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Waatebagaa-giizis (Harvest Moon) reminds me of my parents
September 4, 2012
WINNIPEG, MB, Sep 4, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Waatebagaa-giizis. The Leaves Changing Colour Moon is on its way. I can feel the season changing in the breeze that blows by me while I sit on my front steps. Some people call it the Harvest Moon; I think they are one and the same.
Waatebagaa-giizis reminds me of my parents. Once, many years ago around this time of year, my parents were arguing about something. They got along better in those later years than in the beginning, but it was still a pretty rocky relationship at times.
People think Latinos are hot-blooded when it comes to love, but they should see how sizzling some Indian relationships can get.
My Mom was giving my Dad “the silent treatment,” not speaking a word to him for several days. We kids had no idea what transgression brought this on but we noticed the silence between them.
The silent treatment was never used on us. In fact, it would have been a welcome relief if it were. We usually got the opposite: a verbal blast that got us hopping to clean up our mess, or an occasional thrown shoe if we’d been especially outrageous.
Such as when I got caught dipping my ponytail in the Thanksgiving gravy boat, or when Dallas tied the toaster cord around my cat Buffy’s tail and he raced all over the house with it bouncing behind him.
After a few days of “the silent treatment” my dad developed a strategy to make up with my mom. He sandwiched all five of us girls into the back of our vehicle and cajoled my mom into the passenger seat for an afternoon drive.
It wasn’t the best weather for a Sunday drive; summer was softening into fall, Waatebagaa-giizis, but the day was muggy and kept threatening to rain hard instead of spit.
Dallas and I were silent as we drove around the little town of Bissett, Manitoba. But we understood a bit more than the younger girls the gravity of the situation. My Dad bought junk food to keep us quiet but eventually the sugar kicked in and the girls got giggly, high-pitched and snorty, as little children will.
We did our best to keep them entertained while my Dad pulled out the charm on dear old Mom. She had her arms crossed the whole time. She would unfold them occasionally like a praying mantis so she could roll down her window and gently suck on a menthol cigarette.
Despite our Dad’s corny jokes, she maintained her best stoic Indian impression, never cracking a smile as she languished in her seat. Damn, she was good.
Then he made the best move ever. He threw Neil Young’s Harvest Moon into the tape deck. To this day I can’t listen to that album without thinking about my parents.
There was something in Young’s earnest tone that worked magic that day. My Mom seemed to mellow out and the kids seemed to enjoy the music as well. She started to talk a bit.
And then it came: Dad put his hand out to Mom. Dallas and I held our breath and waited for her to do something. Finally, she put her hand in his, and they said a few things we couldn’t hear.
A good mood came over all of us then, like when you snuggle up on your couch with a blanket on a rainy day.
We were just a bunch of kids and our parents crammed into a muddy jeep, listening to music and circling around a sleepy town on one of the last few days of summer.
There were other times when I’d see them make up again over the years, but nothing compared to that day. Gradually, the silences grew in length over the years until they could span the Grand Canyon.
They’ve been separated for years now but may never divorce.
Sometimes love can fade like leaves during Waatebagaa-giizis. But there will always be memories that remain.
Troy Media columnist Colleen Simard is an Anishinabe (Ojibway) and a writer and a mother of two. She is also a columnist for The Winnipeg Free Press.
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