Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An Ode to Castor, Alberta

Long before we lived there, we would drive past Castor and say, "What do people do in little towns like that in the middle of nowhere!"  Then, one day, we were those people.

After our first daughter was born we had to make some tough decisions about what we were doing with our lives.  My husband worked in tourism and his work with the government was seasonal, May to October.  I had worked full-time since finishing college, but decided that I wanted to stay home with my kids until they were both in school full-time.  We didn't own a home here in Medicine Hat, and knew that we wouldn't be able to unless I went back to work after my maternity leave was finished. Even then we would probably only be able to afford a 100-year old tiny house in a bad part of the city.  Mike couldn't find any full-time work with decent pay and hours that allowed for family time in the Hat, but we heard about someone in Castor that was looking for an employee, so off we went.  I remember driving around the town and realizing that although this was necessary, it wasn't going to be easy.  I was leaving home, family, amenities and familiarity.  We knew that to be able to get into the housing market and still have a stay-at-home parent, we would have to make sacrifices in regards to where we lived.  Having a nice house helped ease the transition, but I was lonely and disconnected from this seemingly insular community. 

Our house in Castor
We moved in June of 2006, and it took until the fall to get to know anyone.  I started going to the local moms & tots group that met at the senior's lodge, where I made my first real connection.  "L" and I bonded over similar horrific post-partum experiences.  Then we started to get to know people at our new church, and discovered a real community of people who welcomed us with open arms.  This church was what made Castor become home for us.  I don't know that I've ever felt so valued as I did in that church.  I've never met such a wonderful group of people who prayed for us, asked after us, helped us in difficult situations and included us in their lives.  Then, when my oldest began playschool at age 3, I met a group of moms who opened my eyes to how related this whole community was!  I began to be able to make connections in my mind of which people were part of the same clans and how they all fit together. 

We also had the most amazing neighbours.  If I was going to say a blessing over anyone, it would be that they would have neighbours like the ones we had in Castor.  This wonderful senior couple also attended our church, and our girls were always happy to see them.  Our oldest would talk to them through our back fence while they gardened and she played.  They filled in as grandparents, when time and distance didn't allow for our own parents to be there.  They gave gifts at birthdays and watched the kids if I had to run out in bad weather or when the kids were sick and couldn't leave the house.  Most notably, when our youngest was born, "F" came over at 7 a.m. to stay with the oldest while I rushed off to the hospital to have the baby.

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point, Castor did become "home" for us.  And as I packed up the last of our stuff there last weekend, I was flooded with memories.  I thought that moving back to Medicine Hat would be all positive and easy for our family, after all, most all of my entire extended family on both sides lives in the area.  But I was amazed at how sad I was once I got here.  I really missed Castor.  One day, in one of the last weeks that we were living in Castor, I took the girls uptown to the library, post office and grocery store.  After I got home I realized that I had recognized and could name every single person I had seen while out doing my errands.  It seemed a shame to be leaving when I could finally do that!

We've lived in 6 houses/apartments since we got married in 1998 and in a couple of weeks we will be moving into our 7th, but the house in Castor was the first home we ever owned.  It was the only home that our oldest daughter remembers living in, and the place that we brought our 2nd daughter home to after she was born.  I have so many memories with my family in that house, and it was painful to say goodbye.  Our oldest misses Castor so much that she has decided that loyalty requires her to love one and hate the other, so she says, "I love Castor and hate Medicine Hat".  She has decided that once she is an adult, she is going to move back to Castor and live there forever.  Our youngest, who was only 2.5 yrs. when we moved back to the Hat, frequently requested to "go home" after we moved here. She is still very confused as to where our home actually is, especially after we stopped there a couple of weeks ago to pack and she took a nap in her crib in her old room.

Our moving day just reinforced to me how connected we had become.  We had so many wonderful friends show up to help load, which made the day easier and sadder at the same time.  Castor, I ♥ you.


  1. That's awesome, Alison!!! :) In a lot of ways, I still feel that way about our time in Hague, and that was seven years ago that we moved. I wouldn't trade where we are today, but those were good times, that was a good house, and I have a special place in my heart for that stage of our lives. Love you! Hope the move goes smoothly into your new home! :)

  2. Hope you had a nice visit in Castor last weekend! This is a great post and beautiful tribute to your time in that little place!