One of the best things about my job is being able to go new places and meet new people. While I generally cover the Eckville area, I recently had the chance to visit Benalto while covering their Grade 6 farewell celebration.
I had written down instructions on how to find the school, but I still managed to get lost. I drove around in circles several times looking for it. Along the way, I admired how beautiful the sun looked as it set behind the rolling hills in the town. It cast everything in a golden light, including the little general store where I stopped to get directions.
The general store, it turned out, was the hub of the town. In addition to being a place to buy chocolate bars, it is also a post office, a bank, and a video rental store. In a corner in the back sat a hairdresser’s chair, with a mirror and all the appropriate styling products on the table in front of it. I later learned this was the only hairdresser in town.
The building itself was quite old. The woman working told me she thought it was from the 1920s. The whole store was built from whitewashed wood, including the ceiling, which slanted slightly in one direction. The people who had visited the store in the past felt very much present as I looked at the floor, scuffed from decades of shoes.
After obtaining directions, I went to the school. I recognized it as a building I had already driven past, but I had thought it was a house. The sweet smell of lilacs wafted toward me as I walked up to the school.
Inside, the floor creaked as I ascended the steps, searching for someone to point me in the right direction. I wandered into the library/office, but it was empty. A group of chairs sat in the middle of the room, lined in bookshelves. It felt very peaceful. I could easily imagine reading a book in one of those chairs.
I finally managed to find the celebration for the Grade 6 students. There were eight in total, sitting at tables with their parents and having dinner. Balloons and photos of each student decorated the room. The students chatted easily with each other from where they were sitting.
It was a very intimate celebration. I felt privileged to be there, and I feel privileged to be able to explore parts of this province I never knew about before. I have travelled to many places, but as it turned out, some of the most beautiful were right in my backyard.