Tuesday, June 20, 2006

End of the Line

I had a happy childhood. It was filled with so much laughter, fun, family and friends. Every weekend my dad would wake my sister and me up with the aroma of cooked sausage on the frying pan; the one thing that would get us up from sleeping-in too much. There would be pancakes, bacon, eggs and toast – the works. Every Christmas my mom would decorate the house from top to bottom! Our household contained every colour you could find in a crayon box. My mom would bake delicious goodies and created gorgeous floral arrangements. She would make chocolate lollipops and I indulged. Each night, before going to bed, my family would tell each other ‘I love you’.

For some reason, that all ended shortly after my 13th birthday.

When I was 12 years old, my dad sat my sister and me down and explained that we were moving from Edmonton to Calgary because he was being transferred there for work. I still remember the shock and disbelief I felt. We were to move just days before my 13th birthday.

My sister, who was 10 years old at the time, and I had devised a plan to somehow stay in Edmonton.

We figured that if we could somehow get enough money we could give it to our dad and we could afford to stay in the only place we knew as home. We created a Secret Fund jar out of and old peanut butter jar and put all our allowance in it. We needed more money. My sister and I then took out the construction paper and made holiday/whatever-just-cause-we-can cards. We made cards that said ‘I love you’; cards that said ‘You’re the best’; cards that said ‘Good job’ and the list when on. We charged a quarter for each card and each quarter went to our Secret Fund jar.

A couple of months before we had to move, my sister and I sat our parents down and showed them the money we had saved. All 120-some dollars. We explained to our parents that see! lots of money! Now we don’t have to move! I guess I don’t have to tell you folks that the Secret Fund jar didn’t quite work. In the end, my parents were proud of my sister and me and decided that we should split the money and put it in our savings account.

On August 1, 1995, my family and I took our belongings and left home; but not until I had carved in ‘I was here 1995’ into the wall siding, near the bottom, behind the door.

Leaving Edmonton was emotionally heart-wrenching for me. I vividly remember the drive from the NW down through to south Edmonton. Staring out the car window, looking at all the trees pass by, wondering if things would stay the same. As we were about to leave the Edmonton city limits, my eyes filled up with tears as I stared at downtown Edmonton getting smaller. To this day I still cannot listen to I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan – the song that played on the radio as downtown kept shrinking – without crying. I took one last look at the welcoming sign to Edmonton: Welcome to Edmonton – The City of Champions.

Living in Calgary had changed my family. My dad no longer enticed my sister and me out of bed with the aroma of sausage. My mom waited until December 21 to decorate the house and decorate with the bare minimum. There were no more baked goodies. No more floral arrangements or chocolate lollipops. We stopped saying ‘I love you’ before going to bed each night. My sister was no longer the sweet, innocent girl I once knew. I became drawn in, angry, violent, and bitter and had zero friends for the first three months living in Calgary.

Although over time I have grown to not be so bitter, angry, etc. I still miss Edmonton and still consider it my home.

The one thing that kept me partially sane over the years was the hockey that I could watch on television. My family and extended family were hockey fanatics. In the family, you either watched hockey or you played hockey – mom, dad, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins and my grandmother. The Edmonton Oilers were a part of The City of Champions and that is who we cheered for. Living in Calgary and being an Oiler fan has NOT been easy.

Firstly, there is the Battle of Alberta. Edmonton doesn’t like Calgary and Calgary doesn’t like Edmonton. Can you imagine the harassment I got for my team? Insane. Any chance I got, if I saw someone wearing Oiler paraphernalia, I’d try to make friends with them. Now although the Oilers are not the greatest hockey team around since they lost all their great players (Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr, etc.) I have always believed that they are the best and have never in my life cheered any less for them, not even when they were losing 7 games in a row. I do not jump on the bandwagon and I will be a die-hard Oiler fan till the day I die.

When the Edmonton Oilers made it into the Playoffs this season I was so damn happy. They were struggling to gain the eight spot and they managed to pull through and jump over Vancouver to get it. I was determined to not let anything get in my way of me missing a playoff game; even if it meant giving myself food poisoning.

First up, Detriot Red Wings. No one would have thought that the eighth-seeded team could kick out the top team. Even I was afraid.

Next up the San Jose Sharks. At first, Edmonton was down 2-0 in the series. But guess what? The Oilers came back and came back hard. They took the series with winning four games in a row.

After that, the Anaheim Ducks. I had a feeling this was going to be easy considering the regular season statistics. I was right. The Oilers ate the Ducks.

Then it was the big finale. Edmonton vs. Carolina. By this point, I had only one thing on my mind. WIN THE CUP. The Oilers were the true underdogs and had come a long way. The last time they made it this far was back in 1992 and I was ready to relive it in 2006.

The Oilers had a rough start after losing their star goalie, Roli. But, the Oilers fought hard and after proving to the world that they are hard workers and will not go down easy, they managed to tie the series 3-3 after being down 2-0 and 3-1.

Last night was game 7. It was officially the most important hockey game I have watched in my entire life. I was living it and breathing it. As like every other game, I went down to the bar on a popular strip and sat myself down with the same person that has been watching the games with me.

Last night it all came to an end.

I was furious. I cried. I felt an emotion that I had never felt before.

In the last short while, I have never seen so much blue. There are blue Oiler jerseys, blue Oiler caps, blue Oiler car flags and so much more everywhere I went. In the pubs, I have heard more people cheering for the Oilers than I have in years. During last night’s game, there was a loud roar of GO OILERS GO and LETS GO OILERS, LETS GO. It was a constant chant that did not let down, not even with it was certain that the Oilers were not going to win and when it was down to the last 30 seconds. I did not let down either. And even after the last second came and went, the crowd was still cheering GO OILERS GO and I was there, with tears in my eyes, chanting along with everyone else.

And at that point, though crushed beyond repair, I had never in the last 11 years of my life, felt as happy as I was at that moment. My team had come so far and worked so damn hard to even get to a game 7 in THE Stanley Cup final. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

But the best part of it all? It was the first time in 11 years that I had felt so close to home from so far away and last night, with so many people wearing the team’s colours and screaming the team’s name, it was the truly the happiest moment of my life since living in Calgary.

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Blogger Dawn said...

This is a really sweet post.

8:44 p.m.  
Blogger Alex said...

Wow...I don't know what to say. This post should get published somewhere.

10:12 a.m.  
Blogger AJ said...

Thank you. It was surprisingly difficult to write because all the emotion is still there.

2:53 p.m.  

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