Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dad's Birthday, Wedding Dress Shopping and Les Miserables

Victoria riding shot gun, with Moira and Arwen in the back seats of Michael's new truck, we are bombing to Regina. I hand my cell phone back to Arwen and she dials the farm.

"Happy Birthday, Grandpa," we yell.

"What's that?"

"Happy Birthday, Grandpa," we say again, and then burst into song.

Last year we were at the farm on the second, and Dad took me to the Heritage Lands by the valley to see if we could find where he left a set of antlers he'd picked up walking.

It was good to be home, just north of the Souris Valley, south of Macoun. I am so thankful for the land I grew up on. I thank the First People of Treaty Four for sharing the land with me and my settler ancestors.

Today is a girls' day out, wedding dress shopping with my daughters. Moira will be the maid of honour; Arwen will be a bridesmaid, too. Victoria and Tyler have set at date, July 11th, 2013.

Today, my heart is light, even as I remember Chief Spence on her hunger strike, I know I have to be where I am, be a mother-of-the-bride for a day, and trust that people are rising up to support Chief Spence in Ottawa. 

We go to two shops. I fall in love with one dress at the first shop, but it's 500 dollars over budget. In the second shop, everything Victoria tries on fits and looks great. Arwen has been keeping track of every dress in her note pad, giving each dress a rating out of 10.

We all have our favourites, but Victoria finally chooses one, the only one I pulled from the rack, and the only one Arwen gave a 10. Victoria puts down half the price and there we go, we have a dress, that easy.

We walk to Michael's favorite restaurant, Langs, because we're only a few blocks away.

I'm kicking myself that I'm not wearing a homemade pin that says something like, Harper meet Spence, or just Idle No More. I want people on the street to know that I'm in "solidarity" but I take a deep breath and remember to be in the moment, be mindful, here with my girls.

We all order fresh rolls, Arwen orders won ton soup; Moira, Victoria and I order rice vermicelli bowls and green tea.

I drop the girls off at Chapters -- Arwen has a gift card -- and I go to the Southland Theatre to get tickets for Les Miserables. I park the truck up a snowbank, mostly for fun, and go in to get the girls from Chapters. They're all embarrassed. Mission accomplished, I think.

Don't judge me, but I've never read Jean Val Jean. Yes, I know, I'm an English teacher, but I've heard the basic plot, and I always thought it would just be heartbreaking, so why go there. This is how I enter the theatre, a little sad to be going to a downer, when I've been so light hearted today.

Not a word is spoken; every word is sung. It's not beautiful singing, it's raw heart-talk, right from the opening scene. I'm transfixed, feeling the desperation of the days deeply. The plot is tragic, but then the light starts sneaking in, through irony, through grace, through surprise, and Jean Val Jean's life is transformed, but his challenges are not over.

I am weepy from mid-show right to the end.

We are getting into the truck; the girls are chatting about the story, it's power and impact. One of the big girls are telling Arwen that this story is fiction, set a long time ago.

"But it's still happening," I say. "It's happening today." My voice breaks into cry-speak. "People are born into desperate situations, and then as they fight to survive, they get cornered, and spend the rest of their lives trying to reclaim their identities and their hope." I'm thinking of friends I've met, many through the Outreach Centre, and I am wondering what they think when they see a movie like this. People who have been caught in the justice system, been labeled, done their time, and each one has oppression in his or her history, at least one of the following: residential school, colonialism, racism, poverty, broken family structures, cycles of addictions, or loss of language and culture, to name a few of the circumstances I know nothing about.

On the way out of Regina, the Queen City, we stop at Tim Horton's for small hot chocolates and vanilla cappuccinos.

What would Jean Val Jean do with all this privilege and grace?


No comments:

Post a Comment