There’s something about this day. This hard day. This crazy beautiful day. November 11th. The trees still brilliant red and yellow. (Way to go Japanese Maples – you get the gold medal.) People out running in tank tops and shorts and poppies.
I didn’t get the 18 degrees memo so I peeled off layers as I ran, grateful for every stunning mild blue moment. I stopped at the light at Bathurst and Dupont and smiled at a woman walking her dog.
“It’s beautiful out.”
“God is smiling down on us for this Remembrance Day.” That was her. I wouldn’t have said that, but it felt true. Whatever you believe or don’t, something was smiling for sure.
I watched some of the ceremony in Ottawa on CBC, as I always do. I stood up in my kitchen and sang Oh Canada and cried, as I always do. For a few minutes I put away all the contradictions that weigh on me, about militarism and nationalism, and stood silent, with every one else across this country that stood silent, or didn’t, but gave some moments over to remembering or creating space for the memories of others - memories I’m grateful I’ll never have. Then I watched the princess bring greetings from the Queen. Like in a fairy tale, except she was wearing a black wool coat and hat.
Then I went out grocery shopping.
The Ottawa Children’s choir sang In Flander’s Field. I was waited to turn onto Christie at Bloor, while two men crossed the street. One of the men was an orthodox Muslim wearing white, his head covered. The other was an Orthodox Jew with the white ends of his prayer shawl (Tzitzit) hanging below his suit jacket, his head also covered. They weren’t together. They were just walking along side by side. So I cried, again, because to me, it said something about this day, about this country.
I drove along Dewson and the lights were out at Dovercourt. A traffic cop waved me through. He gave me a big smile and I gave him one back. I put away all the contradictions that weigh on me, about militarism and nationalism and police violence, and police indifference toward abused women, particularly those who are marginalized and racialized.
So much evidence of kindness. So much evidence of brutality.
Suicide is Painless, the song from M*A*S*H, was playing and my windows were wide open and I cried. Again.
I thought about all the military women and men who’ve died at war, and at peace. I thought about all the women who’ve served, and faced the horrors of war layered on top of sexual abuse and sexism. I thought about all of the vets who have come home broken, mentally and physically, and about a Government that celebrates them as they leave for war and serve, but denies them when they return Humpty Dumpty in a million pieces. And I thought about my friends, family and neighbours who are Holocaust survivors and children of Holocaust survivors, who are Veterans and children of Veterans, who are immigrants or refugees from countries that have known war in a way we will hopefully never know it.
And despite the sadness and weight of this day, it was beautiful. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the fact that on this day we share the weight and sadness collectively. Maybe it’s the hellish past few weeks.
People seemed kinder. I felt kinder. Tomorrow is not Remembrance day. Maybe we could try to remember for a little longer.