When they fled Bosnia, they moved towards a better life. To a life where gunshots and fear of death by war did not exist. They came with little, only that which they could carry. Their daughter was 11 years old. Her English limited. But it didn’t matter. They wanted to give her a chance to grow up. To dream. To become. To see there was a world where peace prevailed.
They moved to my city. I met them when our daughters started High School together. When they graduated, we promised to stay in touch. We mostly did — through our daughters. Sometimes, we’d meet at an event, sit and chat and promise again to stay in touch. We’ll have dinner one day. Soon, we’d tell each other. And then time and life and happenings continued until ‘soon’ became so long ago it was almost embarrassing to try to get together.
Our daughters continued to be close friends. We continued to bump into each other at various events. And then, on the weekend, as C.C. and I were leaving our favourite wine shop, Vine Arts, the mother of my daughter’s friend walked by.
We stopped and chatted and talked about ‘the flood’. Their condo building didn’t flood — just barely missed the waters reach. But for 10 days they lived without power. Her sister was visiting from Bosnia and they had laughed at how everyone had fled the building. “What?” she said. “They think you can’t live without electricity?” And she laughed as she told us the story. “We’ve lived through war. We always had our electricity cut. You make do. Just like when we came here. We had nothing so we made do.”
Their lives are rich and fulfilling now. Their daughter recently graduated from a Masters program, the pride and joy of her success visible on her mother’s face.
And then, it was time to part. C.C. and I had a birthday party to go to, she had another commitment.
We must get together, we said as we always do, but this time was different. This time, I asked, “When are you and your husband free?”
We leave for two weeks in Europe on the 13th, she said. Should we do it before or after we get back?
C.C. chimed in. We could do dinner Monday night.
So could they!
Which is why last night, on another beautiful summer’s evening drifting into fall, we sat out on the deck and ate beneath the stars. An impromptu get together of old friends and new. The old were a friend of C.C.s who dropped by late afternoon to say hello and a girlfriend of mine who I called to see if she was free for dinner. And the couple who we’ve known for years but never really spent time with.
It was one of those perfect days. A brunch with the parents of a friend of my youngest daughter that whiled away early afternoon on the lawn. C.C. made his famous, Finnish Crepes and we laughed and chatted and spent time with a couple we have come to enjoy through our annual get together at Stampede, a tradition that began because my youngest daughter asked if her girlfriend and parents could join C.C. and I and ‘the gang’ for the Grandstand Show one year — and now, we make it a point to do it as a big group. And then, dinner under the stars with another couple whom we’ve met through my eldest daughter — what a delightful way to spend a holiday Monday. What a beautiful gift of time spent with people, connecting, chatting, sharing and learning.
And what was most interesting is that both the couples (the parents of my daughters friends) immigrated here from strife torn lands. The couple who came for brunch fled, “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. Like the other couple, they too wanted to leave behind guns and bombs and fear of what could happen next.
I am grateful.
Grateful to live in a land where war and strife have not consumed my every thought.
Grateful to live in a place where we are free to sit out under the stars and share stories and laughter and wine and toast the freedom we take for granted.
I am grateful I take freedom for granted. Grateful that my world is not shadowed every day by fear of dying. Grateful that here in Canada we have racial and religious tolerance. Grateful that we do not fight over the right to live where we want, practice our faith how we want, do what we want.
I am grateful.
As we sat last night under the night sky I looked up and saw the stars shining down and whispered my prayer of gratitude and thanked my daughters for their friends. In their friendships, my world has been enriched. I am grateful.