Beginning in One Place and Finishing In Another – Part 1   

“We will live with racism forever. But senses of self, senses of belonging, senses of us and of others? Those are up for grabs.” Richard Powers

My father asked me recently how I dealt with our immigration to Canada. The question surprised me. We moved here years ago.

“But you were the oldest,” he said. “You didn’t speak English. How did you cope?”

I spoke French, Arabic and a bit of Greek. I don’t have much recollection of that time and how I adjusted. They are long buried memories, but as with all questions, it got me thinking.

I was assigned to two other six year olds on the first day of school, who were supposed to help me adjust. I’m not sure how I communicated with them or what I felt at the time. I know the girls, Debbie and Doris, were nice to me. They walked me home, shared their lunches, told me how to say certain words and provided sage advice such as: never wear a red skirt with pink socks.

I remember telling my mother about this faux pas of ours. She shrugged. It was one more thing to be mindful of in this foreign land.  

It’s funny what you recall when you actually sit down and think about it.

Debbie and I remained friends well into our thirties. After several moves on my part, we lost touch. I think of her every November 13th. I find it surprising that I still remember her birthday.

My other friend, Doris passed away quite suddenly in her twenties. The cause of her death was never made public. I remember seeing her picture in the paper, reading the obituary, thinking about what might have happened, and then promptly getting on with my life as most twenty somethings do. Maybe we all do it, no matter our age. I don’t know, but death didn’t quite seem real to me then.

As I write this, I wonder how I was able to gloss over the loss of someone who was so important to me. Was it a coping mechanism or something else?

I don’t know. I just this minute went on line to see if I could find her obituary, see if it would bring back any emotions. I didn’t find the obituary. It’s been too long.

Looking for Doris made me think about the number of women who had gone missing or been murdered in this country.

I’m sure this didn’t happen to her. But, I don’t know. Do I? I never asked.

Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

Over 200 women and girls have died or disappeared in Canada in the last several years. We (individuals as well as our society, our police, our politicians, and our programs) have let them down, in the same way I’ve let my friend, Doris down, by not asking more questions.

These missing and dead women have been headlines, statistics, faceless names. Yet, they were someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, someone’s mother. They each had a life story. In other words, they were just like us.

Not all, but most had come from the fringes of our society. Collectively, they have forced us to stare at what we don’t like to see: our own biases and how this has led to the appalling way we treat the marginalized, the excluded, and the helpless.

CBC has taken on a project to document the lives of these women. Thankfully someone is filling in their stories, making us look at this tragedy with fresh eyes.

This time I will read every detail, take an interest, and hopefully in this small way honour their memory. I should have done it long ago for my own friend. It’s never too late to change your sense of self or others.

I started this blog with one story in mind.  My memories found another. This is the process of writing: you’re never sure what you’ll discover.

I will hopefully find my way back to the original story I wanted to write. Stay tuned for next week’s blog. We’ll see.

© All Rights Reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Stella L Harvey