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Cracked

“Honey, please don’t kick the seat, because the lady in front of you [that’s me!] can feel it. It’s like when you kick mommy’s seat in the car.” (Sidenote: When did I stop being a “girl” and start being a “lady”?)

Bless her heart for trying. They kicked my seat all the way from Calgary to Winnipeg, but for some reason I didn’t mind as much as I minded the adult seat-kicker on my flight to Vancouver last week. Their anxious anticipation before the plane even began to taxi down the runway brought back the memory of my first flight, a tag-along with my dad for a piece he was writing for the newspaper back in the day. Oh the beauty of youth, when it’s all novelty, delight, getting thirsty, and having to pee, never mind the headache of going through security, crossing your fingers for either the aisle or the window, hoping your neighbour’s desire to engage with strangers matches your own, or that weird airplane sweat from being in the stuffy cabin, shivering under that the beam of icy air coming from above.

“This is SO FUN!” their voices shrieked over and over as Calgary shrunk below us.

“We’re higher than downtown!”

Yes. Yes we are.

“I can’t wait to go through the clouds!”

And, Mother now, from the other side of the aisle, “You remember I told you about when I was flying back and the clouds were below me and the sun was going down and it was all pink? I was thinking that’ll be a little bit like where Oma will be going soon…”

My heart jumped into my throat.

“…to Heaven.”

I later overheard the story. This mother is bringing her kids to Winnipeg, where her husband has been for three weeks with his dying mother. The rest of the family is coming to say goodbye.

Their youthful exuberance coupled with the factual delicacy with which their mother talked about Oma’s death – All that was unsaid sat like a rock in my chest. I get these glimpses into people’s lives that not a lot of people get. If one does enough of it, the world of billeting and couch crashing will at some point bring them to a place of “Hi-nice-to-see-you-where’s-the-bathroom-can-I-borrow-a-towel?” But the truth is that you can tell a lot about the heart of a person when you stay in their home. And today I was impacted by what I discovered about the stranger whose home I’m in tonight. Uncle Dan. Not my uncle Dan, but Uncle Dan nonetheless, (whose age would make him closer to being a grandfather than an uncle to me.)

And what I learned while brushing my teeth in Uncle Dan’s basement was that he had a Ruth (I think), and he had her for many years. I think he does not have her anymore, and I think he will never be the same. The careful placement of each photo; a piece of driftwood with their names and the name of a beach carved into it… I think these are her clothes zipped under a cover and hanging on racks by my bed in what will be my bedroom for the week.

We don’t know what they are, but there are stories all around us.

Joni Mitchell talks in her book about when she “cracked” in her mid twenties. She said she was out on the highway one day and saw a boat go by with its propeller up in the air, and she began to sob and sob thinking about the fish.

I think I’m cracking. Feeling everything. Walking around open.

I’ve had similar experiences on the highway, overwhelmed by the weight of the thought of this stupid concrete wildlife death-sentence dumped in the middle of some creature’s habitat, and humankind’s stupid sense of entitlement that causes us to criticize the deer for darting out in front of our car even though it was US who chose to hurtle ourselves through the dark of night in a speeding metal contraption through their home, the equivalent of their living room! … I’ve missed my own point.

Tonight I found my way to some live music in Winnipeg and met a few strangers – (that happens a lot when I go places on my own) – and I learned about a few more stories. For some reason my own story leads me into an astounding number of other people’s stories. Sometimes I wonder why not one significant others’ story, or one BFFL’s (Best Friend For Life) story. But today I’m really grateful. I’m just really grateful for my life’s grand adventure, and I hope that by staying cracked, answering when adventure calls, and being obedient to the Muse, all these foolish tears will be worthwhile.

It will be a life fully lived.

About natalieinga

Natalie is a young actress and singer/songwriter from Alberta. She plays uplifting folk music, adores her bike (Dora), her blue spatula, and her beloved guitar, Alexander von Larrivee.