I’m back on campus. The leaves are starting to turn. The wind is cool. The sun greets me later and later each morning. I need to pull out my jackets and boots.
Where has the summer gone?
I remember laughter. So many smiles surrounded me, welcomed me and my daughter into many homes, many friendships. Aerie spent her third summer up North, living with her grandparents and her dad while I travelled, worked, and studied. I felt guilty last year – this time, I recognized her blessings. Mama and Papa. Her Dad and her Setsune Annie and her Auntie Sheila. Her dog, Chimo. She needs these people (and pets) as much as she needs me. I have to share her, give her the space to become independent.
And so did I.
Aerie celebrated turning seven surrounded by her people. At seven, she is still the tallest in her class. She dances ballet and hip hop. She adopts people all the time – and she never forgets her aunties, brothers and sisters. We played in the park, ate pizza and cake, and had a sleepover. I listened to the girls laugh and giggle and tell stories, and my heart was happy. As soon as school ended though, I promptly bundled Aerie up and we hopped on a plane. She had watched me leave many times, and only wanted to come with me for an airplane ride. So, we made it happen.
We flew to Toronto, and after a bus ride where I watched Aerie slip her hand in mine, quiet and content to look out the window at lands she had never seen before, we arrived at Maral and Rolando’s. A beautiful blend of Persian and Spanish cultures, my days were filled with chai and sugar stir sticks and nights with chocolate calienti. I still carry the tan lines from a day spent on the shores of Lake Huron, eating warm cherries and watching brown bodies get browner under the sun of a heat wave.
Jumping in cars and meeting on backroads, Aerie finally met the Smith women of Walpole Island. We walked the shoreline, and talked of mosquitos, babies, and how we hoped our children would be friends when they were older. Aerie called them her Aunties and told me later that we all laughed the same.
Travelling with Aerie for two weeks allowed me the space and time to appreciate her little personality quirks. Often, during the busy year, I miss the small things just trying to keep up with the big things. But our vacations days often had her leaning against me, whispering that she needed alone time. Cuddle time. Just me and her. Sometimes we would nap. Other times, she would tell me a story. She would sing me songs, and lace her fingers in mine. Of all the things we did, my favourite moments were the ones where I could lay down, hold her in my arms, and smile against her back as she cuddled her stuffies and told me about her day.
But vacation doesn’t last forever, and soon, she was back North and I was on the road. This summer gave me so many opportunities to travel for work – poetry readings and photography events, a thousand stages and a million stories. I shared beers with a beautiful Indigenous crowd, listening to artists dream and create, while rain came down on the outdoor patio. I walked in mountain foothills and fell in love with new lands, staring down a field of wildflowers and grey skies. I listened to the sounds of Dene and laughter as my Uncle helped my dad fix his skiff, and I wished, yet again, that I could speak our language. I travelled to La Loche for weddings, bringing my cousin and aspiring photographer Bree with me. We stopped in Buffalo Narrows to see the dunes, and she told me she had never been to where her father had come from before. We sat by the water, letting the day fade away. I listened to Indigenous men speak their own love poems, fearless in showing their vulnerability, and I smiled. It was good medicine.
Finally, I had the chance to go West again. My first visit to Sechelt did not disappoint. Surrounded by the ocean and driftwood that will always remind me of my mother, I sipped a lot – a lot – of wine and listened to authors speak on their passion. I watched writers connect and laugh, leaning in and giggling. I felt the damp air settle into my Saskatchewan bones and welcome me back.
It had been too long.
My decadence this summer was a week in Vancouver. I planned nothing but sleep and writing, staying at a friend’s home, down the street from my favourite restaurant and around the corner from an amazing all-night cafe. And slowly the days became filled with visits with amazing friends, old and new. My heart and spirit needed this. A night of dancing on Granville with an insta-queen and now real-life friend. We bonded over 90’s hiphop and perusing a late-night sex shop. Getting lost on Burnaby mountains and shopping makeup, sipping sangria and sharing stories of men, family, and dreams. Eating tacos and getting lit at 11 AM, thick accents on point as we laughed and teared up, mourning and celebrating in the moment, like Indigenous women do. And finally, pasta and poetry shared on an adventure of lost restaurants, a decade’s worth of friendship, and planning the next sleepover.
I needed these moments so bad.
Saskatchewan will always be home though, and my heart was calling for our lands and my baby already. A weekend of wedding shooting and listening to my old friends laugh and tease each other about the same old stories from decades before – it was a homecoming in the best way. Watching my baby niece learn how to make fish cakes. Watching my Dad be on tv. Driving around the land, and speaking of how my stories and my love come from this place.
Having Aerie by my side while I explain how I always come to the water – and realizing she does the same thing.
The last long weekend, September long, before school started, I came home again. To pick up my baby, to sleep the weekend away. I snuck away to the bar, moving slowly through a darkened kitchen and barely daring to breath as I opened the squeaky front door, and my friends and I laughed at how scary my parents still are. Still, when I got the text to come home, I came home. I ain’t no fool. That weekend, we cleaned fish and ducks for the winter, teaching the girls the basics. We sat by the fire, listening to the kids play.
I made Mom and Dad take romantic pictures and they laughed and laughed. Their whole marriage has been full of them breaking into laughter, Mom gasping for breath and Dad rolling his eyes, grinning as he has to slap her back to get her breathing again. She still laughs at the same stories from years ago, and he still gets ‘mad’ at her, and we all settle in to wait to hear the story once again.
We left in the morning, Aerie staring out the window at familiar lands after waving goodbye to my parents and her dog. We listened to 90’s country music, because it reminds me of home. Aerie mouthed the words to herself.
“I miss Mama and Papa,” she tells me, confident that anything she feels is okay to speak. I raised her that way.
“Me too,” I tell her, reaching back to hold her hand.
“Can we get a dog?” she asks, voice wavering. I look in the rearview mirror and shoot her a dirty look.
“That was a damn good try, esjih.”
She breaks into a wide grin, dimples showing, as she giggles loudly.
She’s gonna be just fine.
Thank you to Mama and Papa for helping me raise this powerful spirit – we love you so much.
– tenille k campbell