'Not a part of any community': The Story Line

“Everybody’s got a story,” is the theory I’m working on. To prove it, every month, I open the P.E.I. phone book to a random page and stab my finger at the first name I find.

Natasha Gautreau's phone number is in Cardigan, her mail goes to Mount Stewart and her neighbour is in Morell

Natasha Gautreau and her brother Darcy in 1990. (Submitted by Natasha Gautreau)

"It's a French name, but we pronounce it 'gau-treau,'" says a woman over the phone. "As in 'Go 'trow the ball over there."

We both laugh.

I'm sitting in the studio at CBC in Charlottetown, talking to a stranger on the phone. I do this every month.

"Everybody's got a story," is the theory I'm working on. To prove it, every month, I open the P.E.I. phone book to a random page and stab my finger at the first name I find.

This week, I find Natasha Gautreau.

"Natasha," I say, "I found you in the Cardigan section of the phone book. Is that where you're at?"

She pauses.

"Um, yes," she says. "Probably, yes."

I grin.

Not Cardigan, not Morell

"You were going to give a more specific answer," I say. "Where are you?"

"So," she begins, "our phone number comes from Cardigan, but our mail comes from Mount Stewart. And they can't tell us if we're in the Morell or Cardigan school district, because the house on our left is Cardigan, and the one on our right is Morell. We're kind of not a part of any community."

"You're nowhere!" I say.

The house Gautreau grew up in in Lorne Valley. Her parents still live there. (Submitted by Natasha Gautreau)

But of course, she's not from nowhere. She's from Lorne Valley.

So where is Lorne Valley? It depends on who's asking.

"Well first I go, like, do you know where Cardigan is?" says Gautreau. "And if they're, like, "yeah," then I say Lorne Valley, and you may have them. If it's people from off-Island, I'll say, 'do you know where Montague is?' And they say 'maybe.' So you kind of work your way out. Do you know P.E.I.? Do you know Montague? Do you know Cardigan? Do you know Lorne Valley? Yeah. So you might get people."

Gautreau also grew up in Lorne Valley, just up the street from where she lives now. Growing up in the "middle of nowhere" meant she and her brother had to make their own fun.

"I was always dragging every blanket in the house onto the swing set and building forts," she says. "We had sandboxes. We had bikes. Basketball. Different things like that. We went swimming and to the beach. It's funny, at the time you don't realize you're going to look back and be like 'oh, that childhood was the good old days.'"

To the city and back again

Gautreau got out as soon as she could. She studied graphic design at Holland College and later studied interior design, which is what she does for a living, designing custom blinds for Home Depot. Home Depot is where she would meet Nathan Gautreau — the man she would marry. Two years ago, they had their first child, a little boy named Colton.

Gautreau's eldest son Colton meeting Santa. (Submitted by Natasha Gautreau)

"It's funny," remembers Gautreau. "When I got 18 and moved out to 'the big Charlottetown,' I didn't think we'd ever move back. But life moves full circle. I was just, like, antsy for the last couple of years that we had to get back out to the country. We've been looking forward to that for a long time. At least the last five years. Just to have grass to cut, and a garden."

The Gautreaus built a house in Lorne Valley last year. They've since added another boy to the family — two-month-old Dawson. Both boys will no doubt be spoiled rotten by the extended family in Lorne Valley over Christmas. Two-year-old Colton just last week had his first encounter with Santa at a special event at their church.

Two-month-old Dawson, duded up for the season. (Submitted by Natasha Gautreau)

"They said 'okay, we hear bells! He's coming!' So I said, 'come on quick, let's see who's here!' And like I said, he's really outgoing. He just sort of ran out from where he was playing with toys and ran right up to Santa and put his arms up for him to pick him up." She pauses. "Of course all the other kids are mostly crying."

Christmas Day will be a busy one for the Gautreaus. They'll start the day with presents at her parents' house. They'll drive to her husband's parents' house for a visit and even more presents, before heading to her grandparents' place for supper.

"It's busy, but if we were just at home relaxing, it wouldn't feel like Christmas," she says. "I always said I wouldn't have kids if I didn't have family and friends who could help out. I'm not sure how people move away and they're all alone without parent-in-laws and parents and friends and aunts and cousins. We're lucky. That's another thing I was missing. I wanted to be part of this community again."

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Dave Atkinson is a children's author and writer living in Charlottetown.


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