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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ


BY Sonny Orr Dec 3, 2020

After using white-knuckle driving skills to drive icy roads up hills and around deep curves on an isolated gravel road, we returned home after seeing a few ptarmigans flitting about. They were hard to see against a bland white background, with fading grey light turning dark in minutes. 

We pack up the sleeping children, who urged us to take them. I learned a long time ago the ancient art of babysitting kids with a vehicle. You just drive around a truckload of little people on a bumpy road very slowly with the heat on and when the last one drops their nodding head, you take them home, snoozing and quiet.

The next morning, they are up and hungry as I’m outside clearing a foot of snow away from my trusty AWD. It’s cold and the swirling snow keeps driving in hard. It looks like a blizzard, but for We the North, this is normal for early winter.

We pile the kids back into the car and drive off to school and daycare, with the hazard lights flashing and the wipers slashing. The kids whimper as the cold winds whip away their breath, but all is okay, it’s just another day. 

Then to work where colleagues are still brushing snow off their shoulders. Amazingly, the morning goes by without a hitch and lunch is served after another snow-removing stint. It’s only noon and the third time I’ve pulled out my snow shovel. Later, the workday disappears into a work night even though it’s late afternoon. 

The blizzard rages on and it is time to get the little ones again. Then it’s off to line up in the blizzard outside a store with other masked folks. The winter clothes are in full use with a month to go before winter solstice arrives. I remove more snow with my intrepid shovel. The next day, it’s the same routine – shovelling and getting around.

Finally, we get a break from winter’s wrath of snow-heaping dunes, but just to get us in the craw, the temperature then starts dropping. Early in the afternoon, it’s homeward bound to deal with a sewage backup. The kids are sent to another home as we trudge through our soaked belongings and dispose of them in the name of health safety.

Finally, we get a break when the hardworking guys find the blocked main and release the backed-up pressure. The water and gunk swirl down the drainage hole that I now know is an essential part of the overall architectural plan of things.

Then magically, the neighbourhood is quiet again. What will happen next? We’ve already had a few power failures which are almost normal these days. I’m sitting here anticipating some sort of catastrophic event, something that could turn me into a blubbering idiot of a man. 

Maybe if the store ran out of chicken, we could see people desperately searching for freezer-burnt portions of seasoned-breaded chicken strips to satisfy their incurable hunger for white poultry meat. Perhaps the postal service could go on strike for Christmas due to the heavy loads that were once made by elves and borne on the backs of reindeer. The elves and reindeer have been replaced by child labour, UPS and the mailman.

We are just a few postal codes south of Santa’s workshop, however, and the reindeer are everywhere, providing plenty of evidence that he’s around. Having a cuz who worked in the post office most of his adult life, he can confirm Santa’s mailing address – he is in the H0H 0H0 postal code. So send him some traditional mail – the internet doesn’t reach the North Pole yet – to tell him your Christmas wish or desires.

Signing off just below the treeline as elf head of reconnaissance and intelligence, happy holidays!

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.