and offered him his first lemon slice just to see the look on his face.
These were the days.
Not the “Good old days.” But days of laying down a foundation for other days to come.
And because these days were mostly miserable, and only one out of every seven was a day off, Chefhusband and I usually spent them doing one of three things, each one purpose-chosen to get us out of the house and away from the crying baby:
No matter the season, we toured show homes.
Calgary was beginning its boom, and after driving to another new development, we’d clomp from door mat to door mat, taking off our muddied shoes before going inside to stand in kitchen after kitchen, imagining a life where no one ate our food or left jam smears on the countertop, or dishes for us to wash after coming home from work, (sometimes not until midnight). A home where my sister and I were not witnesses to what is still one of the hardest years in each others’ lives.
In iffy-to-fair weather, Chefhusband and I presented annual zoo passes and visited our favourite fur, feather and scale-wearing friends. And after watching hippos chomp pumpkins, and the baby giraffe reach for the high up hay, we’d combine the change in our pockets and trade it for soft-serve ice cream at the concession.
Other days, about once a month, we drove to Banff.
Whether it was sleeting sideways, or temperate and fit for sighting butterflies on the swampland boardwalk, we drove West. Sometimes as far as Lake Louise, and sometimes farther.
At one or the other of the grand Chateaus, we might order dessert to share and imagine (only imagine) staying overnight. Then we’d walk down the trail and offer peanuts to squirrels and stellar jays who were bold enough to simply take whatever they wanted, regardless of any posted signs that advised them otherwise.
We offered bits of home-made trail mix to Columbia gophers who lived in the buffalo paddock, watching with delight as the nimble rodents seemed to steer the dried wheels of dried banana chips as they nibbled the circles smaller and smaller before reaching their tiny hands out for more.
At the Columbia Icefields, we offered a single unshelled peanut to a chipmunk, and then offered another, thrilled to our rafters at such perfect silliness when the little creature attempted to cram a third unshelled peanut into cheeks that were only made for two.
Those were the days.
Not the good old days.
Although the hard work, along with the days off, did eventually become the foundation of a life to build on.
Trail Mix
1 cup cashews
1 1/2 cups honey roasted peanuts
2 cups salted peanuts
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup Craisins
1/2 cup mini M&Ms
1/2 cup diced pitted dates
1 cup dried banana chips
1/2 cup diced dried peaches
1/2 cup diced dried apple slices
In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients. Store in a cool, dry place. Best toted in small paper bags.

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