Although I didn’t know it until after she died, my mom was aboriginal. When mom was a child, gramma took her from the reserve. They moved to Ontario, where gramma disavowed their mi’kmaq heritage and claimed to be French. It speaks of the prejudism of the day for someone to leave friends and family and create a whole new persona, a make-believe family history, to escape. I’ve been told since that gramma did not want mom to attend the government’s residential school. From what we know now, it was likely a wise decision.
Mom left our family home when I was ten. It was a pretty big scandal in our small town, particularly since she left in the night with the local minister, who had five children. I didn’t see her until many years later, when she was confined to a mental hospital after a breakdown. Not an easy visit that day.
Childhood trauma is never easy. Since a child’s life is the centre of their universe, the tendency is for a child to believe that they are the cause of a parent’s transgressions. I had no brothers and sisters, so that tendency was likely heightened with me. Fortunately, I had my dad, my rock. That is why, in part, we are so close.
My mom did well in life. She was a famous model, the Heinz spokesperson for many years on TV, cover girl for many magazines and was Miss Canada War Bonds throughout WW2 (how many of her pinup posters circulated?). I forgave her long ago for leaving me. When she died, I met my uncle. I heard the truth about her past. I learned my true heritage.
I think of all the pain, throughout all the years, aboriginals have faced. I think of my own little legacy of pain this era caused. I’m sure mom left me, not because of dad or I, but because living a lie is an almost impossible thing to do.
Two life lessons from all this. First, forgiveness heals; I know this from my own experience. Second, nobody can control other people; it’s how you react, how you cope with the actions of others, that is the true measure of a person.
I’m glad the closets are opening. I’m glad for healing in the air.
I’m glad I have a new heritage to investigate… and celebrate.