We used to live in tribes, even in Europe, where my people are from. My family is from England and Wales and even there, several hundreds of years ago, people lived in tribes with their children and other families. Tribes, in North America, are typically thought of as Indigenous, and this is still true today. A tribe is, ” a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader”. We don’t call them tribes in Canada, we say a community or a First Nation. But they are a tribe, a group of families linked by social, economic or blood ties with a common culture and perhaps, even if they are still lucky enough to have elders who speak their traditional language, a common dialect.
I am what many refer to as a WASP – white, anglo-saxon protestant. WASPs invaded North America in the 1770s, those were my people. They came on boats as Loyalist soldiers, ready to fight those nasty colonialists who were trying to tell Mother Britain to kiss their non-tax paying asses. This is how my people got to the Ottawa Valley – they fled north after they lost with the promise, from the the Crown, of “free land” in Upper and Lower Canada. The problem was, at the time, that land was neither free nor unoccupied. But I digress.
So, three hundred years later, here I am, still a WASP. My people, i.e. the ones I am related to by blood and not marriage, aren’t mine anymore for a variety reasons. I don’t have a mom I can call and ask to babysit our kids or help me with groceries or run an errand for me when I’ve had back surgery and can’t move. I don’t have parents who do that. Meg does, and bless them for it. I love and am so grateful for my in laws. But I don’t have a group of families that I’m bound to by blood or other social, economic or linguistic ties in the same way my ancestors were, and that’s hard. It’s really hard, especially on women. Especially when our kids are young and we’re drowning in obligation and exhaustion.
In Canada today, we typically aren’t bound at least by the same sense of neighbourhood identity or community or culture. Some people are, and they are fortunate. They are blessed with the social ties that many of us WASPs don’t have. And frankly, I’m green with envy. I wish I had those ties, those bonds. I want to take my neighbours food when they’re sick or babysit their kids if they need to get out for the night. I want to do that because it makes me feel connected to the people I care about. But we don’t tend to reach out in North America and ask, we hide in our little ticky box houses and save the pain of disconnection for our spouses or parents or, more often than not, we keep it to ourselves.
What binds you to your community, your people? Where do you find your support? Where do those ties reside? If they’re with your parents, and that works, awesome. If it doesn’t? Yeah, I get it. Also, what about our friends and neighbours? How can we support each other more? How can we show we care in a way that isn’t just a pleasantry in the morning or small talk about the weather? Next time I see you, I’m going to give you a hug if that’s ok with your boundaries. If it’s not, that’s cool too. xo Janet