Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

I'd rather starve in Newfoundland than live anywhere else

Ron Hynes had it right: You can't eat the air and you can't drink the sea. Vickie Morgan explains why she's staying put, no matter what.

No jobs, no plan, but at least we’re home

'I know that raising my boys here means they'll grow up knowing how to make the best of everything,' writes Vickie Morgan. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

Eleven years ago, I moved away from Newfoundland because my two minimum-wage jobs couldn't keep me from the food bank waiting room.

I was baking bread for a local restaurant at night and by day I was working at a dinner theatre. We didn't have the money to apply for a work permit for my American partner.

After a few visits to the food bank, we moved to the U.S., where his work history could do more than all of my half-finished diplomas and my spotty resumé combined.

The night I crossed the U.S. border, they asked how long I planned to stay.

I thought there was a six-month window for Canadians to go hang out. With an enormous picture of Dick Cheney smirking at us, the border patrol agent expressed concerns that I might try and stay for longer.

I made a joke about how the country I was leaving had free health care. 

Four hours of interrogation later, I was forced to sign an affidavit stating I was not, in fact, a terrorist planning to overthrow the government.

To be fair, we did have a guitar and a vacuum cleaner in the U-Haul we were towing, so it may not have been clear that I didn't plan to stay.

Ron Hynes knew what he was talking about, says Vickie Morgan. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

Great Netflix selections, but ...

There are some good things about living in the U.S. The immigration process is not that bad — if you're white and married to a veteran. You can get virtually anything on Amazon and their Netflix is awesome.

We decided to home-school our kids because I didn't want to check their backpacks for guns. I didn't have as much say in my partner's safety when he took a job teaching English in a border town in Maine.

Ron  Hynes  had it right: You can't eat the air and you can't drink the sea.- Vickie Morgan

The day we decided to move back to Canada, a 14-year-old kid submitted an essay outlining his aspirations for the future. He passed it around to his friends who called him "mental" and they all laughed at it before it was handed in.

He had written about bringing a semi-automatic gun to school, killing the gym teacher he hated and then mowing down the elementary school that shared a hallway with the high school.

He described how he was going to play with the bodies of the six- and seven-year-old dead kids.

When I walked into the border crossing building that evening, the friendly Canadian border agent didn't ask why I was in a rush to get my family back into Canada.

He did, however, offer to let our family stay in a beautiful rental he had available immediately.  

Trip to Newfoundland was supposed to be a visit

St. Stephen, N.B., was a lot like Newfoundland. We made friends there and I even got to play Sonny's Dream for the crowd at the curling club. In short, we had 'er scald.

Canada was a good move for us. We got health care coverage almost immediately and the province's school board was happy to have my partner on their list of substitute teachers. We had long-range plans to move back home … eventually.

Our trip to Newfoundland In June was supposed to be just a visit.

I snapped a picture as I was getting off the ferry in Argentia. "Is it OK to cry about leaving before you even get somewhere?" I wrote as the caption.

Vickie Morgan's car waiting to get off the ferry at Argentia. (Submitted by Vickie Morgan)

Dad asked me if I'd be home long enough to get some blueberries.

"No, Dad, of course not, that's not until September."

But then, at about 4 a.m. that first night of vacation, I woke up the father of my children and told him we had to get a divorce. I was frantic.

"I can't get back on that boat. I don't know what I'm going to do here, but this is where I belong and I'm done running away from my home. I don't have a plan and I know this is crazy. But I am not getting back on that boat."

This was not his first encounter with my late-night declarations or hare-brained ideas.

"You could just ask me to move," he said.

Vickie Morgan says her return home hasn't exactly been triumphant, but she's not leaving. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

No jobs, no plan, but at least we're home

It hasn't been exactly smooth sailing here for us. We came home with no jobs and no plan, so selling a few belongings and not getting calls for work shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, especially us.

My partner eventually got on the substitute list. He's had four days of work in the past four months that he still hasn't been paid for.

Our Canada child benefit is being held hostage at the Canada Revenue Agency and two of our local MPs could have it released in time for Christmas but the parliamentary assistants in their offices keep hanging up on me. 

Apparently they're allowed to hang up if a caller is upset or frustrated. 

I called the minister of immigration's office and they told me I must have done something to get hung up on but if I could just email them my issues, they'd be happy to give me a call in a few weeks.

"Here I can drive up the road and have tea with my favourite aunt," writes Vickie Morgan. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

I have had lots of interviews for work. My favourite was an on-air job that had one other applicant other than me. They had two openings. I still didn't get a call.

It's not exactly the triumphant return home I imagined when I was away and worried I was ruining the kids' lives.

They didn't know they had hundreds of cousins. They had never heard of storm chips. Our closest friend was Millie the greeter at our local Sam's Club store.

She was lovely but it was nothing like running into Nan's house with the window steamed up from the salt beef boiling on the stove.

Ron Hynes had it right

Last week, I called the Salvation Army to see if it was too late to put our names down for a Christmas hamper. How far we've come in 12 years.

It was of course too late but wouldn't you know that the woman on the phone said she'd found one more application stuck in her desk drawer and put it aside for us.

Maybe we had more money in the U.S. and an Amazon Prime account, and maybe we had a nice house in New Brunswick for our band to practise in, but here I can drive up the road and have tea with my favourite aunt.

My parents dropped by last week when there was a sale on Kraft Dinner and filled our cupboards.

In the pit of my Newfoundlander gut, I know that raising my boys here means they'll grow up knowing how to make the best of everything, and always find ways to survive and to share no matter how little we have.

Ron Hynes had it right: You can't eat the air and you can't drink the sea.

But I'd rather starve here in Newfoundland than live anywhere else.

Vickie Morgan isn't going anywhere. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

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About the Author

Vickie Morgan

Contributor

Vickie Morgan is a producer, writer and documentary filmmaker living in St. John’s. She is also the Eastern Canada chair for the Support Organization for Families with Trisomy 13, 18 and Related Disorders (SOFT).

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