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.