by Roxy Thomas
bold brewed coffee
From the top floor of the double decker bus, which swayed proudly on its downtown commute, she admired the reflection of the skyscrapers in the speckled river not yet covered by ice. The pale blue sky was still tinged with pink and the twinkling streetlights highlighted the historic peaks of the turreted hotel that dominated the hilltop. Most of the suburban commuters were busy reading a book, checking their smart phones or catching a quick nap, bored with the Edmonton skyline. She never grew tired of the view, especially of the century old red brick school that sat atop Rowland Road, her ancestral homestead, now surrounded by high-rise buildings. She liked to imagine stories of her relatives farming the fertile land stretching down to the river valley. Knowing the harsh northern climate, it must have been hard work, but rewarding to watch as the new town grew up around the trading post.
Now that her grandfather had passed, she had to imagine the stories, as there was nobody left to pass them down, as was the oral tradition of his indigenous family. He never talked about his Metis background, and she never realized he was fluent in Cree, missing the chance to hear his deep voice regale her with tales from his youth. She only heard second hand stories of their Scottish heritage and how her great-great grandfather worked at Fort Edmonton. Much later, when he father took an interest in his Metis history, she learnt about her great-great grandmother, and she was instantly intrigued. She wondered if her kokum experienced the type of racism still common today, and knew in her heart she did. But perhaps back then, there was a better appreciation for the skills and strength of the indigenous women, who helped European settlers to survive the harsh Canadian wilderness. From the few faded pictures she saw, she sensed the strong and formidable nature of the petite thin women with dark crinkly eyes.
She brushed the tears from cheeks and sadness overwhelmed her as she realized that she may never know the real stories, as there was no one left to ask. She would like to write the tales down, for her son and niece. Perhaps it was time to call her dad and hear what he might remember. Pressing her forehead against the cold glass of the double decker she did not see the skyscrapers, but instead the confused face of her dad watching her leave from the dementia unit window.
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