Growing Up in Northern New Brunswick: Part 3

The third part 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 was finally back home.

After a decade of living in the big city, I decided to extend my stay on the northern shores of New Brunswick. Although I wasn’t sure what the future held, I knew I had to explore this new feeling of appreciation for my hometown.

One day in mid-December, I took a stroll along the beach. Youghall Beach is a long, sandy peninsula that borders the town to the north. The dunes extend out into the chilly waters of the Baie des Chaleur. A locally joked about misnomer; the bay is anything but hot as the name suggests. While the sun slightly warms the corner of the Atlantic during the summer, it never reaches a temperature that doesn’t require a “1-2-3 jump in” attitude. In winter, the bay freezes over, sending fist-sized shards of ice and frozen seaweed onto the sloping shores.

As I walked along, the ice crunched under my winter boots. A seagull cawed overhead. I pulled my scarf tighter around my neck and chin as the northern winds threatened to turn my skin blue. Rounding the bend, I navigated around the snow-covered driftwood.

Bending down, I touched the smooth edges of a broken log, whittled by years at sea. My mind’s eye filled with the thought of the piece of wood, drifting beneath the waves, feeling the tug and pull from a million different directions. Thrown against rocks, coral, and shores around the world, the log was worked down from its powerful trunk to a piece small enough to fit in my hand – chipped away by everything it came in contact with, breaking into pieces and leaving them behind. I thought of that log, being sent on its way each time, a little bit smaller than before.

Suddenly, I couldn’t bear the thought of it being chipped away any longer.

With a deep breath, I grabbed the smooth surface of the driftwood. Walking back along the beach, I ran my thumb along the outer edge, listening to the crunch of the snow, the cawing of the seagulls, and the cracking of the icy waves along the frozen sand.

The next day, I went back. And I went back every day after that.

The following summer, I stood at the edge of the bay named in jest. I walked along, looking for the right piece. When I found the perfect small branch, I put it in my sweater pocket.

Back home, I placed the new branch among my collection on the mantle. Rescued from the destruction of the sea, the pieces of driftwood watched through the window of my living room as the Baie des Chaleur raged on.

[Thank you for reading this 3-part short story about my love for my hometown. This story is semi-autobiographical. Although I don’t live in that town anymore, it holds a dear place in my heart and I often dream about moving back in the future. As we grow, we come to appreciate the smaller things in life, small towns included. –Lori]

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