We drive over the Malahat. They have added bright orange posts between the north and south bound lanes of this coastal mountain highway, to prevent turns on and off it in dangerous places. As we come to each of these, I remember the fatal accidents: here, two motorcyclists; there, three members of a family in a van.
Coming into Duncan, I know which buildings are new, which longstanding, what used to be there before it became what it is now. I remember taking children to parks and play overs, buying furniture or fresh-picked raspberries, stopping for coffee. Like a GIS map, there are layers upon layers, such depth of memory.
We stop at my old house on our way to dinner with friends. I found some pictures of renovations when I was going through a box and thought the new owners might be tickled to see them. No one is home, so I leave them at the door and peek through the window. They are making their own renovations.
Helen and Crosbie are waiting for us when we arrive at the Genoa Bay Cafe. I introduce my new husband, Scott, and our friend Richard from Barbados. I am enjoying the moment, but the memories are thick, thick. There were many dinners here with these friends, and others; Mother’s Day brunches where my children and their cousins ran on the docks, looking for starfish and seals, and their long-gone grandmother watched from the patio, occasionally shrieking, sure they would fall in.
The memories don’t make me nostalgic or sad, but I feel like the air is viscous with them, as if I must move more slowly, like wading through thigh-deep water.
Life is crisp and clean in Barbados. Scott and I did not bring family or friends, nor even much history of our own relationship. We made it all there. Our Bajan friends were mostly met together, and they only know us for who we are now. They see us clearly, not through the lens of past shared experience, or who we used to be. They have no expectations of us. Even Melissa and Jim, the only friends who have visited us there, were mutual friends, the ones who introduced us, whom we have both known for decades.
I wonder how it feels for Scott, to hear stories about me told by others, from their viewpoint, to see me with my sisters and in the dynamics of family. Do I move differently in these oh so familiar surroundings? Does it feel strange to him, to see the books I have collected, to know there is a story behind every painting, every item on the shelves? Do I seem different, wearing clothes he has never seen me in before?
In September, the roles will be reversed, when we go to the States and I meet his family for the first time.
And in October we will go home, to Barbados.