Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ashley

As you may imagine, life in Ross River is not all about sunny day hikes and moose meat open-faced sandwiches. I try to make it so, and have the convenience of a beautiful house to hole myself up in when I don't want to know what's going on outside our fenced yard. Since I stopped working at the school, I have been so much more calm, thanks to the new ability to turn blinders on, block out the sounds and stories I don't want to hear. I still know the same stories are being told and lived, but I think if I don't know, in real time, what's going on, my heart won't ache so bad.

Ashley and I met when she walked her double stroller into the library one day when I was working a shift there. She showed off her tow beautiful, doe-eyed children, one almost a toddler, the other a brand new baby girl. She seemed laid-back, happy to walk about town with her darlings, interested in visiting other moms in town. I found out afterwards Ashley was but 15 years old, living with her party parents on the village side of town. The exception to the rule, Ashley's two kids were both fathered by the same man, and she was trying, really trying to do right by them. She put them to sleep, put hats on their heads, fed them their formula and used her government-allotted food money to buy healthy food for her and her little family. This may seem elementary but around these parts, tat is really making an effort. So many kids here don't get this kind of a start.
Ashley's family would often sift through their fridge after a night of drinkin', looking for something-anything- to eat. In a night, all of Ashley's healthy food would be gone. Another two weeks to try and keep her kids healthy and happy.
I heard last spring that she moved with her kids to Whitehorse, away from her family. There, she planned to go to school and finish high school classes. A daycare ran out of the high school so she could know her babies were happy and in a safe place while she worked hard to make a life for them. She was to live in a government-run women's shelter, and have all kinds of support available to her.
We came back last week from our two months of paternity leave and were out for an evening walk down to the river. We saw a truck approaching, teenagers in the front and truck bed, one standing up, arms spread out like Rose in Titanic, letting the speed wind blow through her red hair, her arms, and on her face. The truck turned at the river and Rich, being the town cop, gave the signal to the girl to sit down, that was dangerous. I remember thinking to myself "that feeling of freedom would be fun, but I get it, not safe."
It was Ashley.
Ashley was back in town, looking skin and bones. I saw her a few days later, sitting on the curb behind the school, smoking. We made small talk, she said her oldest was three, the youngest was walking. Ashley's kids had been taken away from her in Whitehorse after she made some "bad decisions", I learned. Her mother had since died in a terrible fire (ruled to be caused by drunken negligence), she had lost her kids to foster care, and here she was back in Ross River.
I feel for those kids, and I know they must be with people who are able to care for them better than Ashley. But every kid needs their mama, and those were some beautiful, smart kids.

2 comments:

  1. woah, what a sad story. it's so hard when people try to do right but the odds are against them. I hope that she can find the strength to make her life better. thanks for sharing her story.

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  2. Sad, but so common.

    We have been in remote communities in the north now for six years and I feel like we have seen it all, but it still pulls on my heartstrings all the time.

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