The Pouteaux’s Were Here

preston plane

Our plane lowered through the clouds over a choppy section of the Atlantic Ocean, though I could not hear or smell the ocean over the roar of the turbine engines in our ten-seater airplane. I was squeezed in right behind the pilot who was holding the aircraft steady in its descent, nose lining up with a bit of civilization below. Before us was a chunk of land, an island with a runway almost as long as it is wide. It was Alderney, one of the smaller Channel Islands between England and France. The pilot pulled up, eased the throttle, and then touched down before leaning hard on the brakes. At either end of the runway are cliffs and my knuckles were white as we turned towards the one-room airport in the morning drizzle of rain. The daily island hop between Guernsey and Alderney is old hat for this crew. I’m home.

I never grew up in Alderney, but my great grandfather did. It is where the Pouteaux’s come from. The island still carries memories of our family name in the museum, in local lore, and most meaningfully, in our family home. Today our family home is owned by others, but I was welcomed in for tea and a visit. Homes in Alderney carry history and a back story in the form of a book. The current owners, pleasantly surprised at Canadians on their front porch, were more than happy to show us. There, in a 150 year old book, is a ledger with the names and signatures of each owner through time. The trees in the garden were planted by my family, and the collapsing stone barn was once in good working order. The Pouteaux’s were here, this was their home. 

Our family left the island in a couple waves. First because of farming opportunities in Canada, then because of World War 2 when the Nazis took over the island and turned our family home into a brothel, or so grandpa’s stories go.

This little rock of an island is a beautiful reminder to me that we leave our mark wherever we go. My great-grandfather was a mostly-illiterate farmer with simple tasks like fetching water from the well and going to church on Sundays. Still, he made his world beautiful, cared for his family, and set in motion events that would change my life, even today. 

Each of us in Chestermere stand to carry on a story, too. We are part of this place and our presence here matters. Our homes may feel like something we buy and sell, maybe even an investment or transaction. We may feel that we are merely residents of this place, and consumers of a product called, “Chestermere.” I think we are more than this. We are not merely residents, we are citizens and neighbours of this place. We change this place and often for the better. By our simple love for this city and our neighbours, we set in motion events that may far outlive us. Circumstances like pandemics, losses, and new opportunities may change our sense of connection to Chestermere, but they never change the impact we have.

One day my turn will come to an end. Our kids will carry on our stories. But I hope that throughout our home, neighbourhood, and city that the beauty and hope we left will be found as a lasting mark that says, “we were here.” What are we leaving? I hope our city will forever be better for it.


About the author

Preston Pouteaux

Preston Pouteaux

Preston is a pastor at Lake Ridge Community Church in Chestermere and experiments mostly in the intersection of faith and neighbourhood. Into the Neighbourhood explores how we all contribute to creating a healthy and vibrant community. Preston is also a beekeeper; a reminder that small things make a big difference.

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