I was driving home, correction.. my daughter was driving me home after an evening’s celebration for my lovely niece’s university graduation. Glasses of wine, scrumptious catered food and bowls of Polish soup flowed… along with reminiscent tales. My brother Jack raised his glass and gave a jubilant toast for our lovely Sasha.
My fondest memory is of a much younger Sasha, I was enrolled in a class at the University of Calgary and her mother, my sister-in-law, Ewa was working toward her Undergraduate degree. I lived with Sasha and Ewa at that time, just a few months… but they were months when I felt supported, loved and welcomed into their tiny family. It was my place of refuge at that time… and I will never forget their generosity.
Each morning, Sasha was one of the fortunate children who could attend the on-campus day-care. This day-care was one of the top spots in the city and had a long waiting list. It was filled to the brim with the children of both students and professors alike.
I remember dropping her off at the day-care very early one morning, the room filled with the hushed, melodic soprano voices of young toddlers as they sleepily arrived with their parents. Goodbye kisses and hugs bestowed, off they went to read or eat a bowl of cereal. Picking Sasha up after class meant it was time for her to hop on her little pink bicycle with training wheels, a gift from her father, Jack. With pig-tails flying and pink handle-bar tassels fluttering in unison, Sasha would rakishly barrel down the sidewalks of the campus and fool-hardy were those who didn’t leap out of her way. Everyone knew who Sasha was and she would greet her followers with a wave as she breezed by.
To this day, I’ve always admired her confidence and inner beauty. Sasha has been “queen of the campus” and the stage for a number of years… and yesterday she finally had her celebratory walk across a different stage; with her mortar board in place, Sasha had arrived… for the handshakes and diploma. It came as no surprise to learn that she first shook hands with the very same man with whom she had been exchanging “terse” emails for the past few months.You see, Sasha’s been trying diligently to change the way things work around the campus… also no surprise to me. Jack and Ewa have taught her to be a beautiful, strong, intelligent, and independent young woman.
Sasha and all her fellow graduates have their whole future ahead of them. I nostalgically recalled that I wasn’t much older than Sasha when I lived with them for those few memorable months that summer. I had my whole future ahead of me then… the person I wished to become, the career I wished to pursue, the people I could choose to bring into my life… I only had to dream of it and it could become a reality. It was such an intoxicating feeling.
That same feeling resides in me to this day, that my whole future still lies ahead of me… who do I now wish to become… what new people will enter my life and love… what old friends will come back to stay… and to what purpose shall I devote my time…
As my daughter quietly steered our vehicle home along Memorial Drive and the banks of the Bow River, we saw floodlights shining in the distance and the figures of people, photographers took shape and appeared out of the darkness. There on the side of our beautiful tree-lined street was a field filled with thousands of white crosses… The Field of Crosses… so many crosses it took my breath away. We had chanced upon a sacred place.
Each cross was marked with a name, rank, infantry name and date of death… and we were rendered speechless, humbled in the quiet that ensued and filled with a deep sense of longing, sadness and gratitude that took hold in our hearts.
How fortunate we are to live in a country where we can be the director of our own lives and the lives of our children. It wasn’t always so… Sasha’s grandparents had to escape Poland, they fled to Canada to find freedom. My grandfather, Moorsom Trotter, fought in the first World War…
Those named on white crosses made the ultimate sacrifice so that generations of people to come could live in freedom.
And now… we get to choose… what to think.. how to live… and who to love…