The most genuine feelings I can muster up spill out when I think of my home. That’s when you see the truest version of Griffin come through, when I’m at my most honest, in other words …
That is when I am who I am and don’t give a s*** what you think of me.
I was once told that I can’t live my life with one foot in Toronto and one foot in Winnipeg – I have to bring over both feet and plant them both firmly in the 416. That, at its surface value, seems like realistic and sound advice. It’s true – I had made the decision to move away – I shouldn’t be clouding my vision with nostalgic rubbish. So when I heard that advice, I took it to heart because I needed some direction in my life. I tried it.
I also tried being silent about it. I was once made to feel like I talked about it too much. So I was a little quieter.
It wasn’t for me.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times more – You can take the girl out of Winnipeg but you can’t take Winnipeg out of the girl. (Even if you REALLY wanted to) It’s hard to explain to someone who has never been to Winnipeg what it is exactly, what that anchored feeling is. Case in point – I brought my boyfriend home for a wedding last week and for months before we went, I tried my best to explain our self-deprecating city in words that weren’t: FREEZING, BOILING, MOSQUITO-INFESTED.
It ended up sounding like this: “Honestly .. you just have to go. You’ll understand once you go.” And I almost felt eternally grateful that he even decided to travel there at all (He’s been everywhere else in the country). Brave soul.
But since I had already spent the majority of our relationship convincing him that our little underdogs the Winnipeg Jets (“LOOK HOW SCRAPPY THEY ARE!”) were far superior to the Toronto Maple Leafs, I was off to a good start. I thought I had a lot of work ahead of me, but thank you Winnipeg, for doing all the work.
In true Manitoba fashion, our plane landed in Winnipeg in an April blizzard. Perfect. Symbolic of our unpredictability, our sense of humour, our .. noncomformity. A week later, our plane left Winnipeg in a balmy +11 degrees. Temperamental.
It may be too late, but since it is still fresh in my mind – Winnipeg, I think I can do a better job at describing you now.
Winnipeg, there’s always beer.
Winnipeg, where you can drop in to someone’s place unannounced and it seems like they’re completely ready for you. Welcoming.
Winnipeg, where there are always guitars, jam circles, sing-a-longs.
Winnipeg, your bonfires are unmatched.
Winnipeg, where everybody knows your name. You are the embodiment of Cheers.
Winnipeg, your history is captivating.
Winnipeg, where you can pick up where you left off.
Winnipeg, you bum a lot of cigarettes. It’s okay, your cigarettes are very expensive. You instead provide cheap EVERYTHING ELSE.
Winnipeg, your architecture is a vision.
Winnipeg, the place that takes in visitors with open arms.
Winnipeg, where you can find silence, where you can see the stars.
Winnipeg, where you aren’t paying for your home well after you’re six feet underground.
Winnipeg, the place with the best coffee in the world.
Winnipeg, you love hugs.
Winnipeg, the place with never ending fields and even more infinite skies.
Winnipeg, the place that acts as your protective older brother who holds a little grudge against Toronto for stealing you away.
Winnipeg, where no matter where you go, there’s someone you know.
Winnipeg, you are not just a band-aid, you are stitches.
Winnipeg, too many friendly faces to count.
Winnipeg, where everything is growing so fast but nothing has really changed. You ARE comfort.
Winnipeg, you LOVE giving people rides. Airport pick-ups, drop-offs, anything.
Winnipeg, the place where you arrive empty handed and leave with luggage full of stories.
Winnipeg, the place where you can show up without knowing a soul and leave with a brand new circle of family and friends.
They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone but the thing about Winnipeggers, expats included, is that we always know. It’s ingrained in our being. We know the treasure we hold. But this gem is something different, something a little harder to put into words, into a blurb, into a tourism article.
One Great City. The Heart of the Freaking Continent.
That still doesn’t give it enough credit.
You just have to see it for yourself.