The university I attended in undergrad had an anniversary in 2015. To commemorate and celebrate its history, two wonderful and beautiful eggheads curated a book of stories. Here’s my contribution.
A Rare Human
By: Meg W.
Townie: a colloquial term with generally nebulous parameters. In this particular vein, it’s used by Matt Frise to refer to a long-term resident of Saint Stephen, New Brunswick.
From the ages of 7-22 my census would read ‘resident of Saint Stephen’. I am a townie; I am an SSU alumni. These two truths paired together have secured a rather beautiful reality for myself. In hindsight, growing up in Saint Stephen is one of the most fascinating things I have accomplished. It granted me the opportunity of growing up in two places at once –one as a bona fide grade-school townie, and the other as a member of a unique community stitched into the ‘townie world’ (the community being St. Stephen University and St. Croix Vineyard).
In high school I grew up with fellow classmates traipsing through the hallways in camouflage hunting gear, ATV helmets in hand. Ridge running, greasy food, and mucking around on the dirt pile near the railroad tracks were ‘the’ choices for mitigating boredom. A ‘this is how life is and always will be’ mindset resounded. Not much changes in such a small town– besides the occasional kid’s new mohawk, which would briefly trip up a neighbor’s morning walk. In St. Stephen there is an inert feel in the breeze; a comfort in the fact that the change in color of fall leaves is expected.
I grew up with leaders and community members from SSU and SCV that taught me an unexpected, colorful way of living. Like the blocks in a patchwork quilt, I learned to run my fingers across the seams of my two ‘worlds’, so as to appreciate the difference the color made against the beige. To use another metaphor, it felt something like the estuary at Ganong Nature Park, where nautical salt meets fresh water from the St. Croix River, creating a dynamic, unusual balance. I love this analogy because when salt water and fresh water come together in an estuary, the two don’t mix well, initially. But they do create a unique and vibrant mini-ecosystem.
In the St. Croix Vineyard community I learned many things. That love exists within difference–whether in personality, or preference in lifestyle–and manifests itself in the search to understand one another. I learned to challenge the status quo by continuous questioning, whether of social standards, or daily matters, such as choosing Just Us coffee over Tim Horton’s ‘liquid gold.’ Through their positive example, I learned to search deeper into my life. To not cheaply observe and drift my way through this life, but to add action that’s reflective of social consciousness and to embrace change; to embrace the softness within me capable of thinking outward.
I give credit to my parents for raising me, but the people in the SSU and SCV communities raised me, too. Helga Stewart taught me how to procure the cleanest of windows using nothing but an old newspaper. She was magic. She also taught me about gumption and the insatiable desire to learn. Charlie Preston taught me how to give a gift when my 6-year old brother exclaimed, “Guess what, Charlie? It’s my birthday!” It’s hard to forget the half-eccentric grin on Charlie’s face when he passed an entire roll of toonies to my stupefied brother. A boy, who’s economic worth, up until that point, had been measured in penny candies. It wasn’t the money that made this gesture profound—it was that Charlie could have simply responded to my brother’s exclamation with, “Happy Birthday, Coady.”
From Walter and Carol Thiessen, I learned the amazing gift of solace in nature when staying at Rockmere, their home in Morse Mills. From Elizabeth Kilbourne, that one’s life story could change dramatically and playfully—from building and piloting your own airplane, to feverishly helping students find the library book they need for 20 admirable years. Altogether, these people taught me to not only welcome the beige things in life for the beauty found in their simplicity, but to also lovingly share a part of my life with others, and to ferociously continue to search for something deeper.
I am grateful to be deemed a townie. Moving away allowed me to recognize what I acquired, in St. Stephen—things I wasn’t fully aware of, perhaps, when I was deep in its vibrant bubble.
Editing by: Katie Gorrie