This past weekend, I went back to my old stomping grounds of Rosthern, Saskatchewan.
Never heard of Rosthern? I’m not too surprised; it’s a tiny blink-and-you-miss-it town located roughly halfway between two major Saskatchewan cities – Prince Albert and Saskatoon. According to the good folks at Wikipedia, the population of Rosthern is roughly 1,500 (although I’m guessing that might include cats, dogs, guinea pigs and goldfish).
Despite its small size, Rosthern is truly unique. I think it has to be one of the few places in this country – if not the only place – where you can buy a steaming bowl of borscht and be served by the town mayor. That’s right – Mayor Dennis Helmuth doubles as a server at the Station Arts Centre, a unique art gallery/performance venue/restaurant built in a former railway station on the edge of town. You seriously can’t blame the man for not trying his absolute best to make the town a success!
But my primary reason for coming back to Rosthern wasn’t to eat borscht, but rather to attend my grandmother’s funeral. While it was truly sad to say goodbye, my weekend trip also gave me a chance to see the town where I spent two formative years as a student at a private residential school, Rosthern Junior College (RJC).
I can hardly believe it, but last summer marked my 20-year reunion of graduating from RJC. With my husband away on work travel, I was at home in Ottawa with our girls; unfortunately I just couldn’t swing a trip west at that time. I was sorry to miss it, however, as I know it was a very rare opportunity to reconnect with my former classmates.
So here I was, in the town of my 16-year-old self. My sister, Heather – who also spent two years in Rosthern – did a bit of exploring with me. First, we hit Rosthern’s downtown strip in search of some mittens; Heather had inexplicably returned to the middle of Saskatchewan – in mid-November – without mittens.
We poked some fun at the outdoor fashions offered up by the drugstore – and put on our own private fashion show. But to their credit, they had some very decent black mittens at a reasonable price – sold to my sister, the city slicker from Calgary with the cold hands.
While Heather was indifferent, I couldn’t leave Rosthern without taking a brief, nostalgic walk through the hallowed halls of RJC. It was fun to look at the black-and-white photo collections of the graduating classes through the years. I found my parents’ photos, my siblings and, of course, my own graduating class of ’93.
Though I keep in touch with only a precious few of my former classmates, I can’t help but feel that I still know nearly all of them – the rather inaccurate side effect of living in close proximity for two years, I suppose.
Perhaps the events surrounding the funeral reminded me of the mortality of us all, or maybe I was transfixed by the town’s simple, rural charm. But I left with a warm heart, feeling glad for all of the experiences I had there, and wishing only good things for all those whose paths had crossed, fleetingly, with my own.