My annual winter pilgrimage through the Rockies was supplemented this year with a summer trip, and I learned that, at this time, I have not many tears stashed away for something I can't name or put my finger on. I sometimes travel through there and the Three Sisters to the only child give me a little talk and I have a little cry, mourning for an emotional thing that I didn't know existed. But this time around I only felt an easy warmth, when you're with yourself and there's no thing to feel angry about or resentful about or to grieve for not being worthy enough to receive or noble enough to give. It was all smooth and restless, as I'm not small enough to fold myself up and sleep on the Greyhound like the Filipino woman beside me. I slept the next night in a smooth bed that was all mine, next to a remote to cable TV that was all mine, a small coffee maker and whiteners and stir sticks and shampoo bottles that were all mine.
The next morning it rained and it was fat, and my large mountains slept in their little blankets and I've never seen them so peaceful. We were all calm, all of us, and I walked and walked and talked to no one. I bought some chocolates for the aunt and uncle I would be staying with in Calgary and boarded that beastly thing again that evening. I've come to love the long trip. People look at me like I'm crazy but I love being in between places sometimes; the in-between places give me the time to formulate thoughts and let them mature before they come spewing out of my mouth, the way they do when I'm stationary. That's not always for the best.
My aunt and uncle were smaller than when I'd last seen them but their faces were the same to me. Over the weekend more faces that I knew over fifteen years ago smiled at me and I screamed back and I hugged these people that were of the same people I was. But not actually, not biologically. But I love them so because they ARE my family. I met so many new ones, these new faces and precious voices and THOUGHTS coming out of thoughtful people, thoughtful YOUNG people and I can't believe I'm related to them.
Auntie Elinor asked me if I knew how dad came to be a Pratt. I said I knew he was adopted when he was six. She said that was right, but that he was in the family from the time he was a baby, and I'm sure that was a bit of information I heard over the years but had been garbled amongst more unimportant things that my brain stubbornly holds onto. This is what I recorded.
"(Aunt E: I have to try to keep my language...) (Me: Why?) (laughter)...
As you might know or not, my mom used to board children, mostly babies. And some were government wards and some were private citizens, you know...
..Ronnie's mom, Doris Salahub was her last name, somehow she got my mom's name and asked if she could look after her baby. Which my mother did...and he was a cute little baby, dark hair. Anyway, he stayed with us, and she used to come see him. Then, I guess I can tell you this, her visits got farther and farther apart, and she didn't come as often as she might have. And then she stopped giving us...she used to pay us once a month and then she wouldn't come for months on end. So anyways, as it happened she moved to Edmonton, and by the time Ronnie was 6, he was going to school...didn't have kindergarten in those days. So mom and dad decided they'd like to adopt him because she didn't seem to have interest. So my dad worked on the CPR so he had a pass, and to get her permission we had to go to Edmonton to find her. So mom, Alan and I got on the overnight train to Edmonton. Overnight to Edmonton? Can you imagine? We thought it was a big adventure. As soon as we got to Edmonton--I don't remember all the details--I remember we went to this house and she came to the door and I don't recall whether we even went inside. Mom had the papers all filled out, and she asked if she'd be willing to give him up for adoption. She said that she wanted to adopt him. So [Doris] agreed, she signed the papers, so then we went back to the train station and got on the train and came back home again.
So when they told him that his name was now going to be Ronald Pratt, he went around with his little eraser--and it was so cute, I'll always remember this--and he took all his little books and rubbed out 'Salahub' and put 'Pratt'. Isn't that so cute? It's touching. He put 'Ronnie Pratt'."
My father was given the gift of having people want him when someone else didn't. Because a handful of people, angels really, wanted him, he knew love and could give this to his daughter, certainly. He wasn't perfect and his life wasn't either and I'll never know what some of his biology was because even the adoption papers say little. But his heart found the place where he was wanted, and then mine did too when I was born to him and to them, and I also got to know love.
To be where you're wanted is your right place. Your blanket mountains and your family and your loves, your friends and romantic hand-holders and the people who look at you and smile, your own coffee maker in fat rain. I know these things and I hope the people that I love know these things. I don't know what to say about the rest of the world, but this is mine and I could cry for it.
So for the next pilgrimage, then.