Ratted out by Granny

Trying to look as innocent as possible, I pretended to stretch and yawn, as I scanned the yard to make sure we weren’t being watched or overheard. “OK,” I whispered, “this is our escape plan.” 

 We’d broken out of this joint before and I was sure we could do it again, but my kid brother, wasn’t so sure. He mumbled, “Why don’t we just wait for Mom?” “Are you kidding,” I snapped, “do you really want to spend another day in here?” He lowered his head and said, “No, I guess not.” 

I could understand his reluctance to make another break for freedom, considering how disastrous our last attempt went — let’s just say, we didn’t think things through. We did everything wrong right from the start; we made a run for it in broad daylight, we had no food or water and we had no idea where we were going. 

It was soon after we arrived inside these grey walls that I knew we had to get out of here and find mom and dad.

Because we had run away before, they separated my brother and me. The only place we could meet up was in the church during mass.

It was there that we had found a way out. We noticed the priest would disappear behind a curtain and soon after that he’d drive away.

We stayed and pretended to pray until everyone had left. We found the secret door that led downstairs and out an unguarded back door. Amen!

Like two cats being chased by a dog, we headed for parts unknown — literally.

We just ran with no plan. For the next few hours of freedom we were as happy as two escaped convicts could be; but our joy soon turned to worry, worry turned to panic and panic turned into fear.

Imagine you’re a lost kid in the woods and it’s getting dark.

As the sun came up it struck me; the east. I knew that the sun came over a mountain behind our grandmother’s house. From the top of a hill I could see that same mountain. 

A few hours later we were in the loving arms of granny and like all good grandmothers; she asked us if we were hungry? That night we slept like babies in a big warm bed. 

The next morning we were awoken by voices at the front door. A man’s voice asked, “Where are they?” We had been ratted out by granny. 

 Before we came to the mission, we enjoyed a middle-class life in the States; we attended a regular school, dad drove a Buick and we enjoyed apple pie. Then the American dream turned into the Canadian Nightmare when our dad fell into a whisky bottle, got fired and we had to move back to Canada.  

The only job a Native woman could get back then was either cooking or cleaning.

Mom got a job in a logging camp — she had no choice except to put us in the mission — it was the law.

I hated her for leaving us there. I was just a little kid who didn’t realize just how deeply it hurt her to say goodbye to her children.  

As you walk into the entrance of every mission, to the right there is a room called the visiting room; we called it the crying room, because there was always parents and kids hugging and sobbing.

Email Bernie Bates at beeinthebonnet@shaw.ca