This photo is proudly displayed in the Cortes Island School because it was our very first school bus.
However, it was also the truck borrowed by the Nakatsui family in 1942 when they were forced to pack up and leave Cortes forever.
The Internment of Japanese Canadians is history. No matter how compelling the events, kids seem to have a separate compartment in their brains for "History" and for many, it is not in the same file as "Real life". Finding ways to make the past real for kids can be a challenge. Sometimes it is as simple as taking a group of students out to the picture display in the hallway to show them what they've seen many times: our first school bus. Giggle, chat, point, who's grandpa is that, again?
But then, a connection to what we've just been talking about in the classroom - the big nebulous thing called the Internment. This is the truck they packed their house into. This truck. The giggles and chatter stop. They look, silently.
Real people. Real story. History.
What makes the past real for those of us who didn't experience it? The threads of connection.
While I researched this time in the history of Cortes Island, at our museum, I came across a letter from a member of the Nakatsui family, asking for any information about the couple who were interned from Cortes. Where were they sent? Where did they end up?
I sat for a long time with that letter in my hands; the tangible evidence of a note in the history books about the "scattering of families". I sat and thought about this family's suffering and about how many other families lost each other, either literally or emotionally.
For some reason, I jotted down the contact information of the inquiring family member and tucked it away with my research. A couple of weeks ago, I happened upon it and decided that since the book was now published, I should try and contact this woman. The number and address were several years old. It was a long shot, at best. Yesterday, I reached her.
We had a nice exchange and she told me about trying to find out more about her own family history.
And it was real all over again.
So, why is this so important to me? Because I truly believe in the necessity of remembering for the purposes of learning and evolving.
We readily acknowledge that growing up is all about learning from our mistakes. Well, if we have any hope as a species, we'd better learn from our mistakes.
I am dismayed to see where we are right now, as fear about terrorism and extremist rhetoric stirs anti-Muslim sentiment in North America.
I can only imagine how it feels to be a Muslim Canadian right now. I can only imagine how it felt to be a Japanese Canadian when Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in December, 1941.
I wonder if the silence of the masses was as loud just before the Internment, as it is today.
Every day, I am pulled further into the world of technology. We all are. Whether we like it or not and whether we're ready or not. This is the world we live in.
At the front of the pack, directly behind the creators and promoters, are the enthusiasts who embrace each new innovation as it comes and apparently, can absorb how to use it in their sleep. They leap out of their beds each morning and check their phones to see what has changed overnight. And something always has.
Behind this crowd, the rest of us are spread from Eager to Reluctant and all points in between. At the back of the Reluctant group, a few people are actually chained to a small machine labelled Necessity and are being dragged. They keep their feet and shuffle along miserably for the most part, but are occasionally unable to keep up, actually stumbling into the dirt and being dragged until they can scramble to their feet again. See the one being dragged face down in the mud there? That's me.
I'm not saying I don't appreciate the wonders of technology. I love how easy it is to connect with people, most of all. Behind that are a hundred other things for which I am grateful. But my gratitude list would include things like, "Elimination of typewriter," and not, "Ability to sync all my devices and have my watch tell my car where to go."
I'm thinking of this as I sit and watch an eagle above the lake, playing on the currents of the same wind that giggles its way down my stovepipe to tickle the flames which keep my fingers warm enough to type. The trees are swaying gently in unison - a tall, geeky, green campfire circle listening to Kumbaya. The lake is white capping - as though the resident trout are mooning us with their bellies: Not today, Fishers!
Yup, that's the same wind that regularly knocks trees down onto electrical wires and cuts the power to our little island. When that happens, we fire up the generator to run the well and light a lantern. The stove and oven run on propane and the house is heated by the wood stove. All we really miss when the power is out - is our gizmos. Recharging is possible with the generator, but low on the priority list behind fridges and freezers. And yet, I have noticed, I miss the electronics more and more. I have become addicted to my email. And for the first time this year, there is a tablet in the house. Now I don't have to go to the computer to check my mail. I love it.
I hate it.
The eagle is still playing in the wind, laughing at me, as I sit here with my nose stuck in my laptop, talking to you about being shackled to technology. I am resentful of every minute I spend learning how to use some program I need for my work, that I am not really interested in.
I am grateful for every connection I make with a friend, new or old, by pushing buttons. Miraculous.
Find the perfect balance, whispers the eagle as he tips his wings one way and then the other, finding the sweet spot,that lifts him up so effortlessly.
Monica Nawrocki -