There was a time when I wouldn’t have admitted to missing my hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia at all. When I left I was more than happy to leave it behind for good. Louis CK’s bit about civic pride and civic rivalry articulates, in a way that I never quite could, why I don’t give a shit about where I’m from. It’s unavoidable, I suppose, to miss certain things about the place you grew up. I’ve realized that it’s this time of year in Halifax that I miss. It’s the start of a new school year (which is today, 4 September 2014). It’s the time of year when a place like Halifax — home to two good-sized universities in its downtown core alone and a total of seven post-secondary institutions city-wide — really comes into its own. During the summer the place transforms into a tourist destination, complete with groups of out-of-towners roaming the streets in sou’westers, the traditional headwear of my people.* In winter, long after the lucrative tourists have all gone, the place is a slushy hellhole I wouldn’t wish on The Tragically Hip. The sweet spot is between the last week of August and the middle of September. That’s when the bright-eyed students descend upon the city, move into old houses with couches on the porch, and take the place off its summer life support.
As an undergraduate, I loved being in the thick of it. Everything seemed so fresh and revivified. I’m certain my experience was largely different from the many thousands of students coming from out of town. For starters, I had lived there my whole life so there was no sense of discovering a new place. I was also older than most college seniors when I started university, so I was only ever a part of that culture in an anthropological sense. Nevertheless, the mixture of youthful vigor, fall colours and smells, and the promise of admission to the rarefied world of academia all concentrated on one tiny peninsula coalesced into a feeling I’ve never experienced with other post-secondary locations. After the golden period ended, however, it was always business as usual.
*”my people” = tour operators willing to exploit the idea that everyone in Atlantic Canada are villagey red-headed fishermen, directly descended from villagey fishermen from the old country.