As I’m walking out the door I get a text from Keitha. “Good morning Sheena! Happy Valentines Day! I’m having a Valentines lunch at Outreach today. Ham and cheese sandwiches. Cake and goodies. I hope u can make it. I love u. I hope u have a wonderful day.”
I text back. “Will you be my Valentine? <3 <3 <3 How fun to do a valentine lunch. I’m on a medical day today so I’ll drop in early but will need to go early toO:)”
At Outreach Keitha, Ellen, cousin Angela, toddler Emora, and a gentleman sit at the table closest to the kitchen. An elder is sorting through clothing on the racks. A man and a grandson come in and sit on the couch in the window. Keitha and Ellen are writing Valentine’s Day cards to anyone who comes in. Stories, laughter, and cuddles for the little people warm the room.
I’m fragile today. Feel like if I give anything to anyone, I may as well just kick that long line of dominoes that is my life right now. But pretty soon I’m laughing and telling stories on myself, too, how yesterday I couldn’t spell skies as in the plural of a ski, and I’d yelled, “How do you spell skies as three elementary teachers walked by in the hallway,” and I add to my story, “And I’m an English teacher.”
I stay just long enough at Outreach to listen in on a conversation about how the old kinship protocol is changing where a son-in-law would never speak to his mother-in-law; a conversation about concern for a grieving community member; a conversation about love and finding that love of a lifetime.
After school I coach the elementary table tennis club and Angela and I have a maybe plan to check out a woman’s group that Kate invited us to, meeting at Echo Coffee Coffee Coffee at six, but then it’s almost six, and I can’t find Michael, and I still have Arwen, and Angela calls. She still wants to go, so I run Arwen home and drive back into town.
The street is dark, except for the warm yellow light pouring from the old Hundson Bay Building. The red neon sign glows OPEN. I turn the Envoy off and look over my shoulder. Here’s Angela parking beside me. I climb out of my vehicle. “Perfect timing,” she says.
We walk through the doorway, the smell of coffee our first hug, then Kate sees us and we get a second hug. Angela pays – I locked my purse in the school – and I get a caramel milk steamer. She has a funky coffee. We chat for a bit with Kate, then Jan Missens welcomes the group, and for Angela and my benefit, she tells the story of how they started meeting.
Jan and Donna, who operates Echo Coffee Coffee Coffee, were visiting one day and they decided they wanted more friends, they wanted to get a life, so Jan ran down to the Fort Times and announced, “Stop the Presses, I need to write an advertisement.” Linda helped draft the ad which put out the call to women who wanted to gather once a week and work their way through The Artist Way. Jan has a super good sense of humour; she is adding anecdotes and has everyone giggling and happy.
One by one, each lady there explains what brought her to the group: expanding her circle of friends, at a crossroads, getting out more, seeking meaning and connections. Angela and I explain how we went through The Artist Way last Spring and Summer with our husbands, but we are excited to revisit the book because there is so much left undone, and that really, the exercises and search is life-long.
We divide into groups of four; Kate, Brenda, Angela and I gather around a square table. We share and encourage and sip our drinks. I have to leave early to run home to pick up Arwen. The truck wouldn’t start, so Michael is vehicle-less and he’s asleep when I get home. I go in with Arwen to her fiddle lesson, as for some quick tips on tuning the fiddle, then leave the lesson. I head back to Echo Coffee because I can see a blog entry focused around the warmth gathering here.
I take my leave a second time and pick up Arwen. “Hey, should we go get some KFC?” I ask her.
“No, it makes my tummy sick.”
“Okay, what about getting me some. I haven’t eaten supper.”
“I want something, too,” says my youngest.
I text Char. “Hey do you want to be my valentine? I’m going through a drive through of your choice in five minutes!”
She doesn’t answer, so I phone. Arwen wants DQ. We go through the drive through, and I get a Valentine’s Day Chicken Wrap for Moira, Swiss Mushroom Hamburger for Michael, kids meal hamburger for Arwen, and a Chocolate Fudge Sunday for Char.
When I drop off the Sunday, I end up spending half an hour at Char’s because Nick insists we take off our coats. I hold baby Eric and fall in love more than ever with his brown eyes and laughing mouth. He is baby perfect, all things cuddly and warm, filling my empty arms and strengthening my fragile heart.
When I finally make it home, I give Michael his cold burger. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” I say.
“Great,” he says.
I go get my gift from him, a heart box of chocolates, and share with him.I had planned to write about Day One Hundred today. I’d started the blog off by saying, “It's been eleven days since Day One Hundred and I still don't know how to write about that day.” I still plan on writing about the Treaty Walks blog launch and especially the panel discussion, trying to give a part of the experience to those who couldn’t be there. And maybe, in a way, I have written about that gathering, just alternating the time, setting and some of the characters. People coming together. People sharing their experiences. People walking side-by-side. People celebrating Sister-to-Sister friendship. People remembering the sacredness of relationship. Today was a woman's circle echo of that special day.