waiting on the front porch

she just stood there on the front porch waiting for her will to come and get her she was packed she had a suitcase full of noble intentions she had a map and a straight face hell bent on reinvention she was learning about please and huge humilities then one day she looked around her and everything up til then was showing and she wondered how did i get here without even knowing where i was going? ~ani difranco

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Location: montreal, quebec, Canada


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

a thoughtful thought

these bouncing babes are my cousins leif (the blond) and lakshmi (the brunette). they live in the yukon and are the children of my cousin, jay, a woman who by rights is more my sister than anything. when she adopted them, i became an aunt for the first time - and oh, my god, is anything better than being an aunt?

they were born in march, 2005, and had some of the problems that twins have upon birth. lakshmi was the fighting big sister, (wisely named after a tough indian goddess) and leif (named after leif ericksson - yes, the kids are destined to be great warriors)- well, it was touch-and-go for the little puff for a while. he was flown to the icu in a hospital in ottawa, where he stayed, incubated, for 6 weeks while his parents tried to deal with...everything. i was living in ottawa at the time and some of my most precious memories are of being suited up in the cap and mask, sitting in a rocking chair, and holding the newest member of our family - all 3.5 pounds of him.

his skin was translucent. he was covered in tubes. he snuffled and slept a lot and he smelled like a miracle.

out of the two, leif has always been the more accomodating. he's such a happy-go-lucky, sweet-tempered kid, who loves watching golf with his daddy or swinging in his mechanical swing set. lakshmi, on the other hand - is a FIRECRACKER. good LORD.
she was the one to roll over first, crawl first, walk first - and she knew her mind early and was NOT afraid to articulate her point of view. i remember, on my trip up to the yukon in august 2005, it took laker a while to trust me, but once she did, she wanted to be "up". "down" was NEVER an option. so i put on a solid five pounds of muscle carrying her precious weight around because...well, it was just easier on everybody that way.

they are both such miracles - completely different children (which i marvel at) but so so SO special.

now imagine.

imagine them in 17 years. it's their first day of their first year in college. they never stopped being each other's best buddy so they plan to take the bus together. they have different classes for the morning but agree to meet up in the cafeteria for lunch. lakshmi has geography all morning; leif has intro to architecture. they both doodle in the margins of their new notebooks.

when they meet up in the cafeteria it's with a burst of relief. lakshmi immediately starts up with the teasing, which leif counters by silently slipping french fries in her knapsack. they can see the other students looking at them - always the wondering, and lakshmi tells leif they should just print t-shirts saying "yes, we're twins" on the front and "twins can be best friends, too" on the back. leif almost chokes on his laughter.

someone comes up to their table. leif notices first, but thinks nothing of it - the guy could just be looking for a place to eat lunch, after all.

the guy has a gun.

in a deep voice that suddenly echoes through the whole cafeteria, the guy tells lakshmi and leif to separate. he digs the gun into her side. she panics a little and leif is panicking too, but he stays calm for her, and nods; he'll figure a way out. the guy starts screaming,

"boys on one side! girls on the other!" over and over, and the cafeteria explodes into chaos. all these young kids screaming and crying, but doing what they're told, thinking that it will save them.

once he has them separated, the guy starts shooting.

funny, how methodical death can be sometimes.

"doing what they're told" doesn't save 14 of the women in that cafeteria.

lakshmi is one of them.


i tell people two things about myself on a regular basis. the first is that i became a feminist when i was 11 years old, and the second is that montreal is so much my home because i chose it - i dreamed myself here.

these two facts about myself collided in an "oh my god" eureka moment a few days ago, when the tell-tale belly twitch (that lets my memory know an anniversary was coming) started twitching.

17 years ago TODAY, a man entered a room in a building of l'ecole polytechnique and separated the women from the men. shouting, "you're all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists," he opened fire on the women, and killed 14 of them. his reasons, beyond madness, were fairly 'simple' - they were women enrolled in engineering, (typically, a man's profession), and had 'ruined his life' by taking away his prospects.

i remember watching the news with my mother, and asking her what a feminist was. she told me that it was a person who believed in the equality of both genders, without discrimination.
"but there's nothing wrong with that." i said, puzzled, watching the stretchers get carried out of the school on the news.
"no," she said, "no, there isn't."
"can i be one?"
she looked at me, and smiled.
"it might make your life harder, but you can if you want to."
"i want to."

and my birth as a feminist took place.

and my love for a city was hatched.

a city that has seen so much, hurt so much, buried so much, and yet been the locus for so much healing. december 6 is now a national day of remembrance for violence against women.

i remember these women.

i work (peacefully) to ensure equality among everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, or ethnicity.

i do it for lakshmi, and for leif. for their children, too.

(i took some poetic license with the story, but please read more about it here, or here, or here, or here.


Blogger Superhero Activist said...

this was a beautiful tribute.

I want to say much about conviction, about roots running deep, but it seems unnecessary. You've said it all so much more eloquently and artfully than I could.

I am envious that you have such strong convictions, that you were able to create something of lasting value out of such a tragedy. It's one gift you have that amazes me time and time again.

10:13 a.m.  
Blogger daisies said...

i remember, i was at university at the time ... it was a tragic shocking day that secured my place in the feminist world as well ...

and your cousins, what a tender beautiful story and i do know oh too well how much of a miracle they are, twins are so precious i whisper with a tear in my eye and a smile for their survival ... :)

11:47 a.m.  
Blogger bee said...

john ~ thank you. today's always been pretty important to me.

daisies ~ i am SO sorry for bringing up emotional memories for you, dear one. (i know what you're talking about, but i'll leave it private) - i hope my intentions were clear. (extra hug)

12:01 p.m.  
Blogger daisies said...

your intentions were wonderful and your words powerful and you never need to be sorry for bringing up my emotional memories ~ it is a good thing in so many ways ...

hug right back at you! :)

1:13 p.m.  
Blogger j said...

beautiful kids, beautiful tribute. I've always liked kids, but it's different, eh, when you're an aunt? it does change things, maybe because you see them grow, or, if you're far away, at least hear about it and see pics. crazy, this love.

4:12 p.m.  
Blogger Deb R said...

Your cousins are beautiful, Bee.

The story of the killings and how your reaction changed your life was very moving. Things like that are so important for all of us to remember.

8:44 p.m.  
Anonymous ceanandjen said...

Bee, this was an absolutely stunning post in so many ways. I am speechless, but left with powerful images that will stay with me.

You are such an incredible woman! Has anyone told you that today?

8:54 p.m.  
Blogger daisies said...

oh ... they are so beautiful : )

2:33 p.m.  
Blogger Vesper said...

they look SO sweet!

12:37 a.m.  

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