My new school clothes: The day before a new school year
For those following my Facebook page, you know that I just came out of 3 days of courses on Aboriginal therapy, part of a certificate I am doing. Such an intense course but left feeling grounded and better. For those interested in the certificate, read this. I highly recommend it 🙂
Today, the Red man is back. With a very personal story that will be unfolded in three parts this week. He shares a story of abuse but a story of love too. A love for his kokum (grandmother) mixed with a hatred for the abuse she put him through. His story is the story of many Native people, a story of abuse but fear of being taken away from his family. To a place even worse: foster care. I encourage you to read some of his story with his kokum here, before you go on. So here we go with part one, the story of his new school clothes and the anticipation of a new school year.
I got new school clothes! “You better keep them clean!” she warns
The house in Moccasin Flats burned down soon after the devil did its deed (Moccasins Flat was where the Red Man lived as a child, learn more about it here). Everything we owned went up in flames at Christmas no less. Years later, all sense of innocence and safety was lost. Reality was harsh and ugly but I did my best to find pleasure the best way I could: escape!
Judas and Popsidy were over for a visit (they were his younger brothers). It was the day before the first day of school (he was going in Grade 4) and I wanted to show off my new school clothes. Appearance had to be proper. Some things had to be in my life and new clothes for the first day of school were a must. It was a hand me down world for Popsidy and Judas so I had to show the boys how the clothing they would inherit looked brand new. I begged and pleaded with my kokum to wear my clothes. When she relented, she gave me a firm warning “You can wear them but if you get them dirty, you will get it”.
“Keep them clean? Noooo problem!”
I have always been a very enthusiastic and optimistic person so this “keeping my clothes clean business” was not a problem at all. Youth and enthusiasm gave me a sense of absolute invincibility. There was no way that I could get my new clothes dirty… Promises, promises, I promised her that my new clothes would be just as clean as they were before I put them on. New blue jeans have a stiff crispness that feels good on the skin. New shoes, socks, shorts and shirt. Popsidy and Judas looked me up and down enviously eyeballing the creases on my jeans and shirt. And my high top shoes were something else altogether!
After our house burned down in Moccasin Flats we moved a few different times. We ended up living on Main street in the small town that was our home. In the back alley there was a construction yard, aka a natural playground for a rambunctious adventurous kid like me. Me and the boys went across the alley to the metal ship that was just a rusty shell. From the deck of the little ship, we pretended we could see the world. We painted an imaginary picture together. For a brief moment, we were pirates on the open sea and I was the captain. Ah the imagination of a kid….
“Why do you have to be the captain?” Popsidy whined. Old rivalries never die sometimes. “He is the captain because he is our big brother” Judas squeaked. The love and affinity I had for him had only increased over time. Judas was my favorite person in the world.
“I dare you. No I double dare you!”
But kids are mean and the wheels of retribution were starting to spin. In my mind, Popsidy was always an ass and I wanted him to pay. As I surveyed the open space all around, a brilliant idea occurred to me. You see, all along the side of the alley, there was a stagnant pool of shitty water. It was sewage run off and boy did it stink! In my mind’s eye, I saw Popsidy splashing wildly in it and it brought me great pleasure. There was a wooden power pole just laying there so I had an epiphany. “Ok then, I will let you be the captain but you have to earn the position Popsidy. You have to go log driving”.
“No let’s play pirates and you stay the captain, to hell with Popsidy”. Judas was having fun, he was my first mate after all. I gave Judas a conspiratory wink “Let’s go log driving” I cheered. “We’ll go burning down and down the white water, that’s where the log driver learns to step lightly” I sang. “Sing with me” I cheered again as I jumped off the ship and skipped toward the water. “We’ll go burning down and down the white water, that’s where the log driver learns to step lightly”. We hopped, sang, and skipped all the way over to the ditch of doom (the song is from a logging commercial popular at the time).
“Help me roll this power pole in the water”. All three of us kicked the pole toward the ditch and with just a little effort, the pole splashed in. 50 yards long, 15 to 20 feet wide and probably 6 to 8 feet deep was the shit hole. When the pole splashed its content up and all over the sides of the ditch, a putrid oily shitty stench waffled through the air.
Log driving it is!
“I don’t want to be the captain anymore” Popsidy muttered as the slim and oily water oozed back into the ditch. “Ooooh come on Popsidy don’t be a jam tart, if you are a real captain, you can’t jam out”. “Ya Popsidy don’t be a jam tart, let’s see you do it”. Judas could always be counted on, he knew how to go with the flow. “If you do it first, I will do it right after for sure”, Popsidy stood there defiantly. I was only a year older than Popsidy but I was taller, stronger and faster than him by leaps and bounds.
I was then sure I could jumped through the air 6 to 8 feet down to the power pole, gracefully and lightly, land and let my momentum push me to the other side (ok sure….once again the imagination of a kid…). In the commercial (where the song came from), the log driver danced across the logs like a ballet dancer and it looked so easy. “Let’s sing” I said nervously as I raised my arms above my head and did a little jig like the log driver. So we sang and danced as I let go of all fear and jumped into the air. As I flew, I envisioned myself safely on the other side of the shit hole, clean and dry waiting for Popsidy to jump.
And my descent in hell…
As my brand new shoes hit the mark, the pole dipped into the water. Without warning, the shit hole pulled me deep into its bouts. The log sunk deep into the water. I kicked and bucked to free my leg and foot with the other foot. It just seemed to sink deeper! A sense of impending doom and danger made my whole body trash wildly, water up to my neck. I pulled myself to the sides of the hole with the little willow trees and dead crab grass on the bank. I panicked, visions of a quick shit hole, similar to quick sand, flashing through my mind.
As I pulled my leg free, my shoe came off and stuck to the bottom. My other leg was freed as I scrambled up to the other side of the bank on my hands and knees. I stood on the gravel road and took my first breath of fresh air. But the air was not so fresh….. I looked at Popsidy and Judas. They stood still with their mouth open. “It’s your turn Popsidy” I said weakly. “No way man!” he responded as he backed away. I knew there was no way he would do the jump as he had no real sense of obligation to me. “Ooooh I am dead”. “Ohhhhh you are dead”, the boys said together.
“Popsidy you have to help me, give me some clean clothes and a pair of shoes”. My clothes were an oily gray color and one shoe was missing. And I stunk! I was really dead!
Oh boy! The Red man was a little daredevil as a kid. Trying anything and everything. And I have to say that he remained that way for a long time. Even today, he sometimes is a big kid at heart 🙂 So what do you think will happen next? The second part is coming up in a few days! Ever had a similar experience as a kid? Share below and I will answer 🙂
Learn more about the Red Man here too. His life, his struggles.
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