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Halifax report

February is not the best month to visit anywhere in Canada – except perhaps Victoria – but I had the best time in sunny Halifax nonetheless.  It was extraordinary to go back to old Tower Road School, where I first landed in 1958 when I was eight, and see this sign outside. What a welcome!

I was born in Manhattan but in one of the luckiest moves of my life, was taken to Halifax at six weeks, to grow up till the age of sixteen in that small, sea-rimmed town (with a few years in London and Paris for a big city hit.) This trip, as I always do, I went to look at my childhood home, still a lovely old house though the big trees behind it are gone – the hurricane? – and strolled down Spring Garden Road, along Barrington Street and down to the harbour. 
I had a quick walk in Point Pleasant Park too, jealous of the Haligonians with a huge, wild park so near, damaged though it is after the hurricane – walking their dogs or children or jogging or sauntering through. This city is just the right size – lots going on, lots of creative, accomplished, busy people, but it’s still easy to get around, still human scale. The waitress in the restaurant where I was taken for lunch was so affectionate, so free with her “darlings” and “dears” that I felt like close family by the end of the meal.  By some miracle, Halifax has managed to preserve some of its finest old buildings, and the residential streets make me lust – rows of lovely wooden houses painted rose, orange, blue, green, with contrasting trim.
I visited old friends: Gay Hauser, a fellow thespian from high school days in Ottawa, and her family; Ian and Donna Thompson who are my heroes, Ian a friend since, I hate to say it, about 1961 and a dear friend since our year at the Grammar School together in ’66; Kevin and Donna Ball and Ian Ball, whose mother Dorothy was my mother’s best friend, and Ian Slayter, another good friend from the Grammar School year. As someone who keeps diaries and letters, to whom the past is a living place to be re-explored, these meetings are treasures.
My hostess Gay Silverman treated me royally, lending me her car on Tuesday so I could get around – went to Halifax West High school to talk to the kids there (though I got completely lost on the way and ended up on the road to Peggy’s Cove – or maybe all the roads out of Halifax are headed to Peggy’s Cove.) Anyway, I did get there and spoke to a class of kids doing special projects on the theatre for their drama class. My hostess was Jennie David, who is doing her project on Jacob Gordin’s “The Jewish King Lear.” I could hardly believe that a high school student in Halifax was interested in what I had learned about the man and the play, and that my trip to her town came by coincidence at exactly the right time. 
And then I spoke to about two hundred kids at the Grammar School. How I wish, as I told them, that my father were alive to be there too – his beloved school fifty years old now, and what a marvellous school. I ached that my own children had grown up in Toronto, subject to an education system smashed into oblivion by Mike Harris, while these lucky Halifax kids bloomed in this school founded by my dad. The old Tower Road School rooms, which were dark in my time, the walls a muddy green, the floors dark wood, are now bright and open; there’s a vast art studio, room for music and drama, lots of debating and tons of sports. One girl told me that she had wanted to be a criminal lawyer but, she said, after a stint building houses in El Salvador with her classmates and Habitat for Humanity, she now wants to be a human rights lawyer.  Another girl told me she wants to go to Harvard to study either engineering or science. How proud Dad would have been to hear that! He was very much alive there; people spoke often to me about him. He made a big impact in that small town. 
I am grateful that he opened this door for me – the chance to go back to childhood places as an adult, to share some reflections with a bunch of kids now, to be given so much back, including a billboard with my name on it. Why didn’t I find a way to get back here? I wondered, as I left. How can I live in a place without a wild park and the sea?
Perhaps I can’t.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

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Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


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