2500 Miles Away

(Memoir Excerpt #4)

It had been a week and a half and we had driven 2500 miles across the country. Once we crossed the border into British Columbia we emptied our wallets and searched through the car for any stray coins and laid out all the money we had left.

We had $28.75.

If we wanted to keep going, we knew we would have to find some work soon. I had no intentions of turning back at this point. Where would I even go back to?

We decided to get off the Trans-Canada highway and head south to Kelowna, BC.  

Welcome to the Okanagan Valley.

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Kelowna was a beautiful small town on a lake surrounded by rolling hills. It was lush green, airy and so incredibly calm.

We wandered around town looking for work. We stopped in at a general store and checked the bulletin board for help wanted. I crouched down and went through the newspaper want ads.

“Do you guys need help?” The store clerk asked, wondering if I was actually going to purchase that newspaper.

“We’re just looking for work”

“Well, it’s pickin’ season, some of the farms might need help” he offered. 

As we drove up and down the rolling hills, the aqua sky felt enormous. Even though it was a bit chilly we had the windows rolled down to feel the clean crisp air. The grass was so bright that it looked like they had put green food coloring into the lawn. We had no idea where we were going but just kept driving on the outskirts of town where we thought we might find some farms. And after a while, we did.

We came upon this charming pastel farmhouse on a sprawling orchard with a sign on the lawn that read: ‘Pickers Needed’.

Yes! We turned into the gravely driveway and drove past the house down the lane that ended at a big wooden gate. A friendly woman, with long dark wavy hair in her mid-forties opened the screen door on the back porch of the house and greeted us,

“Can I help you?” She seemed to run the place.

“Yeah, we’re looking for work.”

She looked up and down at Chuck. “Okay. We have apples that need to be picked, it’s $15 a crate”.

Chuck said that worked for us.
“You can start tomorrow morning, 7a.m.” I smiled and said thank you as she was called away by one of the workers behind the gate.

“SEE YOU TOMORROW!” I yelled after her.

We used the last of our money to check into the Western Budget Motel. They gave us a weekly rate of $128 but allowed us to give them $20 today with more money to follow once we got paid. With the leftover money we drove to the store and bought a loaf of sunflower seed bread, a small head of leafy lettuce and a batch of green onions. We had leftover packs of mayonnaise in the car and we’d use all those ingredients together to make sandwiches for dinner, and to bring to work the next day.

We unloaded the car into the musty room with one bed and a small kitchenette. Chuck pulled out the bottle of white wine his brother had given us.

“Are you getting skinnier?” Chuck said to me as he uncorked the bottle.

“I don’t know.”

I started to unpack my bag and pulled out my navy blue v-neck wool sweater and noticed a short coarse hair on it. I carefully picked it off and held it up to the light. I noted the color change from dark to light. It was my cats. I pulled it on as I crawled into the bed and looked over at Chuck making us green onion sandwiches.

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