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Leaving Home: CANADA, Edmonton, Alberta
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu
Mum had said to sit close to the bus driver, so I sat as far away as possible.
And now an Ojibway man in a red bandana and stubble cheek was snoring on my shoulder.
He smelled like communion wine, the kind my father served in glass cups which we slid empty into the pew’s tiny cup holders.
He smelled like beer, like the late August summers when I was entering puberty, cleaning up the Corn Fest fairgrounds in my Sunday dress with my family. The beer cans all clanging like empty songs against each other in their black garbage bags, and it was what good Christians did. Cleaned up after sinners’ parties and marched in pro-life rallies and it was always us, versus them. And all I ever wanted was to be them.
But always, we were taught to be kind to them, and so I let this man sleep on my shoulder in the Greyhound bus headed west while I tucked up my legs and tried to shrink inside my 18-year-old frame.
Tried to close my eyes against the cold of the window but it had been two days since I’d hugged my younger brother, Keith, and my sisters, Allison and Meredith; since Mum—whose name is Yvonne, which means beautiful girl— had held me to her soft clean cotton shirt and her arms had said all of the words she’d never been able to voice. The Reverend Ernest Dow, or Dad, had loaded my cardboard boxes full of Value Village clothes onto the bus and kissed me on the cheek and smiled in a way that apologized. I was the eldest, and I was the first to leave. But then again, I’d left long before getting on that bus.
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including an upcoming memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com.