His aunt Doris called him one day just before Christmas when he was still a young man.
“Wakinyan Duuta!”,…. “Take this food over to your auntie Amy’s place”
“They are going to have a remembering ceremony for her son – your cousin”
It was 3 years since his cousin was killed by a drunk driver as he walked home from town 3 days before Christmas. He had gone to buy his family a few presents from what money he had but he did not have enough to pay anyone gas money for a ride home.
So he walked home in the early evening. It was the son of a wealthy farmer who was drinking and ran him over and kept going. In the court case he was given a small fine and a years probation for it. That was a common sentence for taking the life of human beings in those times.
His auntie Amy was a slight woman who had survived the loss of her first husband to the cold as well. He tried to walk home the same way but the cold winter just buried him on the side of the road for many weeks.
She found love again by a man who was kind to her and took in her kids as his own and together they made a home. Like many, they were not rich in the sense of money, but he taught her many things about the traditional ways and they were always asked to help with ceremonies in the community.
When her son’s life ended she could have been wrapped up in grief like she saw so many but instead she found ways to thank creation for giving her the chance to carry on. Tonights ceremony would help that.
His aunt’s house was only a mile away and it was not that cold so he decided to walk over.. His Aunt Doris was a principal at the high school but she was one of the best bannock makers around and everyone always liked her bannock. Especially when she put raisins or cranberries in them. Maybe he will steal one along the way and treat himself to a early supper
With his gang of dogs as his escorts they walked to Auntie Amy’s house.
The stars were emerging in the early evening sky. he saw the brightest star to the west sitting over top of the mountains. He thought of what he was taught in science classes about the stars in the night sky. The teacher said it was the planet Venus but he knew the old stories more clearly and that made better sense. He looked back towards the east to see if the constellation of Orion was out yet. His Itaugh told him that is where we come from. But it was still early and he could not see it yet.
The winds of a chinook blew warm air and it would be a good night to be at his aunt’s place. He could see the fire burning outside her house and people sitting around it talking.
He thought about his cousin and how they had many adventures in their growing up years. He missed him too. They would get on their ponies and ride across off their land into the neighbouring farmers places and sneak up to their barns to steal some twine from there. Always scared about getting caught but always daring each other. Sometimes the farm dogs would chase them as they got away. They would hang the twine on the ends of long sticks and pretend they were the scalps of the enemy and gallop singing made up victory songs. They always wanted to be like Scouts from long ago. Be able to move around and be invisible to everyone.
That was what he remembered tonight as he looked up in the sky.
“You are up there Tahansi looking down on us now. Your mom misses you very much but we are helping to wipe her tears tonight”
“She is doing good and we are going to feed you some of auntie Doris’s really good bannock”.
“Tomorrow we will open up our presents and give thanks for having you here with us”.
It seemed odd that they should try and be happy at this time of year when so many people were sad about life but his family would have it no other way. Kunshi said that even though many things get done to us we have to still treat everyone as good as we can. Even that young farmers boy who took away your cousin.
Tonight would be the first time that that farmer boy will be able to ask for forgiveness. It took that long for everyone to make peace.
Itaugh went to see the farmer and his son many times to let them know they were forgiven but now they wanted to show the family how sorry they really were all these years. It was a time for forgiveness and everyone agreed that this would be the time.
Everyone saw him walking up and saw that he had Auntie Doris’s famous bannock.
“Hey don’t go inside the house… just bring it over here and sit by the fire and have tea with us” they were teasing him.
They just wanted some bannock first.
“Auntie Doris might be strict at school but she was one fine bannock maker. Just look how big her husband is.”
They all laughed at that.
The farmer brought his whole family and they were very nervous but Itaugh was right there with him and made it clear that it is alright.
The men took him to the fire with his son and gave them tea and shared smokes with them. It looked like they never smoked before but they were not about to make anyone feel offended so they just hacked their way through them. People cracked jokes at their effort.
The women took the mother in with her three daughters and they were welcomed with warm hugs and gentle smiles. Even Auntie Amy was relieved to see them as nervous as she was. They all cried as they held each other. Mothers had a way of saying many things with tears and this was one of those times that he saw.
It would be a good Christmas finally.
Even he could see that.
(December 24, 2013)