I spent the month working on some very special projects. Some very heavy projects with a lot of meaning and a lot of shame, guilt and grief attached.
I spent a lot of time listening and a lot of time crying. And when it was over – my part, for now – I had to recover from it. I needed to feel peaceful again.
On Friday I picked up my baby girl, some sushi and we put on our pyjamas and fell asleep together. On Saturday I tried to get up and get going but ended up back in bed napping for most of the afternoon. On Sunday I knew I needed to get out of the house, but I didn’t know where to go. I needed something. So, I started driving.
And when I got in the car I knew that I was driving through the Ottawa Valley, watching the beautiful fall colours go by, on my way to visit my Dad.
It’s the third or fourth time I’ve been out there to talk to him. I don’t know what draws me there. I certainly never anticipated visiting my father’s grave regularly. I had no idea I would talk to him. I had no idea I would need to.
I was driving the car, thinking of what to do with myself, how to be more peaceful, what direction I should head, and it became surprisingly clear.
Maybe I just need to express my needs and wants to someone who will just be there listening. Maybe I need to give myself what my father always provided me in life – the unvarnished truth.
Maybe I just needed the beauty and serenity of my Ottawa Valley.
The past month has been quite something for me. I have had the opportunity to do work I wouldn’t have imagined even three months ago. I have met beautiful people and been a part of something really, truly special.
First there was the Moose Hide Campaign event – an event for a movement to get men across Canada – Indigenous and non-Indigenous men – to talk about the role that they play in ending violence against women.
I spent the day at the event and there were many great speakers who said many great things but what struck me was the hope, the optimism and the respect for women I felt in the room. Women being referred to as the cradle of life, beautiful words about the resilience of women and how powerful they are. And one thought that I cannot get out of my head is how beautiful the ceremony I got to witness is, and I can’t help but wonder how someone like me once saw this and decided it had to be destroyed.
I never learned about residential schools in school. I don’t even remember when I first heard about them. I think I had heard the term but had no idea what that really meant. I had no idea that it was something that was still going on even when I was in high school – the last one closed in 1996.
I had no idea until I was an adult that people like me were stealing children from their homes and families and stripping them of their identities.
A couple of months ago I had never heard of Chanie Wenjack. Now I’ve met his family, I’ve read about his life. Now I understand that they took kids my daughter’s age away from their homes and their parents and made life so bad that they would run away – trying to walk 600 kms.
Now I know there is an 87-year-old mother in northern Ontario who still doesn’t understand why her 12-year-old son died alone by the side of the railroad tracks and that I don’t have any answer for her.
Now I have been in a room filled with over 2,000 people that has gone completely silent as a sister cries.
Now I am learning everything I should have been taught in school.
And I have talked to my daughter and told her that it was people like us who did this. We tried to destroy culture and language and it was wrong, and it’s up to us to do what we can to make it better. I have showed her how much my heart hurts when I think of her being taken away from me, coming back and not having her language any more, being told that her culture is bad and wrong.
I want to give her a window into what I never knew so that we can try to make the pain of it all go away. Because it hurts all of us.
Last week I sat with an elder and listened. She gave me peace. I sat on ceremony and I felt calm. I listened to a very wise man speak and I felt moved to action. I can’t quite grasp all of the things that have happened to me, around me, all the things I have been a small part of over the past month.
My child will know. My child will listen, she will witness, she will act.
My daughter has reached an age where she still has many questions, but she is exhausting the ones I can actually answer. This is why I’ve started using outside sources and calling in favours. Last year I planned on taking her to Ottawa’s Maker Faire but things didn’t work out (I think we all ended up sick) but this year it’s on the list again, because the makers at Maker Faire can expose her to a bunch of cool stuff that I never could.
I told her there will be inventors and computer scientists and artists. And when she wasn’t sure after that, I told her BB-8 is going to be there.
Though she’s nervous about the crowds we could find ourselves in, I fully expect to be following her around as she exclaims “cool!” and learns all about new and different ways art, technology and creativity intertwine.
What will she love most about Maker Faire? The fact that she’ll be invited to touch, feel and play with a lot of the cool things she sees there. And also that some of the makers are not that much older than her.
I anticipate that she will be inspired, and when we get back home she’ll want to make a few things on her own. Hopefully I will also be inspired, because crafty, artistic me hasn’t had time to come out and play recently. And there’s an exhibitor called Tint and Twist who seems to sell geek-inspired yarn to knit with. I’m just saying.
You can find more information on the event, which takes place at the Aberdeen Pavillion on October 15 and 16, here and tweet about your trip to the event using @MakerFaireOtt and hashtag #MFO16. You can also win tickets through their Twitter account or Facebook page.
About the Event
Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth—a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker Movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making, and share what they are learning.
Makers range from tech enthusiasts to crafters to homesteaders to scientists to garage tinkerers. They are of all ages and backgrounds. The aim of Maker Faire is to entertain, inform, connect and grow this community.
The original Maker Faire event was held in San Mateo, CA and in 2015 celebrated its tenth annual show with some 1100 makers and 145,000 people in attendance. World Maker Faire New York, the other flagship event, has grown in four years to 600+ makers and 80,000 attendees. Detroit, Kansas City, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Orlando, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Silver Spring, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Hannover, Oslo, Trondheim, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Newcastle (UK), Shenzhen and now Ottawa are the home of larger-scale, “featured” Maker Faires and over 120 community-driven, independently organized Mini Maker Faires are now being produced around the United States and the world.
Last Friday was Orange Shirt Day and Joe and I have both talked to the kid about the significance of that, about Indigenous peoples and their history at the hands of people like us. It’s not an easy conversation, but it’s so important and I hate that there were all these terrible things that I didn’t know about until I was much older. I am very thankful to now be actively working to help reconciliation in my day to day job.
And as we were talking about these children losing their culture and being taken away from their families and the difficulty that has caused for generations, she turns to me and she asks “Is God real?”
The pause to end all pauses.
I knew that someday we would need to talk about this, Joe and I talked about it, we had ideas of how she was to be raised. And then comes this question at a moment when I was talking about something else so big and hard. And there we were.
And all I could tell her is that I don’t know. I have tried to discern what I believe and I just don’t know.
And then she told me that she does think God is real, that she talks to God – and now knows the word prayer – but that when she thinks of God it is a lady god. And now she knows the word goddess.
I told her that there are many different religions and many different beliefs. That Daddy and I wanted her to figure that out for herself but we will answer her questions as best we can, or find people to answer questions.
And then she went to bed and I called my mother-in-law and then my mother and then talked to Joe because this kid thinks such big thoughts and I’m not quite sure what to do with her.
But now I know, and ever we go forward.
I cried in the car on the way home today. Part of it was stress getting to me. Part of it was frustration. There was confusing and a bit of self pity. But mostly it was the mom part of me.
Because before I became a mother I never really understood. I didn’t know what these motherly emotions were going to feel like. How they overcome you. That sometimes I can burst into tears just looking at her because I love her so much I can’t contain it. That sometimes all I want is to be left alone, but then I miss her when she’s not there.
That one day you have to just put her on a school bus and let it drive away without knowing exactly what she’s doing all day and with whom.
And that one day you’ll be in your office working and realize you’ve missed a phone call from the school and when you dial in for the message you hear that your child is hurt. And you missed the phone call.
I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in a house with just one parent, but even though I knew her father was on his way to get her, and even though I knew she’d be fine and he’d be with her and I had work that had to get done, every fibre of my being was desperate to be the one.
Because it has usually been me. Because when I shut myself in a quite room to worry and cry a bit at work, my mom was the person that I called.
And you know what? Her first instinct was to go to my daughter too.
It’s not that I don’t trust my husband to take the best care of her and make her feel safe and loved and comfortable. It’s not that I think moms are always better than dads and the whole parenting thing. This is about me wanting to be there – to remind her that I will always be there. That I have always been ready to be there. Because she is the best piece of me.
Because I may not always have the right answers and I may not always be able to check my temper, and I may not always give her what she wants, but I will always, always give her what she needs.