Hidden Treasures / 5
Local students show off their literary stuff in the 2017 McEntyre Writing Competition
Introduction by Wayne Larsen
In what has become an annual tradition in Westmount schools, the McEntyre Writing Competition always attracts a wide variety of thoughtful and creative entries, and the 2017 edition was no exception.
Endowed by the late Peter McEntyre, mayor of Westmount from 1969 to 1971, the competition encourages young writers to express themselves on a designated topic, each designed to get the creative juices flowing. It is coordinated each year by the Westmount Public Library.
In 2017, “Secret Places, Hidden Treasures” was the topic assigned to students in grades 1 through 11.
Westmount Magazine presents the full texts of the first-place entries in each grade category, as supplied by the Westmount Public Library.
Here we present the first of the two Grade 7 winners.
SEVENTH GRADE | FIRST PRIZE | VILLA SAINTE-MARCELLINE
Here are some important definitions:
To forget: To fail to remember, to put out of one’s mind, cease to think or consider.
To leave behind: To forget something, to not take with one’s self.
These definitions circle around in my head as I sit in my car, parked in a Canadian neighborhood I haven’t seen in over eleven years.
Everything around me, my hands frozen on the steering wheel, the houses, seem so distant, so blurred. Looking at the thick gathering of familiar trees makes me feel so wonderstruck. Nothing seems to have changed since I was last here, a dreamer.
As I step outside, the car door behind me slams. Clenching my fists, I walk off the cement road and onto a corridor with walls made out of trees that lead me to a place I haven’t seen in a long time.
I walk into a clearing. A duck pond takes up most of the space; the duck pond I used to throw bread into. Sunlight shines down, setting everything alight like before. Bright wildflowers bloom here and there and wherever they please. Tall leaf-covered rocks form the whole area like walls form a room.
I run towards one of the natural walls and paw at it, searching. Soon my palms ache at the constant pound of rock against skin and bone; harshness against hope and desperate search. All I find are leaf-covered stone walls.
But then, when my hand reaches for a new bit of rocky surface, it goes right through the leaves.
I freeze, as though I didn’t really expect to actually find it.
My heart pounds as I wiggle my hand inside the curtain of leaves, feeling warm breeze weave itself across and in-between my fingers.
Slowly, I slip my whole arm past the leaves, hoping I haven’t found what I’ve come for.
But I have.
I enter, pulling apart the leaves and dangling vines to step in.
It hasn’t changed.
It’s like a small room hidden from the outside by the curtain of leaves and tree branches, until eleven years ago, a little girl was playing around the pond, suddenly found this place, and realized there was much more here than she thought.
That little girl, somehow still inside me, beckons at me to play, to run my fingers over the walls made out of leaves, vines and delicate pink and white flowers; these walls that shape the magic-like room I loved so much.
Unfortunately, today I’m here to forget that child; not find her again.
But I can’t stop the memories unfolding before me: the little girl picking flowers and playing around, the little girl climbing a tree, conquering her fear of heights while her sister watched from the ground.
The little girl leaving one day, knowing she wouldn’t come back for a long time.
It’s as if time had somehow frozen in this place only, while the rest of the world moved on, including me.
Years ago, I lived here; I was the proudest person to be Canadian. But then my mother’s job brought her to New York and I got dragged along. I never really belonged in the new city… I connected to nature and frosty fresh air, not gum-covered sidewalks and loud honking from unmoving yellow cars.
Something happens when you leave your heart somewhere and you go to live somewhere else:
It hurts. A lot.
After years pass, you grow up and you forget about it; but somewhere, deep down, you fell it sting and bruise and burn every day.
And that’s why I’m here: to put a stop to that.
I walk toward the middle of the clearing, pulling out of my pocket a miniature gardening shovel. I crouch down, heart quickening, and start to dig.
I toss dirt over my shoulder, scared that my mind is playing tricks on me, and I actually didn’t bury something here all those years ago.
It takes only a few seconds before the sunlight finds what I’ve been digging for. The second I notice a small box peeking out of the dirt, I drop to my knees, throw my shovel somewhere behind me, and start scratching at the ground with my bare hands.
My fingers already ache, and the dirt is getting under my nails, but I don’t stop frantically digging until the box is completely uncovered.
I painstakingly pry the box out of the earth, and there it is,
in my hands.
I pant, staring at it blankly. It feels as if my heart was actually in the box, and I’m on the outside, holding it, but it’s still so far away.
I shut my eyes and feel them burn. When I open them, the world is blurry and unclear and hopeless. And tears fall onto the dirt.
Tightening my fingers around the box feels like taking away a ray of sunshine, like walking away from that happy little girl forever.
The world has been ripped in two: this room and the rest of the world, and I’m paralyzed.
And I realize,
Those children in our hearts, that innocence, doesn’t have to die.
With trembling hands, and a hole inside me, I put the box back into the earth. It’s soon covered in dirt again, back in its home and rightful place, away from me.
And I breathe.
Hands dirty, heart beating, I walk backwards, watching the spot in the ground where the little girl sits, staring back. My face contorted in tears, each step is leaving her there, accepting her there, each sob and stumbling footstep is an earthquake.
I feel the curtain against my back, feeling an empty pulse in my hollow chest, like I’m falling down.
I choke on a sob, taking the final step, letting the curtain fall back into place, concealing the secret, covering the heart.
And I leave.
To leave: To cease attending, to go away from,
to allow to remain.
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