Manitoba Memories: “Until I was 6”

Manitoba Memories
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How incredibly lucky I feel to be able to take a week and just enjoy childhood memories.
For me, that means an annual trip to Manitoba. I always say I grew up in Lac du Bonnet “until I was 6”. You would have to wonder how many memories you would really have before the tender age of 6, but I honestly do remember so much.
My dad was a Mountie, and we were stationed in Lac du Bonnet, an incredibly beautiful town just northeast of Winnipeg. We lived in a two storey white house with forest green shutters, bordered with a white picket fence and lilac bushes. (I couldn’t make this up!). The backyard was honestly an emerald green carpet of grass that sloped down to the dock and river. We called it “the lake”, because it was wide and clear, but it was actually part of the Winnipeg River. Flower gardens sprinkled everyone’s yards, as that was part of the pride of living in that town.
My most vibrant summer memories were of waking up each day to the sound of float planes taking off from the lake. That was the morning alarm clock, and it signalled that it was time to get up. A right of passage was being old enough to learn how to swim. Our neighbours’ dad was “the instructor”. With a cigar in his mouth, Mr Dancyt would tie a rope around our waist. We would then jump off the end of the dock (or be coaxed to), and it was sink or swim time. Whether or not we came out of the water victorious, we always had to check for bloodsuckers between our toes. That emergency called for immediate action: Mrs Dancyt had a tall, white Tupperware salt shaker that we would empty on top of the “sea creature”, and it would eventually let go and drop off. I think I must owe Mrs Dancyt at least 10 pounds of salt. And life in Lac du Bonnet must be magical: she still lives in that very same house at the age of 92! Other memories of sneaking crabapples from our neighbours’ trees, buying a full bag of penny candy with only a dime, bonfire wiener roasts, and celebrating July 1st with crepe paper and streamer-festooned bicycles made everything seem pretty special in that town.
And today, it is as gorgeous as ever. I go once a year and stay with my girlfriend, Karen. Her yard is our childhood on steroids: also on the lake, it is filled with gardens of different themes, bright red deck chairs, and a welcome mat of that gorgeous green carpet I remember we all had as children. We have sat in those chairs until the wee hours of the morning, wrapped in quilts, (with a never-ending supply of wine), listening only to our own voices compete with the sound of water lapping up to the shoreline and watching the moonlight dancing on the waves. Molly, her golden retriever, keeps us company at our feet. If it all sounds “Norman Rockwellian”, well, it kind of is. And it’s these memories, as well as the very special bond of a friendship rekindled a number of years ago, that keeps me hungry for an annual trip to Lac du Bonnet. Thank you, to my dear friend, Karen, her family, and that beautiful town for wrapping me in a blanket of happiness for yet another year.
May you all be so lucky to have summer memories like these!

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