I traveled back to Ross River last week. It had been almost three years since I drove away in the midnight sun to our new home in Whitehorse. It's a long drive at four and a half hours, and not one that's convenient to make with the additional two children we've acquired since moving back to town. I was hoping to go back at least one more time before we eventually move out of the Yukon, so when an opportunity to cover a news story came up, and Rich was off work to watch the kids, I made the solo trip back to a place that will always hold a special place in my soul.
I was headed there for a happy occasion, and was looking forward to seeing friends I hadn't seen in a while. I was curious to drive around and see if anything changed. I played old mix CDs on the drive up, singing loud and waxing nostalgic for a time that seemed so long ago, but is really only four years removed form my present.
The people living in my old house were gracious enough to host me, and invite some of my old friends over that evening to visit. It was so strange to walk over the threshold as a guest. These walls held some difficult first years of my marriage and parenthood, but also were the setting for so much growth and celebration. It's true what they say, though, you can never truly go home. I am changed since then and was happy to be visiting. I will never forget what I learned and saw, and to be honest, I was unprepared to be so deeply immersed in the town's sad history again.
I was eager to ask for updates of some of my favourite Ross River characters, and was happy to hear some were doing well, or had moved on to new adventures. I asked on about a few of the kids I had worked with at the school and library, and I won't say I regret it, but I was certainly naive. I was hoping for good news, or for confirmation that things were still the same. Sadly, some of the kids that had meant a lot to me at one time are not doing well. The town, their troubled families, the cycle of addiction and violence and abuse has gotten the better of some of them. Over the course of the evening, I was transported back to a time when my heart broke regularly for the sad stories that were commonplace in these sweet kids' lives.
I drove home very quietly. No music playing, no increase on the odometer. I took the country drive as a chance to absorb it all. I cried. I sighed a lot, replaying the things I'd heard and learned. I wondered how in the world some of those very young girls would ever get through the things they've been through. I thought of my own girls. I thought of the struggles I've faced and wondered how in the world I would ever handle prolonged sexual abuse, a childhood robbed by molestation and getting drunk before learning how to read.
Some of the stories I heard I wish I could forget, but then again, maybe it's better I know what happened to those kids. Their daily realities and struggles to keep going are things I wish I could un-hear-- really? Who am I to think I should live so carefree and removed from these realities? Was it really only three years ago that I was living here?
The kids in Ross River have a hard life ahead of them, and I know for many of them it will be a sad story that plays out. I will take their stories with me and remember that everyone has a story, some as sad as these kids'. I will pray that things get better, and work to encourage and help those who struggle. I won't soon forget Ross River and all the impossibly sad things I learned and saw while there.
|The tree I carved in my old front yard, Abby's birth date.|