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  • jolwajda


Melissa Melissa and I became friends in Grade 8 and were extremely close right up until I left my hometown. Almost every memory I have of my teenage years include Melissa in some way or another… driving down the seventy stretch together because that was basically all there was to do. Smoking pot in my parent's forest green Impala. I remember driving down to the water-skiing club in town with her, parking on the edge of the hill that looked down on the club and the water, putting on music, sparking a joint, relaxing and taking my foot off the break… But I hadn't put it in park. We started rolling down the hill as I frantically threw the car into reverse and went heavy on the gas. Whoops. That could have turned out worse than it did. Sorry, mom. I remember Melissa getting very drunk her first-time off of raspberry coolers and spewing bright red liquid all over the sidewalk at seven o'clock at night. I think it landed her in the hospital. Man, we were little shits. After I left at nineteen, we stayed in touch for a while, but of course grew apart over time. As you do, if you don't put in enough effort. It was a fault on my part, not hers. She always tried. I was the one who dropped the ball. When I made the decision to make the trip back to spread my Dad's ashes, I reached out and we planned for me to spend the first night at her house. I have been anxious on this trip to see friends I haven't seen from only two years ago, so my anxiety was higher than usual as I pulled into her driveway. She met me outside. We shared a hug, we laughed, and hugged again. She hasn't aged a day. She still looks like gorgeous sixteen-year-old Mel. The only thing I noticed was that she looked shockingly more like her mom than I ever remembered. I brought in my bags, she cracked a beer, I poured some wine, and within literal minutes, I was brought back in time. We were unbelievably comfortable together. Like no time had passed; like nothing had changed. But everything had. I watched her cook dinner for her three amazing kids, all so beautiful, all so much like Melissa. We went out for long island iced teas at the first restaurant I ever bartended at. We caught each other up on everything that has been going on over the last sixteen years. Some of it I knew, but so much of it I didn't. We talked about her mom Crystal, the most beautiful woman with the most loving soul. She told me the story about finding out her mother had passed. Tragically, and suddenly. That she was camping a few hours away at the time. How the cops showed up to the trailer… how they broke the news to her. Melissa was very pregnant with her third child at the time. She told me that she cried so hard throughout the night that they were pretty sure she went into labour. She didn't, but close to. She told me about her separation, and talked about what it's like to be a single mother. How she went back to school in her thirties, worked incredibly hard and started an extremely successful business. I am in complete awe of her. Always so proud of who she was, but intensely proud of who she is now. The next morning, we drove around town and did everything I wanted to do. She brought me up to the two mines my dad used to work at. T3 and Birchtree. She brought me to my old house, and stayed in the car while I knocked on the door.

I know this is weird, but I grew up in this house. Do you mind if I take a few pictures in the backyard and of the exterior?” Sidenote: They let me into their home, and let me walk around the entire place taking pictures - kind enough to let me invade their privacy. My ex-boyfriend painted the entire downstairs bathroom with an underwater themed mural almost twenty years ago, and it was still there. Talk about nostalgia! She brought me to the new arena where there was a North Star's hockey game being played, pointing out people to me from the past who I would never recognize on my own… Giving me the chance to say hello to them after all of these years. It was a Sunday and one of the things I really really wanted to do was walk through my old high school. I told her I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't get the chance to do that. But the day was fantastic. I got to do almost everything I had come here to do. Not everything works out. That night she was cooking dinner and ran out of eggs. I jumped in the car to run down the street to get a carton. When I walked in the door, she said she had a little surprise for me. “Oh ya?” She told me she had found someone to give me a private tour of the high school and I was to meet them in an hour. Walking through my old high school with absolutely no one else around but my tour guide was something else. An unreal memory I get to keep because of her. When I grew up in Thompson, there was a store in the mall that I loved - The North West Trading Post - filled with handmade moccasins, mukluks, beaded mittens, dream catchers, all from the surrounding reserves. I still so vividly remember the smell of that store; the smell of leather and pelt. I was extremely excited to visit it one more time to purchase myself a pair of mitts. When I had found out it closed months before I made my way up north,I was beyond disappointed. I told Mel how sad I was to hear it closed , and how I had been determined to buy myself a pair of mitts. She told me she knew the lady that had owned the store and she still sold out of her house. She messaged her to see if she had anything in stock at the moment. What she had was not what I was initially looking for, but were even more perfect. Black mitts, with jet black rabbit fur around the cuff… a polar bear on each mitten made out of caribou hide, with a moon at the top made of the same thing, and wrapped around the moon and down the mittens were green beading of the northern lights. They were beautiful, but mittens of that quality are not cheap, nor should they be. Obviously travelling across the country for close to a month puts anyone on a budget, especially myself. I talked thoroughly with Mel about them. “What should I do?” I phoned my mother to ask her advice. I weighed the pros and cons. I knew it was the one thing I wanted to buy all the way up north. I knew that I would never be coming back after spreading my Dad's ashes. I knew it embodied where I grew up, where my roots are from. And I knew I couldn't really afford them, but after much debate we all decided I needed to do it. I would just regret it too much if I let them slip away. We drove to the woman's house. I tried them on. They were even more stunning in person. As I turned to unzip my backpack to take out my phone for an email money transfer, I heard Melissa say "my treat". I didn't have time to stop her from paying the woman as she had cash and it was a quick transaction. I was floored. What the fuck are you doing? You are not paying for these! I’m sending you money right now!” She said she wouldn't accept it. I pleaded with her. “No.” She told me it was important for me to have these. They were a symbol of where I grew up. Where my roots are, like it or not. She told me that now whenever I am wearing them, I’ll not only think of home, but I'll think of her too. I sat and cried in her car. Probably the sixth time I had cried in the last 24 hours. I told her this was too much. I couldn't accept them. She told me, “too bad”. I will keep them forever. The hardest part about losing time with people you love due to distance, is if you're not careful, you start to forget. I forgot about Melissa’s incredibly infectious laugh. I forgot that she is one of the kindest people I know. I forgot about the love that she puts out into the universe and into other people's lives. I forgot that her soul sparkles like gold. I will never ever forget again. We were able to bring back a flame from a friendship that was almost out. Melissa you mean so much to me. I will make sure that neither of us forget that this time around. JW

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