It’s Thanksgiving. It’s that one weekend each Fall when we are graciously reminded of the abundance of blessings in our lives and of the necessity to stop, just for a moment, and give thanks. There’s the “big G” Gratitude that defines most of our days- our health, family, friends, a warm, safe home to live in, good food to eat, family, friends, living in a country without the threat of daily bombings. That’s big G. Then there is, of course, small g gratitude- the intimate pleasure of daylight tea with lots of sugar, a warm smile, clothes blowing carelessly on the line, a sharp pencil, a cold Mae West bun. I know that today and everyday, I am hugely thankful for the gift of place. There are three such places on this glorious planet that have worked their way into the core of my very being, places that I am wholly thankful for on this Thanksgiving Monday. You might think that this short list will be comprised of glitzy and historical places like Paris or Santorini. Great places, but they’re on the long list. First place goes to Branch. Is anyone surprised? Each and every morning that I look across the Cove at Branch , I offer a quiet prayer of thanks, giddy at the fact that we actually live here. Not too far from Branch and also causing brief periods of weakness is the Cape (Cape St. Mary’s). As I step out of the car and into that wild gannet-y air (as I did this morning), a sense of Home and belonging strikes me, without fail, like a bullet in the chest. Third on this little list is Placentia. Placentia. I can cast Placentia in so many lights, such has been my lengthy relationship with this colourful Irish- Spanish-French community built on a sandbar-ish beach in Newfoundland’s largest bay. As a child, Placentia was the go to place for almost everything. It was the hot spot. You drove 65 km over a ribbon of winding and often treacherous hills until you reached what was then the holy land of shopping.
You did your banking in Placentia. You saw the doctor. You picked up enough groceries to last for a few weeks, if not longer. And finally, you indulged in a delicious feed of Mary Browns. Placentia was our service centre. The people of the Cape Shore know this. They still know and respect the beauty of supporting local businesses.
My courtship with Placentia didn’t have the expiry date that most people of my generation knew. Instead, I entered into what now seems like a very long engagement, beginning in 2001 When I started my social work life at the Lion’s Manor. Seventeen years later, I feel honoured to work in a place where you know almost everyone ( although I’m still not sure who that lady with the giant handbag was at the Dollar Store last week!) and they know you.
I savour the comfortable morning chat when I run in for my Tim’s tea. I look forward to the warm smile when you walk into Sobey’s (now Foodland). My heart feels fuller at the end of the day having worked with people who I count as the dearest of friends. Interestingly and oddly, I will admit that there was a time when I fully believed that Placentia was home to only 50 people, only because I saw the exact same people every day regardless of whether it was the paint shop or the print shop! I convinced myself that anyone new (like the handbag lady) were actors hired to provide the illusion of a large population. I know now that’s not true. Is it? As you tell, Placentia is never far from my mind as I’m either there or thinking of when I’ll be working in there again. Yet, this blog was born a few weeks ago as I drove to Whitbourne on a sparkly Friday afternoon. The smell of turkey soup from the Super One Stop was wafting through Jerseyside. Northeast Arm was glowing in the late afternoon sun. And a light haired lady was walking into her garage. I thought “I know this woman just by the back of her head!” Somewhere in the world today there’s a person who’s walking in a city bustling with people, hands tucked into her pockets, head down, anonymous. She doesn’t know the fella walking next to her. She’s never seen the woman sitting next to her on the subway. When she buys her tea just before work, she realizes she doesn’t know the young girls name. In Placentia, that would never happen. And I’m grateful for that.