My Own Winnipeg

January 16th, 2014 by Emma Durand-Wood

Well, it’s winter in Winnipeg again. There are six-foot icicles hanging from the the side of my house and Winnipeg wrap sightings have gone up by about a million percent. Okay, I’m exaggerating both of those measures, but don’t we love extremes here? (Colder than Mars, anyone?)

I can’t believe how little I wrote here in 2013. I had a good excuse as any; I had a baby halfway through. Sometimes I suddenly realize I have two children who will call Winnipeg their birthplace and probably also their hometown. I guess it’s just neat when I think about how before I lived here, the idea of Winnipeg always inexplicably seemed like home, and now it most certainly is.

Anyway, lately I’ve been thinking about my Winnipeg. (Confession: I still have not seen the movie My Winnipeg. I heard something about frozen horses and can’t seem to muster the courage to face that.) About how Winnipeg is a pretty big city, but there are whole parts of it that I have never been to and am completely unfamiliar with. Last summer I dropped my husband off at a stag  in Charleswood. As I drove home I realized that it’s a HUGE neighbourhood that I know absolutely nothing about. This is kind of embarrassing, but I didn’t even realize there was actually so much city there. But many, many people must call it home. When my husband and I had our wedding anniversary this year, we had a newborn and were too exhausted to do anything but go for a drive while my mum babysat. We wound up on Regent and just kept driving, all the way to the end of Transcona. Again – who knew there was still so much city past Lagimodiere? Not me! I guess it makes sense that some of Winnipeg’s larger neighbourhoods were once their own distinct cities.

My own Winnipeg is mostly based in Elmwood, East Kildonan, St. Boniface and St. Vital. I go a couple times a month to Corydon/Osborne, Wolseley, and north Main. Going to the box stores on Kenasten (sorry, Route 90) is a once-a-year kind of deal for me and I usually have to look up on a map exactly how I’m going to get there.  But I’m pretty sure I have never been to say, The Maples, or Royalwood, or Lindenwoods (wait, I think I went to a garage sale in Lindenwoods, once.). I don’t even really have a grasp of where they are located. I guess, realistically, most people live their lives in a smaller subset of the city; it’s just weird to think about the fact that there are areas of the city I have only heard because of traffic reports on the radio. I mean, it’s not like this is New York or something!

But it’s a nice feeling to realize that the parts of the city I am familiar with, I finally really am comfortable in. I still regularly get lost turned around downtown when coming home from the airport, but now I generally don’t have to pull over to consult Sherlock’s;  I can always figure out where I am. It occurs to me that, after five years, I have finally committed to memory the fact that you can’t turn left from Marion onto Archibald during peak hours, and you can’t turn left onto Portage from Main, full stop. (Or left onto St. Mary’s from Marion, for that matter.) I know that the advance arrow to turn left onto Des Meurons from Provencher is perilously short and you have to be ready to go the second it turns green. And I can pretty safely get through Confusion Corner with only mild unease.

Yes, I think I am becoming one of you. I had a total cheap Winnipegger moment the other day. I’d seen Bartley Kives and Bryan Scott’s new book, Stuck in the Middle, at Costco before Christmas, and mentioned to my husband that it would make a great gift. Alas, I guess I mentioned too subtly, because there was no book under the tree for me. So when I was at Costco the other day I looked to see if they still had any copies. They did not. I cursed myself for not having picked it up earlier; I think it was about half the price at Costco as at bookstores. I TOTALLY BELIEVE in supporting local and bricks & mortar booksellers, and understand why their prices have to be higher than online and at Costco – yet I pouted to myself the rest of the trip for not having snagged it at such a low price when I had the chance. (Okay, I just put it on hold at the library. That is the ultimate in frugality!) [Total sidenote: does it seem to anyone else that at any given moment of any given day, the whole city of Winnipeg is at Costco? Seriously, don’t we have anything better to do??]

But I also love how generous Winnipeggers can be. That same pre-Christmas trip to Costco, it was a very cold and blustery day as I wrangled my 3-year old and my groceries to the car, when the man who I’d parked next to came back to his car at the same time – and offered me a hand unloading my cart! That brightened my whole day. Indeed, I think Winnipeg has made me a friendlier person to the people I meet day to day. Sometimes, when I catch myself in the act of doing something kind, I’ll humblebrag to myself, “Well, that was a Winnipeggy thing to do!”  That could well be the best thing about being a cheap Winnipegger: friendliness is free. And I think friendliness begets friendliness. And if McDonald’s taught us anything, it’s that smiles are free.

So, what is my own Winnipeg? I suppose my own Winnipeg is more than any particular neighbourhood or being cheap or being friendly. My own Winnipeg is dusty – so, so, dusty – and dry in the summer, but also lush and green with treed canopies, and anticipating the big waves at Grand Beach, and walking to an ice cream shop that is only open a few months of the year. My own Winnipeg is permanently dirty snow in the winter, and being a curling widow on MCA (er, Manitoba Open) weekend, and counting down the days to Festival du Voyageur, and simultaneously thanking and cursing the crews for ploughing our lane — and trapping us on the lane side of our back driveway. My Winnipeg is go ahead, make a U-turn! And the beautiful lighted archways on Corydon that I just noticed for the first time this year, and furiously trying to register for swimming lessons with Leisure Online, and missing the turnoff to Assiniboine Park every. single. time!  My Winnipeg is yes, “dainties” is absolutely the best word to describe, well, dainties. (I noticed the term rolling effortlessly off my tongue for the first time this Christmas.)

Winnipeg itself is fading into the background of my life more and more with every passing year, but I’m still glad I chose this city to be my home. The thing about Winnipeg is that it can be yours in any way you choose, and that can change as much as you like. And I can’t wait to see what my Winnipeg is like five, 10, 50 years from now.


4 Responses to “My Own Winnipeg”

  1. Sid says:

    My Winnipeg is going to look like Vancouver Island. Did my time.

  2. Sarah says:

    I just discovered your site a month or so ago. It’s great! I’m a West-Coast transplant who moved here summer of 2012 for my husband’s career in the military. It has been a huge learning curve and it’s so nice to hear someone else’s stories of learning to navigate this city!

  3. Hiya!
    Just came upon your site & I love it!
    My Winnipeg, looks a lot like yours! 🙂
    Belated welcome,

  4. Karen says:

    Wait till your kids get older and you’re driving them to play soccer and hockey – that’s when you’ll really get to know the city! (btw, my daughter calls Transcona “the land that time forgot”.)

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