Experience also hands us our defining moments. It is sometimes those unguarded moments in life, when we respond with our inner self, that we recognize our true selves and decide whether it needs correction or not.
Those moments change us -- when we see ourselves exposed. One of those moments came when I was still attending Greendale Elementary School.
Actually those were beautiful years. I belonged to a large extended family that had regular Sunday gatherings. I had a total of six girl cousins who were all my age -- and who were all born within months of each other. In fact, three of us were a day apart -- which meant sharing a birthday party at Cultus Lake each year that even made it into the social column of our local Chilliwack paper. On top of that I had cousins in every grade. We felt we owned that school.
In my irrational child's mind, the row of chestnut tress planted by my grandfather along the school property line testified to the fact that we "owned" the school.
The amazing part of it was how we all got along. Well, there was one day when we didn't. Well, perhaps there were two. One day I was accused of being the offender -- that's when I learned that it was very advantageous to apologize profusely and immediately. The other day, I was furious with one of my cousins. I'm actually not quite sure what it was all about, but I think she said something nasty and untrue.
We met in the girls' washroom in the basement of the school.
She was one month older than me. She was the strong-willed, favored child of the family, the only girl in a family of three boys, and had a pert nose, red hair -- and a temperament to match.
Suddenly that normal washroom, five stalls long, became an outrageous battleground. The walls dissolved as we went at each other -- hitting, screaming and throwing things. We went under and over those stalls as if they weren't even there. We encompassed it all.
It was a cat fight like no other.
I remember faces appearing at the entry doorway and wondering why anyone would be interested. No one dared to come in. Hot lava anger flowed uncontrollably as we had it out with each other. No holds barred. It was ugly.
And then it was over! I left the washroom -- the growing crowd at the door parting silently to let me through. She went one way -- I went the other way.
I have no idea who won. I just remember feeling elated that I had confronted her -- but also defeated that I had actually lost my temper at school in front of everyone. And that I had fought with my wonderful cousin. I also remember a certain satisfaction that I had settled it. Whatever it was -- was not going to happen again.
Then the oddest thing happened. After we left the washroom, having made our uneasy peace, we became friends. Best friends in fact! It was as if she became a cousin-friend. Our group of cousins coalesced. And we were quite a gang. The only way I can describe the six of us is in terms of type. We had a Marilyn Munro, a Meryl Streep, an Angelina Jolie, a Celine Dion -- complete with a wonderful voice -- and now we had a fiery Lucy!
It was a friendship that outlasted all the others -- as we followed each other through high school, and even to Bible School. We hung around with other groups -- but always found each other at end of day. It was only when we both married that our lives parted. She moved to Edmonton -- I to Winnipeg. Years later, her husband called me when she found out she had terminal cancer. We were close to the very end. We were able to say our heart-breaking good byes.
There was another consequence of that epic cat fight. The self-constructed image of myself as being an easy-going, peaceful person died -- as it has many times.
I'm actually remembering another incident.
I grew up with a red-haired boy right next door. Both of our mothers suffered from depression and didn't really have the energy to monitor us; so early each morning, he would knock on our door and ask, "Can you play?" And off we would go to explore the countryside -- following those nature-filled ditches that wound through our lovely Greendale valley.
Inevitably at the end of the day, his temper would flare -- or mine. Even though he was one year younger than I was, he was much stronger, capable of running roughshod over me if I didn't stand my ground.
I learned that If he dared to swing the skipping rope at me - I would chase him with my hula hoop. Sometimes we would end the day wailing in pain - sometimes we would laugh. But it never mattered. The next day he would knock on my door again - and off we would go to collect polliwogs. We were partners in adventure.
The ditches were filled with trillions of polliwog eggs, in jelly-like masses, clumped together on sticks. We were great at spotting them and found the perfect place to keep them -- a trough where rain water collected. At that time, before refrigeration, farms had milk sheds and troughs specifically designed to hold three 10-gallon milk cans to keep the milk cool. The milk shed had been abandoned and only the coffin-sized concrete trough was left. We filled the entire trough with the polliwog eggs. They were so safe there and the temperature so perfect that spring that all the eggs developed into tadpoles - something that doesn't usually happen in nature. And we were blessed with millions, if not trillions, of frogs hopping all over - a modern-day plague. Everyone was so upset and horrified. No one ever realized who had caused it - and we weren't about to tell anyone.
What I'm realizing - even as I'm remembering and writing about all of this - is that I had very early learned to do border skirmishes well... hissing when stepped on -- adjusting, protecting while still enjoying the other.
It was probably these childhood experiences that forced me to confront my father later, as a teen, about his non-realistic pacifistic stance. Peace is not about running from conflict. Peace is about the need to fight differently - and with a different end in mind. We don't want to destroy and vanquish our enemies - we only want them to not destroy us or the relationship we are so carefully building with them.
Even Jesus built his ministry on border skirmishes -- notably with Peter his best friend - but also with the church of the day.
I would rather have a million churches in one denomination - each self sufficient - each slightly different, respecting each other, and each living out their beliefs, than having one dominating religion that is forced to fight to control -- often in unhealthy ways.
I would rather have the occasional - peace-destroying - difficult conversation - or a bit of an all out and out struggle in the hidden basement washroom - than a vicious world war that destroys armies - and their countries. So big - we've often forgotten why we are fighting.
We need to have those conversations -- we need to process justice issues. We need to establish boundaries. And if we do it right, there are no losers -- only learners.
My saying that I would "forgive" - after Candace's body was found - never meant it would all be swept under the rug. Murder is wrong. It would require a very difficult and life-changing conversation to address and confront all the issues.
I'm not surprised that we are still in this conversation - almost 33 years later.
It is worth staying in it - until we get it right.
“There are 2 kinds of fighters: those who fight because they hate, and those who fight because they love.” ― Criss Jami