My telephone wakes me in the morning
Have to get up to answer the call.
So I think I’ll go back to the family
Where no one can ring me at all.
Living this life has its problems
So I think that I’ll give it a break.
Oh, I’m going back to the family
’Cause I’ve had about all I can take.
Master’s in the counting house
Counting all his money.
Sister’s sitting by the mirror
She thinks her hair looks funny.
And here am I thinking to myself
Just wondering what things to do.
I think I enjoyed all my problems
Where didn’t I get nothing for free.
Oh, I’m going back to the family
Doing nothing is bothering me.
I’ll get a train back to the city
That soft life is getting me down.
There’s more fun away from the family
Get some action when I pull into town.
Everything I do is wrong,
What the hell was I thinking?
Phone keeps ringing all day long
I got no time for thinking.
And every day has the same old way
Of giving me too much to do.
It was this past Triduum that one of my best friends realized just how different we are from one another. She had planned a launch for her first book of poetry, and it fell on Holy Thursday. The night before, I told her that at the very least I would be quite late.
“I think I’m playing Peter in the Gospel story,” I told her. “So I won’t be there until after eight.”
She wasn’t sure what that meant, but she took it in stride. It was later in the evening, when she told us some funny stories about her experiences being a keynote speaker at a sex conference, that she turned to me and said, “We live very different lives.”
She and I have been friends since our first year of university. She had signed up to work on our college’s newspaper, and I asked if she would be interested in co-editing it with me.
Actually, we became more than friends. She had moved far away from her family up north to come to university. She felt isolated by being in the south, isolated from her culture, and alienated by a rural, predominantly white community that didn’t understand her experience or her struggles. She became a regular fixture at my family home over the course of the next two years. Our friendship extended to include my parents, and then my sister, who lived an hour away in Saskatoon at the time.
We drank tea and ate oranges every Thursday night for a whole school year — she and another friend would show up unannounced at the door after they finished their shifts in the computer lab and the library. They’d often stay until after midnight.
She and I moved away and came back to Saskatchewan at different times as we pursued school and aspirations and hare-brained schemes. Over the course of the years, regardless of where we were in the world or how often we talked, she was always one of my best friends. When my mother went into the hospital with a hemorrhagic stroke almost nine years ago, she came to the hospital and waited with us during my mom’s surgery. At that time of night only family is allowed so she told the guard she was our cousin. The guard, who happened to be a friend of our family, said he could see how she looked like me. I’m still not sure if he was fooled, or if he was giving us a pass because she wanted to be there and we needed her to be there. When her marriage broke up a few years later, I was at her house almost every day for a month.
On Good Friday of this year she and I spent most of the evening together. She told me about her book launch, about how fun it had been but also how it felt like a lot of pressure. Was this the direction her life was supposed to take? She was hilariously concerned that things wouldn’t be open because it was Good Friday. I think it’s the first time she ever noticed that the Triduum was a thing. She was supposed to go up north to be with her family for Easter, but a snowstorm north of Prince Albert kept her in Saskatoon.
I invited her to my parents’ house for supper on Sunday. She came over, tried to like the vegan icing on the cupcakes I made until I told her I didn’t think it was very good, either. She asked how many hours I had been in church the past three days. I told her it had only been six or seven hours, which I thought sounded reasonable but apparently isn’t. We drank wine and chatted. She showed my parents the dedication in her book, a litany of women who had meant a lot to her and what she admired about them, and second from the bottom was my name: “speak like Caitlin.”
At supper she told my parents, possibly for the first time, how much their friendship had meant to her when we first met. The fact that our house had always been open to her was something that got her through some difficult years.
I think this past Triduum was the first time we both realized just how very different we are from one another. While I was at Holy Thursday service she was launching a funny, edgy book of poetry about sex. But in certain ways we’ve been a lot alike: we’re both ambitious, determined, and close to our families. We both write, albeit in different ways and about different things. We both do our best to balance our personal ambition with the needs of our families. And now she calls my parents aunty and uncle. I am cousin to her, and aunty to her six-year-old daughter.
But I suppose that’s the thing about family. You don’t have to be alike at all to mean this much to one another.
Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings