First published in 2017; tis the season to repost.

Joy in the Journey* is one of the themes of Advent, which is a central part of the Catholic religion, to which my mom was faithful.

For me, that thought always takes me back to a dark country road, under a green and white blanket, under the stars.

It was a muddy night, and our car caught a rut a mile or two from home. So Dad walked home, off into the dark, and Mom stayed with us. I had no idea whatsoever, back then, that for my dad, his most epic walk into the dark may have been when he was 12, with his dog, walking away to find his uncles’ logging camp and stay there, free from the church schools and the step father. I wonder now whether he thought about that. In my own life I know that having been brave, just once, when it really counted, sets you up for a long time to come. You lean back on that journey. You remember, and you are never again as scared at that first time.

But maybe I’m wrong. After all, he was now the one responsible, now the one who had to make it work out, maybe he wasn’t thinking about his kid days. And my mom? If she was thinking about her kid years, I’d like to imagine it was with a sense of comfort and joy. She grew up in fields and haystacks and many a dark journey to school on horseback or by wagon, feet tucked into the straw to stay warm, no light but the faintness of impending dawn, the lantern the driver carried, and the stars.

So, she was not at all scared to sit and wait with us in the car, in the dark in the ditch, until Dad returned, bumping slowly down the road on Pony, the little Ford tractor, pulling a wagon. We’d use Crier, the big Cockshutt tractor, to pull the car out in the morning, but getting us home was a job for which Pony was handy.

Mom bundled us into the wagon, somehow. What I remember is that blanket, the car blanket, tucked around our knees, all us kids in a row, and Mom leaned against the other side of the wagon, unpainted wood panel sides, and we leaned back, too. And Mom told us, look at the stars, look at their patterns. and we traced patterns in the sky, patterns in the blanket, patterns in the sky, all the same, kindly and graceful, all the way home.

It was holy, quiet, bright and still, with the homely thrumming putt of little Pony trundling us down the road. I looked up, and that whole of existence spun free above us. We were simply there, on the road, on the good earth, beneath the good stars, in the cool, free darkness, completely safe and at ease.

*This year, I am honouring my mom’s passing by writing throughout the Advent season, following as prompts the daily quotations cited in the free online calendar put out by the Catholic Medical Mission Board Mom was a lifelong Roman Catholic, and I was raised with the Church as a contentious part of our family life, given that my Ojibwe dad’s family was so affected by the church. Nonetheless, her faith was important to Mom, so this is a tribute to her. It’s also a reflection on how religions influence in many ways. 

If you like these posts, please also consider donating, in the memory of Albina Sewell, to Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton; her chosen charity for memorials is not religiously affiliated, but serves all children.

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