Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day One Hundred Forty: My Cousins, My Sisters, My Friends

Char is wearing our black sisterhood-of-the-travelling shirt as she walks into my classroom at the second sitting of the annual Dinner Theatre. Her date for the evening, my cousin Angela, is just behind her, in black, too. They are classy,casual in their jeans; must have coordinated like teenagers, "What are you wearing tonight?"

Ange and Char are both carrying a chocolate pudding parfait glass and a cup of coffee. They sit down in the darkened room, lit only electronically by Treaty Walks scenery flashing on a big screen; full-size laptops cycling the same pictures along the piano, filing cabinet, and counters; mini computers on each table, photos of the valley in all seasons looping. "It's like a sports bar gone to the arts," I tell people.

Michael Cardinal is playing people in, soft acoustic guitar, followed by Kenny Obey's second-ever performance on guitar, as well. My girl Moira takes us home with two piano pieces and dessert at Dinner Theatre is done.

After Char and Ange have gone across the hallway for after-desert fudge and a reading of Pauline Johnson's "Legend of the Qu'Appelle Valley" they wander down the hallway for The Dot art exhibit. I catch them for a photo-shoot on their way back, past my classroom. They want to know the recipe for the fudge, everybody always dones, and I point out Bev Spanier. They bee-line to her and I hear Bev reciting the ingredients as I go back into my classroom to prepare for the last sitting.

Now it's the day after Dinner Theatre and I'm back in my classroom, late at night, writing my blog. I've posted the pictures of Char and Ange and they just make me smile. My sister, the social worker, gave me a personality test, once, and one of my characteristics was, "Now you see her, now you don't" and part of that profile was that I love connecting people to people, and then I disappear, only to reappear and the disappear again. I wasn't sure if it was a flattering characteristic; guess it's how you use it that makes it good or not.

When Brian and Ange were thinking of moving to the Fort, they came for a visit the summer before. Char and Keitha were two of the people we made sure they met. Then, as the year rolled by, and my Texas cousins started looking at houses on the Internet, I kept saying, "There's this house across from my best friend's house, it's for sale," but it wasn't listed on any of the sites they were using. I kept thinking, would it be wonderful if they got that house. How perfect.

It's been a year and a half now, that when I go to visit Ange, I wave across the street at Char's house, whether the curtains are open or not, just in case. And when I visit Char, I wave at Ange's. And when I'm nowhere around, I know that these two beautiful families are watching out for one another, giving rides to school, kids playing back and forth, even exchanging a kitten recently. And whether it's my place or not, I feel happy, right in the middle of all this neighbourliness. And when Char and Ange are on a date, I feel like it's my date, too, like at Dinner Theatre, when I ditched my hostess role and sat with them, watching the treaty walks pictures scroll by, laughing, teasing, chatting. And none of those pictures would have happened, if these cousins, sisters, friends hadn't given me the go-ahead in the first place. And they've walked every word, every photo, with me.

Day One Hundred and Forty: March 29th Pictures

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day One Hundred and Thirty Nine: Mom's Footsteps

"This is your Ma ma," she says, "and I'm in Fort Qu'Appelle. Lanelle was sick, and Ian called, and here we are."

"That's cool," I say, as I continue typing on a proposal I'm writing, sitting on the bouncy ball in my office.

"So, I thought I might walk with you in the morning."

I stop typing. "Sure. That would be great."

"I'm pretty good these days. I can walk 45 minutes on the tread mill." Mom has had two knee operations within the last couple, maybe three or four years.

"We could leave at seven, and I don't walk all that fast, anyway," I say.

Mom and I are walking down the lane by seven-thirty. Dad has dropped her off. It's a misty morning, with some frost. Mom tells me about an interesting guy she met from South Africa who was subbing with her in a school. He's here in Canada with his Doctor wife, but back in South Africa he taught in an all-black school, even visiting a student in jail and all three levels of security checks were sure he was in the wrong place, what's this white guy doing here? Says he loves Canada.

And then the geese interrupt. First just their honking distracts us. Soon they're flying overhead, making the morning all about them. At first, Mom and I wonder if they're swans they're so white. But then we decide, in our collective wisdom, that they must be geese. Mom tells about the last flock she saw swarming above a field, a cloud of geese, followed by a storm front of geese. She and dad pulled over to watch.

Mom is ahead on the road quite a few times, as I stop to take pictures. I'm playing catch up almost half the walk. No need to be polite and visit, this is my mom afterall. I detour into the field, catch some geese swarming beyond the trees.

I catch up before we do a little off-roading, prairie walking, ditch crawling. Mom holds my arm for a minute, then says, "I'm doing pretty good. This isn't so bad."

We are at the rail tracks. "Woe. Wait up there. I want a picture," I say.

Mom puts one foot on the rail, arms out for balance, and then she actually walks a step or two. I see that little girl she still is: spunky, cheeky, athletic.

"I think you've done this a time or two before," I say.

We're down into the ditch and then up onto the edge of the Highway, and Mom starts to go across. "Wait," I say, "There's a semi coming."

"Well, that's a long way off," she says. "We're moving a lot faster than it is." She steps onto the Highway.

I reevaluate, and she's right. I follow behind. Just like I've been walking in her footsteps all my life, and these treaty walks are no different. Teaching upgrading in Regina, her students shared their stories. She saw the devastation of residential school and colonialism in the few years she practiced Social Work. She had friends, Sunias and Wuttnee. She and Dad took me to powwows when I was little and we met Chief Dan George. We sang along with Buffy Sainte Marie "now that the buffalo are gone" and Winston Wuttnee "as I walk out on this land of my own."

 We order coffee and egg sandwiches at Robin's Donuts. No big deal. Just another day being Mary's daughter.

Here I am, home, after a full-day teaching and then hosting the dessert room at dinner theatre. It's late, late, and I've been working on that proposal some more. But the last thing I'm doing is thinking about Mom, and the way we tease her about having tiny feet. But tonight as I consider her footsteps, there's nothing small about them.

Day One Hundred Thirty Nine: March 28th Pictures