I know, I know. I am a day late but for more than 24 hours, with a small sleep break, I have been occupied with moving. Packing, cleaning, donating, moving, negotiating, compromising, and having our last supper of shawarma in our beloved house.
But of course, we didn’t and couldn’t do this final move by ourselves like pretty much everything else in our lives, we had help. So this letter today is for a special group of people that have had my back during our years in the east end. My tribe of peeps.
Dear east end girlfriends and my homeschool peeps,
You guys. No words. Well, of course I have some words for you. I have had lots of words for you, some of them vulgar and unbecoming. But you loved me nevertheless. And you have listened and laughed, mostly at me, but laugh you did. You commiserated and we bitched in unison which at times sounded just as sweetly as birds in song.
You know the saying, Birds of a feather, flock together and talk about our kids over a bowl of chips and hummus and a cup of coffee, and on those bad days, a bar (or two) of chocolate. (That’s obviously the homeschooler version.)
In When Women Were Birds: 54 Variations on Voice, Terry Tempest Williams writes, “There are two important days in a woman’s life: the day she is born and the day she finds out why.”
My grandmother passed away in 2006. I have told you this story before. After she died, I felt her guide me back to East York – back to the place of my beginnings and the place where I have felt some of the happiest moments of childhood.
The first morning that I woke up in our beloved east york home, the one we have just said goodbye to, I saw a yellow bird sitting on a wire outside my bedroom window. She just sat there staring at me. It was if she was saying, “You are home.” I haven’t seen her since.
I was re-born in East York in 2006. And I didn’t know why at the time. I didn’t know why my grandmother was pulling me back.
But now I do. It was to find you all.
Our biggest life choices began at that time – having a larger family, homeschooling, Chris taking a risk to work online to spend more time at home, eating food grown closer to home. Choices that I don’t think I would have made without being surrounded by a tribe that nourished me in every stage I needed it. They shone light on things that I took for granted.
Each of you have taught me something about myself. A different variation of my own voice. With you at my side, I could safely rewrite the story of a girl spending childhood in apartments overlooking a ravine system I would come to know dearly because of you. I hiked weekly with a baby strapped on my front while “gently” guiding a three year old while my other children frolicked ahead in all kinds of weather. We mamas camped on our own with our babies which I never in a million years imagined I could do. I jumped in Ontario lakes for the first time ever because of you. I learned that to know when to soften and when to be firm enough to set boundaries is probably the greatest strength a mother could learn which I did while listening to all of your stories.
I stood in awe of women holding space for their children to be who they’d to be, nursing outdoors and in cars in below freezing weather, building fires and tending them so we all could stay warm, giving permission to their children to dream big, and saying yes over and over again despite exhaustion and illness.
But we can say yes to these people over and over again because we have had each other. I take your kids. You take mine. You have taught my children when I couldn’t. You have hugged my children when I couldn’t. You have taught me to forgive myself when I couldn’t by saying, “Yeah, me too.”
“Word by word, the language of women so often begins with a whisper.” – Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds
We may have begun with whispers. But the memories of how we met elude me. You are my everyday. My normal. Our language is a different one.
In one of the kids’ outdoor programs, their mentors taught them how to do a bird sit. Everyone goes to various places in the ravine and sit quietly for a length of time and then listen. They listen to the bird talk and the bird song. They map out where they heard it and roughly when. And then we all gather back and compare notes. From all these different perspectives and songs, a story is told. Someone talks about a group of chickadees totally freaking out. Someone else says from their position they saw hawks circling. The kids learn the different types of birdsong and what they might mean – mating, frolicking, danger, hunger, etc. Once you can interpret the song, you understand the language of the forest because birds are the storytellers.
I know your song. I know your eyeroll and that heavy sigh. I know when you say “I am looking into this other math curriculum” that means I should come over and talk you off the ledge. I know what February to April does to your homeschooling: sledding, skating, and afternoon playdates. And friends who don’t homeschool or who are ex-homeschoolers, I know your frustration with school and the busy-ness of life. This is my song too. All of it.
We all sing different tunes and have unique flight patterns. But I have found a tribe of women, my squawking flock, that find solace in knowing that we all end up singing the same song.
“The sin we commit against each other as women is lack of support. We hurt. We hurt each other. We hide. We project. We become mute or duplicitous, and we fester like boiling water until one day we erupt like a geyser. Do we forget we unravel in grief?” – Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds
Fortunately, I have had you all during the good times and the bad times. But now I am unravelling in grief. I have nothing to say. My cries are my song. Thank you for knowing when to ask and not to ask how I am doing. Thank you for the hugs and the gentle arm squeezes. Thank you for the laughter to break the seriousness.
Thank you for helping me clean out my house and pack it up.
I am sure I will write another love note to you all within the next 100 days. I am sure I have forgotten some act of kindness and camaraderie that needs to be acknowledged. But mostly today, I appreciate you for helping me through this process. You understand this decision even when the outside world may not. By virtue of being a homeschooler or being my friend in general, you probably do things unconventionally.
And of course, I can’t find a decent picture of all of us together.
East ender forever.
100 days of love notes…