Do you find that, as you age (note: I did not say “get older” because really: no one wants to “get older”) opinions and thoughts you developed when you were young, solidify into facts? For instance: I was a Girl Guide, and we used to camp on occasion at a place called Camp Ma Kee Wa. They had a pool there, and when I was young, I knew that pool was huge. I mean, freakin’ HUGE. Then one time when I was a Brownie Leader, we took our Brownies to camp there. And guess what? That pool was tiny. Like, the size of 2 regular-issue Toronto front lawns. Seriously, I have friends that have pools in their back yards that are significantly larger than this pool.
This is what I mean about thoughts solidifying into facts. Does that ever happen to you? And then you come face-to-face with something that takes that “fact” and crushes it into teeny-tiny little pieces? Has that happened to you before?
I have all ready admitted that it happens to me. I’d like to think that it happens less often now, because I’ve made it a point to become very flexible in my view points. Especially since so much of what I know about the world I learn from the internet. And everyone knows you can’t trust what you read online. <grin> This flexibility has served me well in recent years, and thank God it’s been tested because yesterday, I had another one of these shake-up-and-shatter moments.
A friend of mine linked to a series of articles on The National Post’s website, about forced adoptions. If you click this link, you will find a dozen or so articles that work to uncover the atrocities committed in the name of “family values”. I read through probably 6 of these articles yesterday, and with each one my heart was hurt. As a mother, I cannot imagine the pain these women lived through, and the guilt that must still haunt them. As someone who is right now pregnant, feeling the kicks of the child within, I cannot fathom never seeing the child I birthed, nevermind being denied the chance to hold my baby. As a woman, I rage against the machine who believes that our mental states are so inferior that we – all women everywhere – cannot possibly raise a sound, solid human being without the presence and support of a man. As a human being, I am deeply dismayed that as recently as 1970, basic rights to decency and compassion were denied to my sisters…
But this post is meant to be about reaching a new level of understanding. And so I will explain that now. My paternal Grandmother was a wonderful, strong, passionate woman. Some may have called her obstinate, or stubborn. I would actually call her liberated. You see, she was born in the 1920’s in a farming community in Ontario. She used to tell me about her big move to the city when I was a young woman, and I still find the story so empowering. She told me that she went to school until she was 12, so she completed grade 8. The summer after her 8th year, someone came to her door asking if she was going to register for school in September. She said no, she was not. She was going to the city to get a job and that was that. And you know what? That’s exactly what she did. At the ripe old age of 12, she packed up a suitcase and boarded a bus to Toronto. She got a job as a housekeeper for a family, where she stayed for some years.
She grew up in the city, grew into her independence, and worked for a living that was very comfortable. When she met my Grandfather, she was 22.
They met on a Saturday night, at a dance at the YMCA. They way I remember her telling the story, she was dancing with him sometimes, and sometimes with his friend George. A while after that fateful night, she found out that Grampa & George had a bet on to see who could take her home, “If I had known that, I wouldn’t have gone home with either of them!” She always made that last statement with a bang on her armrest. God, how I miss you Nan.
Anyway – about my new understanding. My Nan wound up pregnant. Her baby was born in 1949, and she and Grampa were married in 1949 as well. Obviously, she would have been one of the women who would be the targets of the forced adoption tactics. This was eye-opening for me… truly, a revelation. Here’s why: my Nan’s marriage was – in so far as I could tell – loveless. She didn’t ever seem happy with Grampa, and in fact I remember when I was 12, she was getting ready to leave him. I always wondered why a woman like her – strong, fiercely independent, capable, empowered – stayed where she was not happy. In fact, why did she get married at all? All she would ever say to that question was, “Because it’s what you did. You didn’t have a choice.”
I think I get it now… She got married because if she didn’t, she wouldn’t get her baby. And while I didn’t know her when her kids were young, I can tell you with certainty that there was very little she would not do for them, even as adults. Whatever was needed, she was there for them. Whatever her grandkids needed, she was there for them. Be it a place to stay for a night or a week, some money to make rent, a nice hot dinner and a loving hug, she was there. The very idea that this woman would not be allowed to have and raise her family is just devastating. She did not have a choice.
So today, another facet of the woman who was my grandmother is crystalizing. She truly was a warrior, a trailblazer. Maybe not because she wanted to be, but because she had no other choice.