Last week my brother and I drove to Prince Edward Island (PEI) to visit the old homestead. When our family moved away from the island we sold our house and some of the surrounding land, but kept the remaining 23 acres, which our parents have since given to us. We have the woodland where we made maple syrup as kids, harvested firewood and took many walks; the waterfront where we swam, canoed and sailed; and the fields where we skied, sledded and played games. My brother and I try to make at least bi-annual trips to check on our property, relive old memories and make new ones.
We took the Wood Islands ferry across for old times sake and because it means a lot less driving than going over the bridge from where we were. We rushed up to the cafeteria to beat the line-up as we used to do as kids, but there was no one in the line up. Maybe the food isn’t as popular in the middle of the afternoon as it used to be at breakfast, or maybe people are just eating better these days. When we turned down gravy on our fries the server said “you don’t know what you’re missing” and we replied “oh yes we do..” and the guy behind us chimed in “yeah, about 900 calories”. He also passed on the gravy.
We camped on our land, which has no water or electricity, in my brother’s tent for two nights. During the days we visited a few friends and explored some of our old haunts. As with anywhere I guess, so many things have changed since we left 12 years ago but lots of stuff has stayed the same.
The fields, which were farmland when my parents bought the property more than 30 years ago, are becoming more and more grown up in trees, which were mainly planted by our parents. From the top of the hill you used to be able to see the river and look down across the valley, but now the trees are so tall you can’t see above them. The woodland looks mostly the same as the last few times we have been there. Our old roads are slowly growing in but not much else has changed. The dappled light and the sweet smell of ferns and leaves still make our woods one of the nicest places to be on a warm sunny day.
The first night we did a quick tour of Cavendish and saw that a lot of changes had taken place. It was the end of the season, but lots of places looked like they hadn’t opened at all this year. The most horrifying of all was discovering that Rainbow Valley was no more. Rainbow Valley was the first fun park in PEI. We used to go there every year with our school class and often again in the summer with our family. It was a huge park with tons of rides which were mainly for smaller kids but it had the best waterslides on PEI, a shooting gallery, bumper boats, paddle boats, and lots of great stuff for older kids. It has been purchased by Parks Canada and now has nature trails instead. We took a long run in the National Park along the beach on another natural trail and then went to Pizza Delight for supper. My brother and I both worked at Pizza Delight during our summers on PEI and we were anxious to see how it had changed under new ownership. We were relieved to discover it was even worse than it used to be (yes, this is possible). The menus were tattered and covered with food, the service was virtually non-existent and the food was greasy as ever. Some things never change. After supper we returned to our campsite, built a fire and roasted marshmallows under the full moon before retiring in our tiny tent.
The second day we tromped around our property from the riverfront through the fields and up into the woodland. Apart from the trees growing up, it all looked great and mainly just as we had left it. After our walk we went to our favourite beach to cool off. The old store we used to buy cold drinks and snacks at on the way had closed down, but the beach looked great. Beaches change every year but there was still lots of good sand and a very strong current because the channel runs quite close to the beach.
Before leaving in the afternoon on the third day, we went for a run along the McCourt Road, a beautiful tree-covered heritage road right near where we grew up, which starts with two very steep hills and then flattens out. It was my brother’s idea to run ‘up’ the McCourt Road. I used to cycle to a summer job along this road. It would take 45 minutes to get there and 5 minutes to get home. Needless to say, I was quite knackered at the top and took a few too many walk breaks. After picking up a peck of Malpeque Oysters (some of the best oysters in the world) from Carr’s Lobster Pound in Stanley Bridge, we drove to the bridge and left PEI behind until next time.
Overall it was a fabulous three days spent with my brother who I have not seen nearly enough in the last 12 years. We were always very close growing up and usually have a lot to catch up on. We laughed a lot and recalled stories about growing up in our little world in rural PEI and our lives since leaving. I was happy to find that we still have lots of fun together and I hope to see him again soon.