Last week while I was sifting through old papers, I found this piece of writing from decades ago. Thankfully, we have all made peace since then . . .
Once upon a time, there was a girl from St. John’s. At the age of fourteen, she moved around the bay with her family. She hated her curly hair, adored her Persian cat, and loved to get lost inside stories and songs.
When she grew older, she fell in love and got married. She was happy. She had a beautiful little daughter. Not long after, she gave birth to a handsome son. She liked to tease him and call him her little “curly boy” because he so much reminded her of herself.
A few times, when she and the husband had terrible fights, she had to take her girl and boy to her parents’ house. But the husband would always tell her how sorry he was, and she would go back because she loved him, and wanted to believe him.
Eventually, she stopped believing. She moved back to St. John’s and started a new job and a new life. She still had her beautiful daughter, but she lost her curly-boy to his dad.
She found someone who reminded her of her love for stories and songs. She loves her cats, still hates her curly hair, and misses her son with an ache that never goes away and leaves her pillow wet with tears every night. Still, she knows she is doing the only thing she can.
She hopes someday he will understand how, once upon a time, there was a girl from St. John’s who couldn’t fight anymore, and only wished for
a happily ever after.
September 30th is Orange Shirt Day in Canada, a day set aside to remember the experiences and loss of the thousands of children who were stolen from their families and placed in Indian Residential Schools. It is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of Residential Schools and the legacy they have left behind.
Why orange shirts? Orange Shirt Day grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s story of having her new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school, and it has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually. You can read Phyllis’ story at orangeshirtday.org
Why September 30th? The date was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year. Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools, and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.
From Shana Dion, Assistant Dean, First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Students of the University of Alberta:
“Autumn can be the saddest time for so many survivors because the changing of the leaves means that they were not going to see their families for a very long time (a full school year), or sadly never see their families again. Most of us now can hardly leave our little ones in daycare or school for a day, never mind a whole year of wondering ‘how they are doing?’, ‘are they happy?’, ‘are they having a good day?’, ‘has anyone hurt them?’, or ‘are they sick or in pain?’. For the most part there was little to no communication between children sent to Indian Residential School and their families; can you imagine?
“Imagine being taken away from your parents at the age of five. Being given a number instead of a name. Being punished for speaking the only language you know. Being cut off from your family. Imagine being a parent, and being threatened with jail if you didn’t give up your children. Imagine being cut off from your children for ten years! What would it do to your family?
“I wear my orange shirt to honour inter-generational survivors. I honour their pain and peace. I honour their love and sorrow. I honour their brokenness and resilience. I honour their grit and grace. I honour their shame and pride. I honour their loneliness and lovability. I honour their sadness and humor. We are the sum of many parts all to be honored equally.”
I shared this today to raise awareness on a topic I knew little about until I immersed myself in the ongoing Indigenous Canada course offered by the University of Alberta. As a non-indigenous person, it isn’t enough to empathize with the Indigenous or to acknowledge my country’s shameful colonial past in this area. It isn’t enough to understand the intergenerational trauma that the residential school system has caused, with all its ramifications, or to say I’m not a racist. Rather, I am an ally and an anti-racist, which involves action. This is one small step in that direction. – JKP
Sources: University of Alberta Native Studies; orangeshirtday.org
Interested in sharing one of your original articles as a guest? Feel free to submit your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. Preference is given to topics relevant to my blog, such as books, writing, nature, photography, travel, children and pets. – JKP
In the midst of the pandemic as well as my deep despair over everything that is going on in the world right now, comes a welcome respite of joy and gratitude.
My only sister and her husband became grandparents last night, to a perfect little girl who was longed for and whose mom went nine days overdue before finally going into labour late yesterday morning. I am brimming with happiness for them all.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, my nephew was only permitted to stay in the hospital during labour and delivery, so like my sister and her husband and her other grandparents, he now has to wait until mother and baby are discharged to be with them.
A side note: when this same nephew was a baby and my firstborn was a young girl, she absolutely adored him. How do I know? Back then, she had a locket. She kept a pic of him in that locket along with a pic of herself. I smile whenever I think of it.
I can’t help but recall how thrilled I was when I became a grandmother fourteen years ago, to a dear little bundle who felt like a gift from heaven for all of us. And now my memories take me back to the day my own daughter was born.
I became a mom when I was barely a woman myself. So young I was, a child having a child. It didn’t take long, though, for me to make my baby a priority and to fall in love in a way I never had before.
Eight years ago, I wrote a short poem about it.
Remembering that day in June
when you were small and pink and new
your needs so urgent, your helplessness
eclipsing all I’d planned to do
Your eyes, the bluest I’ve ever seen
gazed into mine, I drank you in
strawberry mark on your behind
that perfect dimple in your chin
The tiny o your lips would make
when, nursing done, you fell asleep
that newborn smell, the lightest heft—
who knew that love could feel so deep?
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m having trouble concentrating long enough to compose an original post. So today I’ll share a post from exactly five years ago, a nostalgic look back to simpler times.
When my husband Paul was six years old, he and his family moved from Newtown – the little community in which we live now – to live in the capital city of St. John’s. Their parents relocated so that Paul’s oldest sibling David could attend the Vera Perlin school for his special needs.
On the day of the big move, Paul crawled up under the house – the actual house we live in now – in a show of protest. “Everyone should be able to live where they were born,” he argued through tears, but the die had been cast. He was pulled out and packed into the car with everyone else.
On the very first day at their new school, Paul and his other brother Kevin, who is one year older, decided to walk home from school for lunch, despite being told to stay there and eat the lunch they’d brought. But when they saw other children going home, they wanted to go as well. Unfamiliar with their new neighbourhood, the two boys got lost, and Kevin started to cry.
Brave little Paul tried his best to console his big brother by distracting him. “Don’t cry, Kev. Look at the pigeons,” he said, pointing at a bunch of them as they waddled across the sidewalk, hoping the strange, tame city birds might cheer him up. It worked, and they ended up following a classmate to his house. Between the jigs and the reels, their dad had to leave work and go pick them up.
Let’s go back a couple of years when Paul was four and Kevin was five, to another time the younger boy displayed his wisdom. A new addition to the family of three boys had arrived, and this time, it was a girl! When their mom brought baby Julie Ann home, the boys crowded around to get a look at their new sister. Kevin’s eyes opened wide when her diaper came off to be changed. “Look, Paul,” he said, incredulous. “She ain’t got nar topper!” (penis)
“No, ya foolish,” Paul said, enlightened beyond his years. “She got whatever Mom got.”
Now before you think I’m beating up on my brother-in-law, I’d like to share one more tale. Okay, two. When Paul was about nine and enjoying his summer vacation in Newtown, Kevin saved him from drowning. Paul was diving with some other boys off of Burnt Island, but he tired in the deep water and panicked. Kevin grabbed him by the hair on top of his head and pulled him to safety.
Years later, when Kevin was just beginning his teaching career, he and Paul were driving along in St. John’s one evening. Without warning, Kevin pulled over, stopped the car, and jumped out. He’d spied two teenage boys in a fist fight near the local hockey rink, and he wanted to stop them. Paul watched as he parted the boys, reasoned with them, and ended the scuffle.
It was a day he never forgot. Where most people would just keep going and not get involved, Kevin stepped in and tried to solve the problem. It made Paul really proud of his brother.
Paul confessed there were other boyhood fights where Kev stepped in and rescued Paul himself, fights my husband started and couldn’t finish. I would say he’s grateful for those too. And so am I. 🙂
Back in late January, I accompanied my husband Paul on a work trip to Old Perlican. This Newfoundland community is where my children attended elementary school and is very close to the tiny outport where they grew up. My son was born in the cottage hospital there during a January blizzard.
On the way home from the work trip, I snapped a picture of New Melbourne Point, shown above.
This view brings back a torrent of vivid memories. It’s so familiar and dear to me because my parents lived there for many years, also while my children were small. Their house, which Dad built when they moved from the city, is hidden behind the trees in the center of the photo. It is now someone’s summer home.
Once a week, this scene came into view as I drove up the shore to visit Mom and Dad, and whenever I shopped – or worked – in Mom’s little store in New Melbourne, Carrie’s Grocery and Confectionery.
No matter how many years go by,
I still miss those treasured visits.
Happy Heavenly Mother’s Day, Mom. – Has it really been seven years?
Sending Mother’s Day wishes out to all the lovely moms today!
Take them to the public library to get their own library card.
If they are too young to read themselves, read them bedtime stories.
It’s never too early to inspire a love of good books. No, they won’t all become leaders, but research shows that reading to children and discussing the book is the best way to increase your child’s IQ and instill a love of reading.