This has been a difficult post to craft. The sense of home that is deeply ingrained to a certain place is a concept that is hard to grasp for me. I am a child of the road. Not in the meaning that my family has moved a lot, but rather, my family has traveled lots throughout my childhood. My sisters and I compete in rodeo. Some of my first memories are of sitting in the backseat with my books and fighting for seat space with my sister Ronni. I met my husband at the MSUN college rodeo in Havre, Montana. We got married on the rodeo grounds in Billings, Montana. It seems like every important event in my life has happened at a rodeo in some way.
In addition to the lack of association to a certain place as “home,” I am struggling to grasp my identity as a Canadian. I am an American citizen, I got my permanent residency in the spring of 2015, and I was called home to Montana to care for my mother who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer. I’ve only been a Canadian for roughly three years. I go to Montana so often that I don’t really see crossing the border (either going north or south) as leaving home per say.
Recently, I did encounter a feeling of home. I was competing at the Val Marie Rodeo in Val Marie, Saskatchewan. Among the contestants up Saturday night in Val Marie were two of my students. They cheered me on as I entered the arena to the announcer’s blaring commentary about my life. “Let’s watch the teacher- Mrs. Keller!” and gave me high fives as I left the alleyway after my run. All I could hear over the cheer of the crowd was my time “New leader! 11.98!” was the cheers behind the alleyway, and mainly, the cheers of my students were there competing as well. All felt right. I was at a rodeo, competing with my students (my boss and a few other colleagues were in the crowd), being surrounded by some of the most important things (and people) in my life.
It isn’t the first time my professional life and personal life have converged. At Mankota Rodeo in May, a group of my young students (k-3’s) celebrated my win by giving my horse, Jellybean, pats on the nose. My heart was so full because it combined many of my passions (barrel racing and my students) into one event.
I also had a sense of being “Canadian” that night as well. As I was warming up in the competition arena before the rodeo, I found a (very abused) hockey puck in the dirt of the arena. How Canadian is that?! Yes, Val Marie is held in the town hockey rink, but I thought the juxtaposition of sports was something expected, yet not. One doesn’t look for horseshoes in a skating rink, but in the case of towns like Val Marie whose rinks do double duty, it could happen.
This juxtaposition, to me, seemed to represent who I am. I am an American living in Canada. Something expected, yet not. I love All Dressed chips, but refuse to eat poutine. My second language is Spanish, not French. I have watched one hockey game in my life, and that was of my students playing last year. But I am not a football fan, either. I fit in, but not quite. I love Canada, and I love living here, but I can’t quite shake this feeling of difference, even if that feeling is of minor things.
That feeling is less when I am home (by home, I mean where I live now- down by the Montana border). My in-laws, neighbours, and colleagues have welcomed me so warmly that I can’t help but feel like this place, finally, feels like home. For that, I am so grateful.