St. Marys Journal-Argus editorial
Today I got interviewed, which is always a weird experience for a reporter. I found myself the subject of one of Lord Cultural Resources’ one-on-one interviews on culture in St. Marys as part of the town’s attempt to map a strategic cultural plan. I was asked, as a thirty year-old who was born and raised in St. Marys, why I would choose to continue living here.
“You must have a wife and kids,” the consultant guessed.
“Nope,” was my answer.
“In high school, you spend all of your time wishing you could get out of this town due to boredom,” I explained. “Once you finally accomplish that, you spend the rest of your time trying to get back in.”
“What stops you?” asked the consultant.
“Gainful employment,” was my answer.
She pointed out that someone looking for the same small-town experience I sought, ie. the slower pace, the abundant natural settings, and the complete lack of privacy, could easily find it in other towns that might be looking for someone trained in their particular field, and she was right. “So,” she asked again, “What keeps you here?”
In retrospect, I suppose the short answer was friends and family, but that answer is only the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath the waters is the real reason to hang around; it’s also where we find this elusive culture everyone’s suddenly so interested in.
Even when I lived elsewhere, Kitchener/Waterloo for four years, Japan for one, Toronto for four more, I was always home for special occasions (even from Asia, once, for my sister’s wedding). There was always a birthday party, a buck n’ doe, a wedding, a friend’s band performance, Jetstock, Thanksgiving at The Creamery, fishing derbies, Beer Tent, Sno-pitch, Halloween, golf tournaments, St. Patty’s Day pub crawls...the list goes on and on.
Do these count as culture? Well, Roma culture is famous for their weddings, as are Italians. Maritimers define themselves by their fishing. These are cultural events, and the way we do them here differs from the way they do them elsewhere. In fact, I would venture to guess a buck n’ doe is a uniquely Southern Ontario experience.
While attending York University, a school which fully embraces the ideas around multi-culturalism, I learned a lot about the Ukrainian settlers on the prairies; or the Blackfoot in Alberta. But learning about these cultures left me hungry to define my own. It took awhile to glance past the American TV dramas, football, and music that take up so much of our free time and see the unique identity beneath; one that you never see on American TV; one full of shed parties; of learning to play crokinole in your grandparents basement; of loud games of euchre while a hockey game blasts in the background; or of four-wheelers accidentally driven through cow fences.
Maybe you think of something different when you think of home. Maybe something similar. But these are the kinds of shared experiences that link us together and define us, and once you get a big demographic of people with shared experiences, you get culture.
So, to reiterate, what keeps me here? The short answer is friends and family...and everything that comes with them. (C.G)