(Excerpt from CJ School, Part II, by M. Charlton – link below)
‘On a beautiful June day, the sunshine just seems to last forever. I’m not sure how we knew it was time; maybe it was just a pause between games when we finally heard the rumblings from our stomachs. In any case, suddenly the spell was broken and I knew that my amazing afternoon was over. I walked with all the girls to the edge of the pit where the gravel road leads back up to the main road, and got ready to say my goodbyes. As I drifted over to the side, waiting to break away and follow the narrow path leading back to my home, one of the leaders called out to me.
“Hey Monik, do you want to check with your parents and see if you can come back with us? There’s a barbecue for all the kids back at school, and you’re welcome to join us if you’d like…”
I can’t believe my ears – I look over in astonishment at Dorothy, and she and some other girls are laughing at me – again.
“So go ask!” she tells me.
“Yes!!” I answer back. “Do you want to come with me and see my house?” I ask Dorothy.
Dorothy nods and, suddenly re-energized, we break into a run – this time with me in the lead. We zip along the trail and across Tetroe Road right into my driveway.
“This is my house,” I explain, “Oh, and those are some of my brothers. I’ll just find my mom – be right back!”
I leave Dorothy standing awkwardly in the yard. My brothers glance up briefly from the game they are playing but quickly lose interest. I’m only gone a second or two and come running back out, the kitchen screen door slamming behind me. I’m not sure if Mom already knew what was coming, but obtaining approval was quick.
I’m still in running mode, and Dorothy jumps into step beside me. I’m feeling shy and nervous the farther away we move from the house. Dorothy hasn’t said much and I wonder what its going to be like over at the school.
“What’s it like?” I suddenly ask her, “The school, I mean, is it fun? My older sisters got to go to boarding school in Winnipeg when they were little, I wish I got to do that, too. There would be so many girls to play with all the time, and a uniform to wear so you didn’t have to worry about clothes…”
My voice trails off as I realize she hasn’t said anything. She’s just kind of looking at me, like something hurts her somewhere, but then it’s gone and she’s laughing at me again.
“All those brothers, no wonder!” she says.’
The Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School closed in 1974, when I was 12. I never saw Dorothy or any of the other girls again. I still think of them, and when I do I can still feel that little sliver in my heart.
Thoughts? Feel free to share them here.