My Hometown: O’Leary, P.E.I.

Once an islander, always an islander!

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Karen MacCarville and her family on their visit to Prince Edward Island
Photo: Karen MacCarville

Playing on the Shores of Prince Edward Island

My heart was excited. It was two hours before we were to get on the plane in Regina to go back home for a month. In my heart, home will always be O’Leary, Prince Edward Island.

My husband, David, our daughters, Kayla and Rebecca, and I moved to Saskatchewan in 2010 when Dave became an RCMP member. We’ve been back to visit P.E.I. every year; this particular trip took place in July 2012.

As we flew in, we saw the beautiful landscape that made me think God had been busy making a quilt all winter. I smiled with all my heart when I saw the red cliffs, for I knew I was home.

When we got off the plane, I had a picture in my mind that family members would be there to meet us at the arrival gate. To my surprise they weren’t; we eventually found them around the corner in the next area having a great old time, as only Islanders can do. We Prince Edward Islanders certainly have a gift for the gab! We also give the best hugs and my family and I received many in those first few minutes. Happy tears were shed.

Over the next few weeks, we spent most of our time near or in the ocean, usually at Cedar Dunes Provincial Park or the Campbellton shore beach. When you grow up with the ocean being a part of your life, it feels great to be near it again and have your soul restored by it. I stood at the water’s edge and dipped my toes in upon each visit. Closing my eyes, I listened to the lap of waves and took the deepest of breaths to smell the ocean air—wish that smell could be bottled! The Prairies have the beauty of the golden fields, but when you love the ocean, you sure do miss being less than ten minutes away from it, as you are living on Prince Edward Island.

We ate like there was no tomorrow while on the gentle island. We enjoyed mainly fresh seafood, as it was hard to come by in Saskatchewan. We had lobster (or monsters, as Rebecca used to call them), mussels, clams and P.E.I. potatoes, all served with a big dish of butter. Of course, no trip to P.E.I. would be complete without going to the G & E Restaurant in O’Leary for a plate of “fries with the works.” For those of you who don’t know what FWW is, it includes a base of fries and then a layer of hamburger, gravy and peas. I know what you are thinking, but don’t knock it till you try it. It is divine!

Turns out we planned our trip well, as we were home in time for the annual Potato Blossom Festival. We attended a few of the events and received many hugs from people we hadn’t seen in a while. Going to the local Co-op in O’Leary took me twice as long as going to the Co-op back west—yes, we Islanders love to talk! I loved every moment, though.

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Karen MacCarville's daughter, Rebecca
Photo: Karen MacCarville

I attended my 25th reunion on our visit, graduating class of 1987 – where did that time go? Many of my good friends made it out and a good time was had by all before our youthful glory days were put behind us for another five to ten years.

During our downtime from visiting family and friends, we took a drive up to North Cape. This is where the Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence meet, and also where you can catch the locals raking Irish moss, especially after a windstorm. We built an inukshuk at North Cape and left it behind with the other 100 or so that were lying there on the shoreline.

That outing took place two days before we were to go home, and I was desperately trying my best not to think of it. I was sad to be leaving but happy to be returning to my home away from home. When you grow up in one place all your life, you appreciate that sense of belonging and feeling included, but, as Dave reminds me, Saskatchewan is where we built a home from scratch together.

As we entered the airport in Charlottetown, my parents were there to see us off. I can relate to how my mother was feeling at that moment as I had to say goodbye to Kayla, now 23, who chose to move back to P.E.I. at 19-years-old. I couldn’t make a Prairie girl out of her at all; she missed P.E.I. terribly.

When it was time to say our farewells, the waterworks began. I took my box of tissues with me and headed for the security gate. I was a little worried going through security, as I had a stash of sea glass in my carry-on, along with 30 starfish for the little ones at the school where I work. When I got through security, I breathed a sigh of relief. I looked in the box of tissues and only about a quarter of it was used. I thought to myself, that was an improvement from last year’s trip!

Life is good here in Saskatchewan, but I allow myself one day every few months to have a pity party and long for Prince Edward Island. When I first arrived five years ago, it was every day!

I encourage you to play on the beaches of Prince Edward Island one day – it is worth the trip! Chances are, if you’re there in mid-summer, I’ll be playing on the beach, too!

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