On December 6, 1989, I was a newlywed, taking a couple of classes, on my way out of organizing on campus for the U of R Women’s Centre and moving into organizing provincially as a Board member for the Sask Action Committee Status of Women. I had attended a few national students’ and women’s conferences and remember feeling energized by the good work we were doing.
What I remember from that day in 1989 is standing on the ugly brown carpet in the living room of our beautiful suite in the Modern Apartment building, holding the handle of our beige rotary dial phone to my head, talking to someone at the campus Women’s Centre on the other end, and inviting the Collective over to talk. Some did, though I’m sorry I don’t remember who. Maybe Angela? Nancy? Heather?
Two years later, my infant daughter had been in my arms for a few months. She’d nursed during Cabinet and Opposition lobby sessions and more than a couple of meetings of feminists. She’d been in my arms as I spoke on behalf of SACSW at news conferences and various events. That year I remember an ache of mother-fear, something I’d never experienced in quite the same way before that day. It crept through me as I wondered what she might face when she attended university.
By 2014 that baby was a young woman studying at uOttawa. Mother-fear again arose in in horrific way during the crisis on Parliament Hill. A lone gunman ran through security. Media reports were sketchy. All I heard was that a gunman was on the loose in Ottawa. Never was I ever so happy to receive her text message informing me that the university was also locked down and she was safe in the library. But we worried about the safety of our friends who worked on the Hill, where she had worked during her first year at university.
This spring, as I mentioned in a previous post, we visited our daughter in Japan. With her and our son, my husband and I travelled to Hiroshima, the city the US bombed on August 6, 1945. When we stood before the A-Bomb Dome, a shell of the building that had once stood there, I literally shook with the horror of what had been done. Later, inside the Peace Memorial Museum I wept quietly as I looked at the many items on exhibit. A child’s partially burnt-out garment ended my time there. I collapsed onto a bench, shaking but trying not to, until I got myself together enough to leave that room for something, anything, else.
Last month the world witnessed the brutality of a militarized police force against a large peaceful gathering of Indigenous people at Standing Rock in North Dakota. That gathering took place because the women of the Sioux Nation, following in the spiritual paths of their ancestors, heard the call to protect the Sacred, to stop the pipeline that risked doing great harm to the water supply for their reservation and millions of others downstream. And, they took a stand. They would protect the water, as they had been taught. Others heard their call, hundreds and thousands more around the globe heard. And responded. Eventually, the Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit the Dakota Access PipeLine required to dig under the river.
I don’t think I have felt the pain of remembering December 6, 1989 so deeply as I did when my daughter was an infant. Until this year, that is. It’s been a shaking, weepy day. It must be a core wounding, I’ve decided, one that will need nurturing for a long time to come. It’s a wounding to the psyche of women in this country, to Canada.
Still, in this moment, feeling as forlorn and grief-stricken as I do, I cannot fathom the great pain and intergenerational trauma experienced by the people of Japan and of Indigenous people of Canada. How can North America live with itself? How can I, knowing what I know, feeling what I feel, live with this?
Thus far, I’ve been able to mourn and cry, write and organize, heal and love. And remember. And tonight I will gather with friends and we will together mourn and remember