I thought I was holding it all together pretty well until I left my dining room desk in June and came to campus for a Communications team meeting – the first we had held in person since last summer. I was two weeks past my second vaccine, and happy to be heading down the hall to grab a bite to eat in the Food Court before the meeting.
As I strolled, I had the great fortune to run into Shanda Webber, the college’s manager of Indigenous Services. We waved wildly at each other, the crinkles in the corners of our eyes indicating the smiles underneath our masks. She asked if I was heading to lunch and when I nodded, she said “Come have some Indian tacos! We have extras!”
Earlier that day, I had seen Shanda, the college’s grandparents and other community members at the college’s online Indigenous Peoples Day event. And as Shanda led me outside to lunch, I ran into three very familiar, but much-missed, faces: grandparents Peter Weasel Moccasin and Betty Ann Little Wolf and knowledge keeper William Singer III.
“Oh, I’ve missed you all so much!” I said to all three as they sat smiling in the shade. “I just want to give everyone hugs!” And Peter stood up and invited me to do just that. “I’ve had my vaccines!” I said as I felt his arms surround me. And then the tears started pouring from my eyes – tears I couldn’t stop even though I tried.
“I feel like we’ve all, well, been through a lot,” I tried to explain
when the hug broke off. “I am just so happy to see all of you here!” My heart broke a little when those words came out, as the college’s Métis grandmother, Louise Saloff, had passed away in April at the age of 72, and I (like the entire college community) feel her absence profoundly, even in the midst of my joy of seeing Peter, Betty Ann and William again.
The three of them and Shanda all made me feel comfortable with my emotions, and in a few minutes, I said goodbye and went on to find and enjoy my delicious taco. Later in the day, in an energetic meeting with my colleagues, we all seemed to be soaking up the pleasure of being in the same large room together rather than connecting over screens, and we started planning for the year ahead with enthusiasm. And when I ran into William on my way out of the college, he passed along some berry tea and a prayer, and I stopped to just let the moment and the day’s worth of moments sink in.
This one day represented so much of what we are all facing right now, it seems. We have all held it together as well as we’ve been able to these last 18 months, but it won’t be surprising if tears spill out of us from time to time in the weeks to come. We’re not through it all yet, but we’ve definitely been through a lot. When we can, we should savour those hugs and not be afraid of the big emotions that might accompany our reunions – both joy and pain. I keep going back to this moment and this hug and then I wonder... how will it feel when students are back on campus this fall? I can’t wait.
Lisa Kozleski, Editor
P.S. As always, hoping you enjoy this issue of Wider Horizons, and we always love hearing from you. Drop us a note at WHMagazine@lethbridgecollege.ca.