My youngest daughter and I are sitting on one of my favourite restaurant patios. I had called her earlier in the afternoon and asked, “Do you know what day it is?”
She thought for a moment before exclaiming, “Oh my! It’s May 21st! Happy Freedom Day!”
I had forgotten.
The date had entered my mind some weeks ago. I’d noted it and then carried on. And now, on the actual date, I’d completely missed its significance until a young woman made a comment about an emotional outburst she’d had the week before at a workshop we’d both attended.
There were three of us standing chatting at the time. They both work for United Way and I am an impact speaker. We were waiting to present at a corporate function and were talking about the workshop we’d attended last week together. At the workshop, the young woman had shared a story and broken down into tears. Confused by her emotional outburst, she’d shared her feelings with her mother who had reminded her of the significance of the date. “My grandfather died on that date two years ago and I hadn’t connected it,” she said. I listened and we kept talking until a few moments later, the significance of the date hit me.
When I get back to my office I call my youngest daughter and she too has forgotten.
We need to celebrate she says and make a date for later that evening. It promises to be beautiful, so we agree to meet on the patio of Bonterra.
I arrive early to ensure we get a table on the patio. My daughter won’t be there for at least 45 minutes later, so I come equipped. I have a brand new bright red moleskin notebook. I have decided. I will write in it everyday for the next year.
I haven’t kept a written journal consistently for awhile. I use this space as my ‘write it out’ place mostly and have let go of my practice of nightly journalling. I like the idea of diving once again into the discipline of writing my day out every night. I like the process of filling a page with random scribblings. Ideas. Writing bad, good or simply silly and inconsequential.
I order a celebratory wine and savour a few sips as I pull out my brand new journal, unwrap it and crack it open. I look around at the other diners. Little sparrows flit through the vines that hang suspended from the pergola above, their tiny buds bursting with promise that a few more days of heat will coax open. Waiters flit between tables. There is laughter. Chatter. Clinking of cutlery and the muted hum of traffic beyond the patio’s high protective walls.
At the table next to me, a woman is complaining, first to her dinner date, then to the waiter. Service is slow. There is no lemon. This is too salty. In the 45 minutes that I sit by myself, the woman and her dinner partner have had a glass of wine each, an appetizer, their main course and a desert. They leave without once smiling at the waiter, or anyone else. Though at one point, he does laugh at something he reads on his cell phone while they sit together not speaking to one another.
And I wonder. Is it because she has had to fight for everything in her life? Is it because she feels unseen, unknown? Has she felt attacked throughout her life for being a woman, for the colour of her dark skin or any other host of unseen differences that she feels the need to protect herself always?
I wonder about her journey and write my thoughts in my journal. When my daughter arrives I share my wonderings and she teases me and says it’s not nice to eavesdrop.
I wasn’t eavesdropping I tell her. I was observing. 🙂
And then she tells me the thing that makes my heart sing. On this day when 11 years ago she and her sister awoke not knowing if their mother was alive or dead. On this day when after almost four months of not having heard from the mother who had loved them so much and then betrayed the sacred trust of being their mother by disappearing, my youngest daughter told me that she will always be grateful for the lessons I’ve taught her.
“T. (her boyfriend) said one of the things he likes most about me is how I am kind to everyone,” she tells me. “It doesn’t matter who, I always talk to them and treat them with respect. You taught me that mom. Thank you.”
It was eleven years ago yesterday, at 9:14 am that I was given the miracle of my life when a police car drove up and two officers got out and arrested the man who wanted to kill me.
It was eleven years ago yesterday that I awoke to the truth. I did not deserve to be abused.
It was eleven years ago yesterday that I began to step into the truth. I am worthy. Of love. Forgiveness. Joy. Freedom. Life.
It has been an amazing journey from those dark days of abuse into my life today. From tiny, baby steps of hope, I have taken leaps and bounds into the wonder of living my life in freedom. And in that journey, I have been blessed with the love and support of my daughters, my family, my friends. Of strangers and so many people willing to share this amazing journey with me.
I am so blessed.
I am grateful.
I am joyful.
I am Love.