If you want to go for a walk on the rez you don’t get sidewalks and stoplights, just ditches and culverts. So when my daughter was small I had to make a conscious effort to take her to town, get out of the car and walk around to acclimatize her to the concrete jungle that is Brantford.
I’ll never forget the first time I explained to her what one does at a crosswalk. It was the single most embarrassing moment of my life.
On one of our excellent times strolling through Brantford we crossed through Victoria Park. I showed her the Joseph Brant Memorial, we ate a hotdog and walked over to the corner of Market and Darling Streets. It was a lovely spring day. The sun was shining and people were merrily going about their business.
Every kid from the rez wants to push “the button” when they get to the crosswalk. My daughter was no exception.
“Push the button sweetie, then we wait.” I said to her.
“Why mommy?” she asked me sweetly.
Men, women and students from the university were starting to gather around the corner as I explained. “You see that little light up there? Well right now it is a hand, that means stop. When it becomes a little man that means walk, ok? Now don’t start walking until you see the little man.” I warned her.
“Okay mommy.” she replied.
It was around 4:30pm and a crowd of about 15-20 people had gathered at the opposite side of the street to us, waiting to make their way home from school and work. Now I swear to you that I did not see this, but amidst the crowd stood a little person. And when I say little person I legitimately mean a person of short stature, or dwarf.
I’m standing at the corner with my daughter and we were talking, when suddenly the light changed from the hand to what I was calling “the little man”. Again, totally unaware that an actual little person was standing across the street from me.
The light changed, and as we are walking across the street I pointed at the crosswalk light and said very loudly, “look at the little man sweety, do you see the little man?” literally at the exact same time that the actual little person crossed my path.
The look of horror, humiliation and dread that came over my face must have been priceless. What was even worse was that said little person must have thought I was pointing at him. Here I was looking like the world’s biggest idiot saying “do you see the little man?” to my five year old. When we crossed paths he shot me the most awful stink eye I have ever received in my life coupled with a few choice words mumbled under his breath that rhymed with cupid and ditch.
I literally stopped in the middle of the street for a second and looked all around me and saw university students, business men and homeless people all giving me group stink eye, shaking their heads and feeling pity for my poor child who had to grow up with such a horrid piece of work for a mother.
“Did you see what that woman just did?” someone said.
“Oh my gosh I can’t believe that just happened,” said another.
“No! I meant the sign! I was talking about the sign!” I tried to shout after him.
He kept walking on, but managed to flip me a one fingered salute as he marched on his way. The crowd laughed and I swear I heard someone else cheer.
I ran across the street practically dragging my daughter behind me and hid in a local coffee shop waiting for the crowd to dissipate.
Although it was agonizing at the time I learned something that day. There is much value is great humiliation; and in general don’t ever point.