(Red Shoes Series)
Saturday Afternoon at the Cabin
From the far room, Dad’s snore’s whistle. When I was young Dad’s snores rolled in swells through the house. Once, while camping with my cousins, Dad’s snores woke campers two sites over.
Dad’s snores are the sounds of home, the home of the youth where I turned over at night and snuggled deeper into the covers when there was an unknown thump on the back deck or the coyote howls were nearby; I am safe, Dad is downstairs.
His snores are different since the stroke, high pitched, and far away.
Mostly, that’s true.
However, the stories remain. I’ve brought all of them with me.
All of the resources, exemplars and memorabilia are now packed and sitting in boxes in a different building. The packing of all those stories happened in a flurry of four days.
A week earlier, 30 moving boxes had arrived. The division had said they would be able to move my things in early August; upon overhearing that news, my boys had said they would show up the last day of school and that they would bring their half-tons.
So, the pack was on.
It went rather smoothly, except that it was final exam time, report card time and the most difficult part, I really had to leave!
I had readied myself for the oncoming rush of emotion. I had steeled myself.
I was ready!
I cried every moment.
I discovered a few things during the pack that I didn’t know about or had forgotten: a parachute, 80 bouncy balls and 7 machetes. Somewhere during my focus on packing those last few boxes it seems I had come to have already wrapped-up my magic wand long before it was time to pack it away as well. Oh, our stories that had once belonged only here to our family classroom-space, now belonged too to our shared adventures and our stories, and live long in our collective memory.
Last week, I said goodbye to our graduates. Students in our cozy little K-12 family school kept stopping by for hugs and to share stories.
I cried every moment.
Soon, all 30 boxes began to brim.
That final Wednesday, the boys backed a half-ton up to the school’s front doors and we loaded the graffittied out-of-tune piano, and hauled it into the city to its new space. Sure, I had heard the well meaning words of some, “Cori, do you really need to take the piano?”
However, I’ve come to listen to different stories too. One of the students at my new space, upon seeing the piano, rested his fingers atop the keys; the piano fitting perfectly in its new smaller home.
After that move, the five members of the moving crew went for slushies before heading back. After all, we needed more time, and I suppose, I still had year-end final Language Learning conversations that afternoon.
Friday arrived and I was panicked. The staff had offered to set aside their own work and venture into my class to help pack. However, at 10:00 am a team of grade 9 & 10 students arrived. “We’re here to help.” And they set to work, without my direction and because they wanted to be there, to help me, to honour our family. A few had been there all week helping, even though there had been no classes.
Silently, solemnly, as family, we packed boxes.
Around 11:30 am a community member also suddenly arrived. She and the morning team loaded her SUV. She suggested she’d meet us around 3:30 pm, saving me a return trip later that night.
I realized I was surrounded with love. I was surrounded by family.
Then, the boys arrived. I had taken to wearing my sunglasses indoors.
We stuffed my SUV full. We loaded the half-ton to overflowing.
I hugged the staff who had been so profoundly supportive, and then the kids and I pulled away.
I remember several years ago having moved from my previous school to this one. I was having such a heart-missing difficult time loving this space, these kids. I really had loved my previous home. It took me a long time to love my current kids that much. Yet, I did and then, something different happened along the way. Stories. We shared stories. We listened to each other share our stories. And they became ready for me to go. Now, we are both ready.
As I pulled onto the highway and headed east, I knew that all the moments we have listened to each other, shared with each other, we have been learning to honour our own stories. These story spaces will continue! We have come to understand some of the complexities of telling, living, retelling & reliving our own narratives. We have come to understand the beauty of a trusting space that supports our sharings.
Okay, I drank the iced cap that the boys had stopped and picked up for me. I slurped, wore my sunglasses as a hair band while the boys filed past me, unloading boxes from three different vehicles. Then, we headed to my house to unload bookshelves. Afterwards, they drove away, leaving my daughter and I sitting on our front steps a little before 5:00 pm on the final day of school.
They drove away, but were not gone. That’s family. That’s what it’s like when family changes homes. Sad, but we take our stories along with us. Some can be boxed, most travel with us, staying perched for hours on our front stoops, tears streaming down faces.
I am wondering how experiences shape our collective narrative. I am wondering how sharing experiences shifts our stories. I am wondering if you will wonder along with me. I’ll be wondering aloud for the next few years, join me.
317 km from home
And nowhere near centre
He walks with her
She walks with him
317 km from home
Nowhere near centre
She is my Brown-eyed Bunny-Rabbit, girl in green, three and a bit
He is my Dad, Albert, story-teller, Grandpa with sage tucked behind his ear
I hear them
I hear her
I smile. I hear the gravel beneath their feet
And snap this photo
Someday today will matter
Someday she will ask questions about
Questions that I cannot answer
317 km from home
And no idea of centre
On December 23 my daughter and I were downtown, getting coffee. I shared a story of when I attended the University of British Columbia. My daughter was surprised to learn I had attended UBC. I was certain she knew the story, that she had always known the story in the same way the important people in my world know my ‘stories.’ I mean my students know I had attended UBC. They know I left that school one Wednesday in January many years ago with what I believed was a migraine and then spent the following three years in hospital.
I know my daughter lives the effects of the story of hospital, but I guess my attendance at UBC has become a non-essential. And I guess she’s correct.
This winter holiday I have spent a few hours every day hiking near the lake with my dad. I spent every breath of those moments listening. One day we hiked out to the woods with a bucket of warm turkey parts, treats for the coyotes. One day my dad and I snooped around an abandoned cabin, sitting in the sun on its upper deck, watching the birds. One day we shuffled through the wet brown leaves gathered near the willows by the beach, without words, dad and I breathing in the scent of leaves.
Today, dad and I walked along the beach path I walked as a girl. We walked the beach a long, long way. Almost, it felt, until we met the horizon. Almost, it felt, until everything was clear.
That’s the way it is with dad. He is a storyteller. He is my storyteller.
December 24th, after returning from Christmas Eve mass, my family began sharing tales of years gone by. Dad shared that when he was a boy, on Christmas Eve, he went to the early movie, the late movie and then to mid-night mass. His story did not strike me as odd. Dad’s Christian faith has always been steadfast. Then, mom wondered if that had been a time he had had to attend the movies alone, mass alone. This was information, a connection, I knew, but had taken for granted.
I had not been listening.
I knew my dad had been homeless, had raised himself from the time he was in grade eight. I knew he had sometimes found warmth curled in church windows, church services, with a kind-hearted family. I had forgotten how movies and restaurants and church had acted as family for my dad.
I have never before heard his December 24th story. I turned to dad and told him I loved him.
There I was sitting in my parents’ cozy home, the home they have created for my sister and me, for my daughter, for each other. The home they continue to create for us every day; I mean when my students are giving a performance or heading out for a basketball tournament, they ask if my dad may attend.
Today, dad and I walked along the beach path I walked as a girl. I heard stories I had never heard before, or maybe I heard them like I never had before. Maybe I was simply ready to hear them. I know as we wound our way by the cottonwoods, both our eyes were filled with tears.
I am 39 years old. I have many more stories to hear, a lifetime of strolls to learn. I love my dad.
The best gift anyone has ever given to me is the gift of storytelling-time.
I hope I listen well enough to give the same…