First Encounter (Short Story)
I don’t remember my first period in detail.
I do, however, remember the first time I was given the menstruation talk so we’ll delve into that instead.
Growing up, my sister and I shared the top story of our family home. Like a finished attic, there was no doorway, just a stairwell that led up to the space we’d made our haven.
We had some very unusual games that we’d played as most young kids did, and we were curious about sexuality as most kids are. But we had no words, concepts or ideas to define what “sexuality” was other than what we’d seen portrayed on the television by adults. Sexuality was very grown up, it seemed.
It was late one evening and my sister and I had changed into our nightgowns and were playing on our beds. At that age, seven or eight years old, much of my our clothing matched. My sister in pinks and myself in blues, at five months apart, we acted a bit like twins. We’d been best friends prior to our families blending, being sisters was a dream come true.
Earlier in the evening, before nightgowns were dawned and teeth were brushed, my sister and I had come across a giant and I mean GIANT bag of pennies. I’m talking, we couldn’t have carried this bag alone, kind of big bag of pennies. So, naturally, we waited until no one was looking and we stuffed the big bag of wonder under my bed until we were alone and could figure out what to do with all of these coins. And naturally, our ideas had nothing to do with consumer purchases.
So we waited. And after the dishes were done and our lunches were packed, our bodies were scrubbed and we were clothed in attire meant for dreamland, my sister and I headed up to our haven. Dealing with two boys on the verge of being teenagers, our parents would be occupied for a short burst of time and we could be alone.
We hauled the bag onto my sister’s bed and dumped out our treasure onto her comforter. It was glorious.
We stared at the mix of rust and sheen for a long moment before reaching out to touch them. I picked up a single penny, dropped it, and then submerged both of my hands into the cool copper pile. It was a sensation entirely foreign to me. I thought of Scrooge McDuck and the crew from Ducktales. From here, my mind drifted to all the images I had of money and the odd sensuality that accompanied it.
My sister was running her hands through the pile at this point as well. The two of us sat there giggling, minds racing with the stimuli of foreign sensation.
In a moment of impulse, I lifted a handful of coins over my head and poured them down over my head and body. Just like the movies. My sister immediately followed suit and in moments, we were on our knees laughing and showering ourselves in money. With images of a grandiose atmosphere surrounding us, we were immediately transported to a world of extravagance and luxury.
“Okay Girls.” she said.
My step mom turned away from our bedroom and descended the stairwell, returning not two minutes later with her hands held behind her back.
Sitting on the bed with us and our treasure, my step mom proceeded to tell my sister and myself about the menstruation cycle of women, what we were to expect and how to properly care for our bodies while going through this experience.
We sat silent the entire time. Having no idea what the relation was between us stealing pennies and puberty, we sat. In paralyzed anticipation. What was happening? Were we being punished? Why are we talking about vaginas before bed?
After a short while, my step mom raised herself off of my sister’s bed to leave. She left us two pads and two tampons to open up and look at in our own time.
As she reached the stairs and readied herself for the nightly fight of convincing the boys to complete their homework and bed themselves at a reasonable hour, she turned back to us and said “Girls, money is very dirty. You shouldn’t put it anywhere near your Vagina.”
And that was it.
A little dumbstruck, my sister and I picked up all of the pennies and replaced them in bag before crawling into bed.
We each pulled out the feminine hygiene products given to us and poked at them curiously until “lights out” was called.
That night I closed my eyes and drifted through dream land on a giant Maxi-pad, pockets filled with pennies.
And here we find beauty (Poem)
When every element falls into place:
Nature and love and commitment and space
And the trace of potential,
It’s too monumental,
The acknowledgement of self and all of your credentials.
Just stand still and breathe it,
And know that with every iota of sound
filled with stories and lovers that wander this ground
as we race
slowly to our place of rest
I like days like this the best.
Lost at Sea (Essay)
An essay written in 2013 in response to proposed Bill C-461.
The memory of fresh coffee and CBC Northbeat is one that sits comfortably within the folds of my childhood. My mom’s daily routine entailed turning on the radio while she brewed coffee and attempted time and time again to rouse my brother and I from our warm, soft beds. I’d fumble with the toaster, frozen and half asleep, as my mother leaned against the counter, coffee in hand, listening to the broadcasters fill our morning with current affairs and local happenings. I was fortunate. I grew up in a household that not only revered the CBC but furthermore encouraged me to look at the world as a reporter might: ask questions, challenge perspectives and over all, to understand that not all sources are created equal. By middle school I understood that even in our Western Democratic Society, bias and propaganda existed in the form of distraction and sleight of hand. Instilled in me was reverence for words. Never was I to forget the power of speech and the respect and responsibility required in recounting any sort of story.
One morning, I sat at my computer with that familiar cup of Joe as a recent podcast of The Current streamed through my speakers. As I perused my email, Facebook and blogs something caught my eye. “Free the CBC”. Immediately a new tab was opened and my heart sank as I read about proposed Bill-C461 and its relation to the CBC. My CBC.
Wanting to know more, I looked into the bill and read its specifics. I was confused. Up until this point I’d had exactly zero formal education in anything pertaining to parliament or legislation. On the surface the proposed bill seemed simple. It was presented as An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act (disclosure of information) or Short Titled as the CBC and Public Service Disclosure and Transparency Act. “Sleight of hand” my conscious hissed bringing back the lessons learned in childhood. I knew there was more and was filled with an inexplicable urge to fully comprehend what was happening to Canada’s beloved Broadcast Network.
Usually when I have questions about Canadian affairs my first step is to skip over to the CBC website and check for related stories. I’d have to bypass this step as journalistic integrity would clearly be compromised if the CBC were to publish anything pertaining to the topic. Skipping this first step felt much like dropping my compass into the ocean in hopes that my navigation skills alone would guide me to my desired destination. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared; I’d grown up with the CBC and had become borderline dependent on it. This in and of itself I felt was worth examining. I was about to devote my time and energy into researching and fighting to save the CBC so first, I determined, I had to identify what about this national staple I felt made it so worth preservation.
First came the fact that the CBC gets over 62% of its funding from Government sources with only 20.3% coming from corporate sponsors. Unlike those reporting for Global Television or CTV (which are divisions of independent broadcasting networks-respectively Shaw and Bell), journalists at the CBC have more flexibility to report on hard-hitting issues without having to censor due to a conflict of interest. A simple experiment involving Google helps to exemplify this fact. If you were to go online and search “CBC News Bell”, the first five to six search results would be links to news articles on the CBC’s website. One of these articles refers to a recent court case involving Bell TV and the payout they were required to make after invading the privacy of a Nova Scotia man. Several other articles speak of a current investigation involving Data Collection that Bell Mobility is linked to. Return to the search bar and replace “CBC” with “CTV”. Not a single news article pertaining to Bell will come up.
Because of this arm’s-length advantage, the CBC has the ability to hold corporations accountable to the people to whom they provide a service. Interestingly enough, though funded federally, the CBC has successfully maintained this arm’s length approach with Ottawa also, actively reporting the going-ons and scandals that take place in parliament. This is the most important aspect of journalism in today’s modern western democratic society. The journalist provides for citizens an unofficial means of keeping corporations and governments in check. In being free to act as messengers to the people, corporate giants and majority governments are held more accountable for their actions.
It has to be mentioned that through investigating the above “Google Case Study”, I did come across an article written by CTV that quickly outlined the details of the Nova Scotia incident and Bell TV’s involvement. Said article was not, however, one that was easily found. Though available to the public, the website does a seamless job of hiding the article in plain sight among other stories, work out tips and uplifting viral videos. The CBC’s straightforward and simple platform that lacks excessive advertising allows for general public to easily access articles and news bulletins that affect and interest them.
Another thing that needs to be mentioned when discussing CBC’s unique nature is the programming they offer. Unlike other networks, the CBC is able to offer programming in both official languages. In the North where I was raised, CBC Radio broadcasted in seven different languages. This may seem excessive but in truth it is a simple and beautiful method to provide a platform with which all people can identify; it creates the image of a reliable and people-driven national broadcast network that an entire nation feels they can trust and support.
In addition to broadcasting in more languages than any other Canadian news source, the CBC offers radio programming that is unlike any other national radio program would offer. The best of example of this is their longstanding program Cross Country Checkup. Every Sunday afternoon, Canadians from across the nation and over seas tune in to listen to a nation-wide debate on a current affair of national interest. Listeners are offered the opportunity to call in (toll-free) and engage in a discussion with individuals from within their community as well as across the country. Cross Country Checkup first aired in May of 1965, offering Canadians a place to discuss the issue of universal healthcare (this, according to CBC’s website, is where the name of the program originated from). Since then it has become a Canadian Classic, being the only widely known and accessible program of its nature. programs like these allow for Canadians to actively engage in current affairs and are crucial in providing citizens with a place in which they feel their voice is heard. In a time when voter turnout continues to dip and keeping informed is placed well below “laundry” on the average person’s list of things to do, it is crucial that Programs like Cross Country Checkup are not only preserved, but also met with encouragement and support to grow and adapt with today’s ever-changing technologies and forms of media.
The CBC is clearly an integral part of Canada’s image and what we aspire to as a national community. Why, then, was it under attack? Slipping my oar into the water, I began to navigate my way across the World Wide Web, trying to make sense of Bill-C461 and what its passing would mean for the future of the CBC.
On April 30th 2013, an article was posted on an alternative news site pertaining to the CBC. Though limited in detail, it confirmed for me the Bill’s potentially devastating hidden agenda. Transparency Act. The irony was rich.
In 2011 the CBC received an F in a report card issued by the Information Commissioner for the Network’s inability to process properly Access to Information Requests. The CBC took a proactive approach to the problem, making more of their information available to the general public and restructuring their departments so that requests could be dealt with more effectively and efficiently. The result: in 2007-2008, the CBC’s refusal rate for information requested sat at 80.14%. By 2011-2012 that number had dropped to 4.24%, turning that F into an A. This jump brought in an award nomination from the Institute of Public Administration of Canada for their successful transition to greater accessibility, transparency and accountability.
The irony in this story sits in the fact that the proposed bill is being presented by a majority government that currently sits under investigation for the mishandling of large sums of money. Senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin (all appointed by Prime Minister Harper) are being investigated for claiming ineligible expenses and face a two-year suspension from parliament without out pay. A story, I might add, that the CBC has not been shy to report on. With this in mind, the potential underlying intentions of Bill-C461 become more visible.
New Democratic Party MP Jamie Nicholls puts things into perspective during the House Debate on March 26th 2013 when he was quoted saying “With this bill, the Conservatives are trying to discredit the CBC through insinuations that are not only unfounded, but also wrong…the Conservatives want to imply that the CBC operates opaquely and apparently has something to hide from Canadians.” MP Jamie Nicholls also points out that the majority of complaints filed with the CBC in relation to their access to information come directly from Sun News Networks- a network who’s original employee lineup consisted of more than a few former staff members from the Prime Minister’s office. With that, I saw land. The political agenda was clear and visible; X mark’s the spot, the story was uncovered.
Proud as I was for having found my way to my educational destination sans compass, my heart was humbled into heaviness knowing that not all Canadians had the opportunity growing up to develop the skills and self-discipline required to keep informed without the CBC acting as a gentle guide. For a moment, I envisioned a Canada without the CBC. I imagined having to conduct this much research in order to obtain any credible information or news, I envisioned the small northern communities that surrounded my hometown. They would no longer have a local news source and how eager would community members be to watch the news if the only stories that were covered involve families and neighborhoods several thousands of miles away? The fact of the matter is that the CBC is the portrait of what a National Broadcast Network should be with its elegant blend of inclusivity, Identity, Honesty and their ability to keep institutions accountable to their people. In a time of ever-changing technologies and media, we need a guide. A Canada without the CBC is a Canada lost at sea.