When I was small, my grandma would tickle me on my neck. I remember looking up at her, and just loving her, and thinking “my gramma is so big”. It didnt take long to reach her height, I did that when I was about 12. We are small ladies 🙂
Since she left us last week, I have had lots and lots of memories come flash back at me. My grandparents would take us out to Birds Hill park, that is now one of my favorite places to be. And she would work so hard, loading up food for a huge meal that she would put together for all of us, she worked while we played. And after a big meal, all the kids would go swimming but Gramma would find a spot in the shade, and sit there with one ankle across the other, on a big blanket, and she would just watch us. She would smile and laugh.
A little over a year ago, I decided to sit with my Gramma and ask her some questions about her life. This is what I learned :
She was born to Mable Laura Blackbird (born 1921 Keeseekeewenin) died at 42, and her Father was Donald Shorting July 1914 who was born in Fairford.
She told me “I was about 2 and a half years old when my family first came to Winnipeg. We lived in Elphinstone until then. We moved a lot. Moved away from the reserve so we didn’t have to go to residential school. My dad sold his treaty rights. I started school at Argyle school, we used to live on HIggins. We always lived in that area, we lived on all those streets. We were speaking very little English before we went to school, there were 4 of us that went to school, me, Harold, Kenny, Albert. The rest of my siblings (Irene, Doris, Joyce, Elaine, Gladys and Ernie) were born in St Boniface Hospital.
“It was better being in the city then than it is now, a long time ago, you used to be able to go to bed with out locking your door. No one would bother you. There were no such thing as gangs or crack houses. it was safer than it is now. people are more violent now, I don’t know why there were brought up that way.
“We were called names in school. The first word I learned was ‘Indian’ because that’s what everyone would say to us, they would point at us. I didn’t want to go to school. I used to make excuses. But they would make me go.
“I met grandpa in 55. I was 14 he was 15. We met by just hanging around. It was hard having kids young, I had one right after the other. I stayed with my mom right till I was 18.
“After we left, I used to like going back to the reserve as a kid. We’d never see anyone drinking in the reserve. We would go there every summer, soon as school was out. There were no kids in the reserve, because of residential school. It was so quiet. When I asked where the kids were and my aunt would say “they are at school’, so I would wait till 4 to see when the kids would come home but they never would. Sometimes a kid would run away and that is when I would see a cousin. You would see babies and grown ups. No kids our age. We would get a wagon and a team of horses and we would dig seneca root. That’s how dad would make his money. Dad would find it, dig it, wash it and sell it. Mom dad, Harold and Albert would work. The rest of us would keep the babies but mom was never that far away. My dad would feed the horses hay, they would graze around the tent. Oh I liked the summers.We used to pick a lot of berries. sometimes in the summer time we would go pick blue berries. in Ontario. a bunch of people would go there and we would all pick blue berries and we would sell those too. we did this until I was about 12. The last time I remember going to the reserve.
“When I was 5 I got lost in the city. My cousin left me in the street car and I got picked up by police. They couldn’t understand me because I couldn’t speak english. They were really good to me, gave me sweet stuff so I wouldn’t cry, icecream. They kept asking me questions but I couldn’t answer them. I could only speak Saulteaux. My dad came and found me after reported me missing. I was there all night. My cousin Albert got in trouble.
My grandma has been the most special person in my life, I could not have asked for anything more of her than who she was. She had a great sense of humor, she was so accepting of everyone and she was a very hard worker. She had a very tough life and put so much strain on her body. In the last few years of here life, her legs and hips were very weak. She would tell me “You know I had a dream that I was running down the street. And it felt so good to run” and we would laugh together. I said “Aww, that’s so cute Gramma.”
My Gramma can be whole again in heaven, and she can run again.
I am dedicating this song out to my Grandma. She would make me laugh when we would watch the news or she would hear about new things or technology, she would say “What next!”. Love you Gramma.