Growing Up in Northern New Brunswick: Part 1

Updated: Mar 9

The first in a three-part short story series by Lori Noel about growing up in Northern NB. Originally published by The Whistler, an independent press in AB, Canada.

I’ve lived in a few different places. I spent a year in Fredericton; I went to Montreal to learn about art and history; I ventured out west to explore the mountains; I even travelled across the pond to England to see how well I could do on my own so far away. But no matter where I go, or where I am, there’s only one place I call home.

Growing up in Northern New Brunswick is an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. There’s something special about a small town that feels more like “home” than any big city. There’s a warm and welcoming feeling to being a “local”, especially in a remote community where everybody knows each other and a few family names dominate the phone book.

The thing is – I didn’t always feel that way.

Like many teenagers, at sixteen, I longed for something more. As my mind expanded and pieces of the world at large were revealed, my town just seemed to get smaller and smaller. I subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine and cursed my town for never being on the lists of concert tour dates for the bands I desperately wanted to see. On the internet, I watched clips from Broadway musicals, obsessively checking the train schedules to New York and wondering when my bank account would magically produce a ticket to freedom.

And for all that longing and waiting to leave, you might think I missed out on something important. You might guess that in my wanting for more, I missed what was right in front of me.

Luckily, in the battle of patience and desire, patience won. With a solid plan in place to leave the moment I turned eighteen, I enjoyed my years in that northern town by the ocean. I spent nights on the beach, building bonfires with friends, days volunteering for the local food bank, and afternoons performing in my high school’s musical theatre department. I got to know the people of the town who were more like family.

The day I graduated from high school, I stood side by side with the kids who’d been beside me for twelve long years. We were more like brothers and sisters, receiving a piece of paper signed with possibilities. After the ceremony, we all drove out to the woods and set up our tents for a night of camping. Looking around at my peers, I wondered how many would stay in that town and how many would leave for “better things”. That’s what I believed at the time - that “better” was somewhere else.

Less than a month later, I was on that train I’d dreamed of for so long.

Was I on my way to something bigger and better, or were there still more lessons to be learned in a small, northern New Brunswick town?

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