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Over For Tea, Part 3

Wednesday January 16, 2013

The REZ radio sits on top of the entertainment centre; its obsolete cassette player is a gentle reminder of when Duran Duran or “Thriller” were on the top of my playlist.

Today, in my Aunty’s place, it strums out an acoustic guitar along with an Anishinabe voice, singing out the familiar Anishinabe language.

My Aunty is comfortable in her REZ house, comfortable enough to converse and to speak in the Anishinabe language to those around her. I’m not the only visitor today; my cousin and a few round baby faces are present. I’m not familiar with the gawking faces, but I’m sure they’re wondering who I am as well. I am the walking dude, with a big plastic cup of Red Rose Tea (with no Carnation Milk or “shu-gaw”).

From time to time, the music abruptly stops and an announcer speaks loudly through the speakers of the obsolete cassette player’s radio waves. She listens, and so do I, to what is being announced over the cold airwaves. I wonder if those announcements conference along with the billowing white smoke in the midst of the January (or was it December?) morning weather.
The living room is indeed living, and lived in, and very lively. There are two dressers, perhaps filled with clothing, fabric and other Aunty items. They stand proud and strong of a dark maple walnut, bought at an overpriced amount from the local Northern store. They serve as storage units, but also a place to put things on as well. My eye spies on blocks of fabric from a box on top of the dresser, as to be readied for a quilt in the future. Maybe it is already pieced together.

The living room walls are a mural of colourful pictures, pictures of colourful peoples that I may be related to. Most of the pictures are of children. Their dark eyes staring into a cameraman’s camera, then the image is projected to mine. They watch me from the wall: the walking dude, or the visitor, or the guy with the large plastic cup of REZ tea? I can’t date these pictures so I don’t know how current those photographs may be, but there is a wide range of frames that home the pictures. The walls also serve as hanging items; perhaps reminders of quilts to be made. I cannot know for sure unless I ask.

My Aunty continues to speak, conversing with her daughter (and with me from time to time), as I occasionally sip on my treasured REZ tea. Their dialogue is colourful, filled with the Anishinabe language. Each sound is a musical note, lulling me back and forth, from the present to the past.

As a child, I remember staying over at my Aunty’s place and sleeping all clustered together in the livingroom floor. The quilted and layered warm blankets; the foam mattress, covered up in a plaided or floral design sheet; the wind howling outside, beckoning to get in; a kerosene lamp makes the walls orange and casts of shadows. The tick-tocking of the wind-up clock displays white numbers on a black background; it’s accompanied along with other items on the table. But I can remember sleeping with the last sound of a tick-tock before I drifted off. It is a very homey memory from my childhood.

As an adult, I sip my tea, and converse with my Aunty. She is inquisitive to the on-goings of the outside world, the world beyond the REZ. Being that I am visiting, and do live in the fast-paced city, my vast knowledge of beyond the REZ can be of a vital importance to my Aunty. I am always happy to oblige with an answer.

Occasionally I am stumped on a few of my Aunty’s questions on how to answer them. Apparently I may not be too current with my CBC intake; but I do try. From the small fly-in REZ of Poplar Hill, you really don’t expect too much newsworthy conversation like you would see a group at a local Tim Horton’s, giving their thoughts of the hot items in the Canadian worldview. I guess since my childhood, we have upped the comforts of REZ life with CBC and electricity. Still, a tick-tock clock hangs from one side of the wall. No longer is it a sitting piece on a table, but it hangs on a wall.

All the questions are nicely surface ones and are easily answerable. Questions about my schooling, where I’ve been, and when I plan on returning for another visit are important ones; will 2012 really happen; the flooding in Manitoba, etc. The one that always is an important one remains. My Aunty continues to converse and I continue to sip on my treasured REZ tea, still black. I can see that she wants to ask.

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