This story comes from a place of memory.

Now, I’ve been all over the map.  Maybe I’ve seen a couple things. Maybe I’ve got a lot to learn. But I tells you what.  When I was fixin’ to have me some kids, I did some hard thinking on it.  Thinking on all the places I‘ve been, the people I’ve known, about how I felt as a kid growing up.

Much of my adult life has been spent living in the United States. Ocean Beach San Diego in particular.  Now I love that place, it’s endless summer, it’s fast-paced, and on the cutting edge of many trends.  Still, when it came to raising up my kids, my first thought was “I want a place that will give my kids the time to grow up.” Almonte!

The reasons why are tied to my memory. These memories; good, bad, and otherwise that shaped who I am. So much of who we are is cast in the mold of our youth.  Those youthful memories color the rest of our lives.  We strive to recreate what was good in our childhood for our kids.  We seek to protect them from the pain, the bad experiences.

Right now you may be sayin “Why you on about Almonte Snelling? You’re in the town of Carling. Your kids go to Gowling.”  Well mann tracht, und Gott lacht. It’s an on Yiddish saying.  Man plans and god laughs.  Work locations and family dynamics meant Almonte hasn’t yet been in the cards for my kids. Those who do should be grateful. And no matter where I live I’ve always been from Almonte.

Almonte is a place children have the time to grow up. When we stop to think about how much our youth impacts our adulthood, that’s when we make our children’s growth a priority. Our day-cares, schools, and youth centers are shaping adults today. The leaders of tomorrow are already visible in the character of our children. We ignore their voices at our own peril.  Their spirit teaches us adults.

In many ways the people that nurture our children have more effect on our society than our leaders in politics, religion, and business. Unhealed childhood trauma prevents growing up emotionally. Childlike emotion stays within the body that grows physically older. Many can feel how badly today’s world needs emotionally balanced leaders. We need not despair, just look to and value our children.

When I think about how I was given the time to grow up ‘Almonte’.  The people who shaped who I am, the friends and fellow travelers I came up with. That is when I truly value what Almonte is. I got borned out of my mommy in the first half of the 70’s.  My ADHS class graduated in 1993.  2018 now marks 25 years since that auspicious date. So auspicious they took the old Almonte water tower down that year.

Now this story ain’t about graduating. It’s about a journey. Learning is life-long whether you made it to graduation or not. When I stopped to think about those fellow travelers that I grew up with, the first name on my mind was Tom Manson. Tom I remember best from Grade 4.  We got paired a lot that year.  I’m not sure why.  I do know that I was an emotionally challenged kid.

Tom I remember as a strong good spirit. I ain’t sayin I knew him well or we were best of friends.  I’m just saying the memory of his spirit has stuck with me through the years.  “There is an ancient Indian saying that something lives only as long as the last person that remembers it” said Floyd Red Crow Westerman. Tom did not get the time to grow up Almonte.  Yet he lives on through our memory.

Before writing this I traveled to Middleville.  To visit Tom’s grave, to pay my respects. In -30 weather, under piles of snow, I put down tobacco and remembered.   His spirit embodied in the picture atop his grave site. The only headstone in the Greenwood Cemetery with a picture, smiling, still youthful. A reminder of how lucky we all are and how spirit lives on.

Tom passed the summer after I finished Grade 8 at Naismith. We were still young then, but it was already clear who some of the leaders in our class were. When I thought about having kids, when I thought on them growing up in Almonte,  I asked myself; “Who are two local people I would like my kids to grow up and be like?”  The names that came to me were Ed Ladouceur and Tasha Egan.

I haven’t seen either one since ADHS, my opinion was formed strictly from my childhood memory.  Although recently I reconnected with them via the Book of Faces. Through that I learned they were both chosen for the most prestigious award at the school, the Dr James Naismith award.  Something I did not remember. It just goes to show how people’s character in youth continues into adulthood.

In the US when classes reunite after many years a homecoming king and queen are often selected.  My vote would be cast for Ed Ladouceur and Tasha Egan. And if there was a vote for the person least likely to organize a reunion… I might win that. I don’t claim either one were close friends of mine. They’re just people I perceived as respected by the community at large.  For what they did, but more for how they carried themselves.

You might be asking, “Sneller don’t you want your kids to grow up just like you?”  Well maybe I’d like my kids to get where I’m at now, but perhaps on a shorter less rocky road.   It took me a long time to grow up. Well past the time I spent in Almonte.  At many points I survived by the skin of my friggin’ arse. Like most folks I want better for my kids. I don’t want them learning lessons I should have taught them.

My school career was a mixed bag, full of emotional problems. Just look at my face standing next to a good spirit like Tasha Egan if you doubt me. She was someone I perceived as fair, ethical, that no one seemed to have a bad word about. Ed Ladouceur was someone who seemed independent, confident and respected. Qualities I admired because I did not feel I had them. Yet we become what we admire.

Whether high school was the best or the worst time of your life there is one constant. As noted San Diego rock critic (and philosopher) Lester Bangs said about your fellow high school students “You’ll meet them all again on the long journey to the middle.” My journey to the middle was a long one.  Now that I’m here I have a greater appreciation for the community that helped me along.

Not all kids get everything they need at home. Those people in the community that give their time, that fill in the gaps for kids, are true community heroes. There is another thing I got with my heightened appreciation for my community, concern. Concern from reading negativity about Almonte in the press. Concern that while some fight over ‘leadership’ of the community, real leaders get less attention.

Not all elected officials are leaders. True leaders don’t tell you what to do or think. True leaders lead by example.  An example I remember is when the Class of ’92 graduated.  An Almonte Gazette editorial at the time noted that there is “a tendency to overlook the academic efforts of our students.” That ADHS has “more coverage for its extra-curricular activities than for what goes on in the classroom.”

The editorial seemed to strike a nerve.  Next week brought an article in response “No apologies for sports coverage”, that mentioned academics that week, then reverted to sports only coverage in future issues.  On the same page was another article by a new Gazette columnist Tasha Egan. Her article highlighted athletics, academics, arts, and other achievements of ADHS students, and she kept writing.

This is a small example of youth leadership in the face of arguing adults. It’s a memory that reminds me of the squabbles of today. One I learned from, and that we could all still learn from.  There are also lessons to be learned from our youngest children. If you want to learn the spirit of forgiveness, look at a child. How many times has an adult’s anger looked silly when reflected in the mirror of a young child?

Young or old, let’s all give ourselves the time to grow up Almonte.