In an age of global stability, it’s strangely comforting to know that no matter how many years I’ve been away, the same damn things will happen every time I go home for the holidays.
The holiday season always brings certain predictable elements: drunken uncles, 12 terrible cover versions of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” and — for me and many other University of Saskatchewan students — the inevitable return to small, rural hometowns.
Although I haven’t officially resided there since 2014, each academic break sees me making the five-and-a-half hour trek down Highway 11 to my childhood home, accompanied by that familiar mix of nostalgia and dread.
It’s a feeling you can only describe if you grew up in a small town and then proceeded to run as far away as you could the moment you graduated high school — a common denominator of rural Saskatchewanian existence, if you will.
Much like the town slogan and the mayonnaise at the back of your parents’ refrigerator, there are things that will never change about visiting your hometown.
You will spend your Friday nights exactly the same way you did in high school. For some people, that means drinking Palm Bays in a field. For me, it means watching bad reality television with my mom and falling asleep on the couch by 10 p.m. — to each their own.
You will go to buy something at the one grocery store in town — maybe it’s baking supplies for your mom. Maybe it’s tampons. It doesn’t matter. You will go to buy something at the grocery store and every single cashier will be a kid that you used to babysit. They will all be taller than you, and you will proceed to be embarrassed about buying tampons.
Every elderly person you encounter will ask you the five exact same questions. They all know who you are, even though you swear you’ve never seen them before you in your life. This is part of the small-town-elderly-person conspiracy.
You will probably run into your old high school partner. They will either have never left your hometown and be married with three children or be in the same alienated position as you are. Either way, you’ll avoid eye contact and wonder what the hell 15-year-old you was thinking.
At some point, you will run out of clean clothes and be forced to wear something that you haven’t worn since grade 11. Usually this means a ratty sweatshirt with your high school’s mascot on the front and a pair of jeans with mysterious stains and a hole in the crotch. Wear them with pride.
You’ll also inevitably get bored and drive around town in the middle of the night, listening to the only local radio station that gets decent reception. It plays a mix of country music, Bryan Adams and top 10 hits from five years ago. Listen anyway.
Somehow, despite three years of university classes, a nose ring, better eyebrows, a shiny new journalism job and an appreciation for decent coffee, three days back in my hometown manages to make me feel like I’m 15 again.
It’s been three years since I got out, and maybe that’s why I can write about my hometown with dark humour and an outsider’s perspective. These things about my hometown haven’t changed and probably never will.
But, the thing is, I’ve changed and you’ve changed. Those years away have done us good. We’re able to move past our small towns without forgetting all of the things that they taught us — even if those lessons were mainly how to not be like the shitty people from our hometowns.
The more things stay the same, the more you change. Remember that.
Emily Klatt / Sports & Health Editor
Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor