I remember a street on Dupont off the Old Weston Bakery site that now houses a Superstore in Toronto. We were sitting on a couch, the rescued kind. I think it was brown. It’s one of the details I don’t recall, one of the elements that shifts in memory.
Our friends come in. I imagine we hugged, we always did. Maybe we had a meal before, or maybe it was after. It could be we didn’t eat at all. That was the day I moved to Nova Scotia, I just didn’t know it yet.
In another kitchen, in another home, there was a letter on the counter. It was for my sister. She’d opened and discarded it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t rip into it on my own. But then again, maybe I did. Maybe it was something I might have done back then.
Inside it was an application I didn’t let my sister fill out. I did. And it sent me to Latin America, from a kitchen in Calgary to the side of a volcano in Costa Rica.
I see myself crawling on the floor, we were to be animals. Moments before I had been in a car spinning on the ice down Hillside Crescent, an uncontrolled slide through the suburbs. I headed out facing down, and ended facing up. I don’t remember the rest, except I made the audition, and got the part.
I remember arriving before dawn to a campus in a part of the country loathed by the province of my birth. It was yet to be filled, a canvas waiting to be painted with the shouts and antics of students. There were potlucks, and a kiss in the corridor that would linger on my lips and stay with me as I awake each day. There were late night discussions, the kind I imagined the beatniks must have had before us. There was a war, the first of my youth, where we walked out of class, onto the streets, encouraged by a professor that knew we learned more outside the walls then in them. I didn’t know then, the girl in the townhouse would still be by my side, and that the war we tried to stop then would still be raging, more than twenty years later.
But before we get to now, there was then. They are shots, the one’s that rang out, that told me we were not in Kansas. There was laughter and dance, and the vallenato of accordions that had us sway, warmed by the Caribbean breeze. It was where we danced harder, laughed louder, and lived fiercely. In defiance, because we had to, because dancing proved we were alive, and had every right to be.
And I feel that. I remember that. I do. I also recall the terror, the fear that obsesses the mind, envelopes it in insomnia, or paralysis and panic. I recall the night watch in Northern Colombia in a village desperate for peace, yet ravaged by paramilitaries and their brethren army. The men were to send bottles and rocks cascading upon the heads of the soldiers if they were to return to finish us off. That way the women and children could have time to escape. The men asked me to stay with them, yet I wanted desperately to flee. The soldiers didn’t come, and I didn’t have to decide.
Staying with, walking with, are moments I remember, from a trickling stream one moment that turned into a raging river the next, water swollen by the downpour in the hills. A young girl clinging to my shoulders as we swung upon a rope traversing one side to the other.
It was a patio, that looked over the waters, and I sat with the girl I had kissed so long ago. We were marking her birthday, even though we had been unable to conceive any chidren of our own. We talked about how we would go on, that we couldn’t just keep trying. We didn’t know that that was what was supposed to happen, that it had to be hard, so that we would be worthy.
Another moment, and another girl. Walking with Lei Di, so named after a princess she didn't know was dead, through an unfriendly town whose eyes were upon us, as she sought out the hospital to find her father, "Are you not afraid?" I had asked the girl, who was not quite seven. "What more can they do to us" she replied, and we walked onward.
The first moment I saw my child, already formed, not even sure she was to become my own, became a talisman, a memory beacon I can go back to. She came to me, waddling up to my chair, with a gift she had taken from the floor. And I, sat in wonder, not quite knowing how to receive. And then, six months later, with my parents, ever offering their support in the background, we encountered her sister. We were told she was shy, to wait on our approach. Yet, she looked towards me, beckoned me forward, and accepted soup from the spoon in my hand.
We had been tricked by time,our children had been waiting for us
I was formed and molded in relationship, by the people I met, my parents, my partner and my family. I was shaped in peace and in war, bound by theories unraveled in experience. I have farmed, I have taught, I have learned and I write. I am the choices I made, the opportunities I missed, unfolding on a tapestry whose colours only slowly come to light.