Sometimes memories aren’t serious. They can be silly, too. Here’s one from my Revelstoke days in 2011.
I lean my bicycle against a snowbank outside of the Revelstoke post office. The sun is shining with all its strength, which isn’t much in B.C. in early December. It’s not too cold, but it’s not warm enough to melt anything other than some icicles hanging from the building.
Inside the post office, I stand in a long line up. We’re all waiting for something. I look at people ahead of me and invent a story for each one. The woman carrying her ski poles, maybe she’s a ski patroller. Maybe she found two people who skied off the resort and found themselves stranded in the drainage – no way out? They could have spent a freezing cold night in the snow but they didn’t have to – thanks to her.
Oh, my turn! I head to the counter and pay for a stamp. Then I put it on the Christmas card to my parents. I turn to go but the clerk calls out.
“Why did you do that?” she asks.
“Put the stamp on sideways.”
“I don’t know,” I say, taking a step towards the door. “I didn’t mean to do it.”
I don’t mean to squish the ant crawling past my boots either. Oops.
Perhaps this ant was on its way to his or her friends. Perhaps she was at her tiny mailbox and found out some good news. Perhaps this ant was about to tell them about it.
“I’ve won that language scholarship,” she would have announced. “I’m going to Paris to live for a year.”
“You can’t speak French, Antina,” says another ant. “Formicidae are strictly English and chemical communicators.”
“Well, I speak French and I’m going to France.”
Little Antina has always dreamed of going abroad and learning to speak the romantic language better. In Grade 4, she wore a blue beret to school. All her classmates laughed at her. The wasp students especially stung.
“Hahahaha!” they sneered. “Hahaha! Antina thinks she’s French. She’s nothing but an insect.”
“Shut up!” cried Antina. “One day you will see. You will see me going to France.”
She tilted her blue beret at a jauntier angle, stuck her antennae high in the air and scuttled away.
“The nerve of those Vespoidea! Jerks.”
From then on, Antina made it her mission to excel in French . She got top marks in school all the way through and she graduated head of the class. It didn’t hurt that she lived in the Canada Post office, which is bilingual, so there were many things for her to read, translate and learn.
University was in the cards for Antina. She thought seriously about her career options. There were a few she was interested in. She could see herself involved in sciences: stuff like research or fieldwork. However, she didn’t like the isolation of being in a lab. How about something in social science? How about a Bachelor of Ants degree?
“Je sais! I’ll be a French teacher.”
Unfortunately, before Antina had a chance to attain higher education, her whole family was eradicated one day in July. She came home to the colony and no one was there.
She searched and searched and searched. She found her brother and father withering and dying in a corner. They told her that her mother and two sisters had first escaped the dusting of pesticides but ended up breathing in the noxious fumes when they ran inside to help the rescue.
“Antina,” sighed her dying dad. “Go to Paris. Live your dream. I love you.”
“Oh papa! One day I will. I will go to the City of Lights. I will climb the Tour Eiffel. I will mange fromage et pain et vin et beaucoup des choses. Bien sur.”
She never did. How could she? Antina was all alone now and needed to make her own way. With no money for food, how could she pay for school?
Antina took up a labour position in the post office. Her job was to travel the line of customers and pick up anything they dropped. Well, not everything, but items of value such as bagel crumbs, cookie pieces and the occasional apple core. She was vital to rebuilding the population.
The work was hard. The work was dangerous. Often during a single day, she was almost smushed. She stayed because the pay was good. To reward herself, she applied to language programs. It helped keep her dream alive, it kept her hopes up.
When she got the reply about the scholarship in the mail, she was ecstatic. Finally, finally all her aspirations, hard work and desires were coming true. Antina was off to tell her supervisor the good news. Anthea was a good friend and would share her happiness.
Unfortunately, Antina was in such high spirits she let her guard down. This one time. This one and only and last time. Because that’s when I took a step from the counter – towards the door.
If only I had put the stamp on correctly, then the clerk wouldn’t have stopped me. I would have walked past Antina. I would have walked out the door and hopped back on my bike and spun off through the piles of snow.
Au revoir, Antina.