All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go... to Banff this weekend with Angela, my high school roommate, for our 11:11 reunion. I'm loading the Envoy so that I can leave at noon, taking half a personal day. Michael's truck isn't fixed yet, so Ange and Brian are lending him a vehicle. Bless them.
The phone rings and Darlene is sick. Just last night by email, Cathy had thanked Darlene and I for all our work organizing the school Remembrance Day service. I'd emailed back. "Darlene is the superhero, and I'm just the funnily-dressed sidekick."
At 7:40, forty minutes late, I'm walking out the front door, back pack strapped on, and I'm responsible for Remembrance Day. Michael drove away at 7:30, and I probably should have climbed in, but I'm grumpy with him, and if I don't walk, I'll get to school frazzled. I know that if I walk, I'll lose my anger along the way. Head on straight and late is better than early and mad.
The light is soft and the snow is crunching. I sent my own care package ahead in the Envoy: one cup French coffee press, freshly ground coffee beans, jar of cream. Jade texts me as I walk past the ski hill. She is picking up coffee for me. Great, I text back, but I'm pretty late.
I'm at the Treaty Four grounds and the empty flag poles are calling. I'm late, but I have to have a picture. I trudge out and the best shot is past the poles, looking back at the governance centre and the tipi. I'm not sure what, but those empty poles are saying something to me.
I decide to ignore my student, Scotty's advice, and I go cross country, through the hay field, over the tracks, into the ditch, over the highway, through the ditch and across the school track, football field, and teacher's parking lot.
I meet Cathy in the hallway, and she is already putting legs on Darlene's Remembrance Day checklist. I'll print a copy, too, and we'll meet up, I tell her.
Raelee finds me and we start looking around the school for something to display her Remembrance Day poster, a black and white charcoal, she will enter in the Legion Contest. We find black fabric in the sewing room and easels in the art room. Michael has three students, Moira included, who have completed a colour poster using spray paint. Raelee organizes the four posters on a table, just under the podium on the stage. We've never displayed the poster art before, rather, having the high school students read a poem or essay at the service.
The green mats are down on the gym floor, students are putting up chairs, the elementary kids are decorating, and I call the wreath layers for our rehearsal. We line up, youngest to oldest, green, plastic wreaths with red poppies, in hand, guys on the left and girls on the right. We walk together, stop at the front before a white cross, count to three or say, "lest we forget" as Darlene taught me over the phone, then lay the wreath to one side and then the other. Return to the spot at the front, turn toward the cross, pause again, then return down the centre aisle.
My voice chokes and my eyes burn, as I say to the first two pairs, "lest we forget."
Raelee, who is laying the wreath on behalf of the grade ten girls, smiles at me. "This is just choking me up today," I say.
"Wish I was dressed more formal," she says.
"No. No. You are dressed just right," then I add. "Just Stand Tall, Raelee," and my eyes burn again.
She nods and smiles, extra wide to let me know it's okay I'm being emotional. Like my daughters do when they know I'm a little over the top, but they still love me, maybe even a little proud they have a strange mother.
Our high school students are entering the gym and teachers are watching for hats to be taken off. I say to Cathy, "This is why I'm glad we've gotten rid of the hat rule as it was because now, look, the kids can show respect in situations like this."
Just after 10:45 I see a group of students and teachers from Leading Thunderbird Lodge come in our front door. I shake their hands. They have twenty-five dollars to purchase a wreath from the Legion and wish to lay a wreath in the ceremony.
(As I write this blog entry Sunday morning in my sister's house, I'm skipping church, listening to Celtic music, and I type "wish to lay a wreath in the ceremony" and I begin sobbing and now I'm sobbing uncontrollably in this empty house, thinking of those young, smiling faces, and they are just boys who need a second chance, and how our society has messed up their families and our history his interrupted their traditional leadership and healing, and I pray, Creator-of-us-all, to heal those beautiful young men, and give each of them a great purpose, and bless their strong teachers, and forgive us for generational oppression and invisible racism and privilege. Teach us to heal.)
The colour party including our RCMP school liaison, United Church minister, cadets, scouts, guides and wreath laying students gather in the library.
It's 10:54. The colour party is ready to go at the door. The elementary and high school students are seated as are our guests. I stand with the wreath layers who wait in the hallway through O Canada, The Last Post, The Moment of Silence, and Reveille. I cue them, two by two for their silent walk.
Afterward in our Community Room, I visit with our guests from the colour party. They immediately compliment the great behaviour of our students. I learn that two of the Legion members worked in Hong Kong for five years, and the only World War Two Veteran there says that he met guys who had been captured in Hong Kong and their unimaginable suffering. I say how surprised I was by the Colonial story I found in Hong Kong, similar to our own in Canada. They agree. A young service man and a Legion man explain to me the culture of medals in Canada versus the US and even Britain. How some Canadian service people won't even wear their medals because their buddies tease them so much.
Before I know it, it's 12:10, and I'm not ready to leave the school at 12:15 to meet Ange in Regina by 1:00 to begin our drive to Banff. But with Reveille -- the sunrise trumpet or bagpipe call -- ringing in my heart, I am wide-awake and ready to get ready to go.