It was a sunny mid-morning in 1989. I was looking for a new job and I was lost! How could I be! I was only a mile out of the city in the little suburb of MiddleChurch.
Although I had never been right into this area on the outskirts of Winnipeg before… I had passed by it on highway 9, many times on my way north and out of the city. MiddleChurch is on the way to Lockport, the old settler’s Fort Garry and the city of Selkirk, Manitoba.
Going around the winding river roads, I saw an “old folks” home. I thought I’d go in there and ask for help. I was “feeling” alone, isolated, this day and I couldn’t… or wouldn’t tell anyone.
As I started to walk up the sidewalk to the front door of this “old folks” home, I remembered, as a child, going to Lockport Amusement Park about 15 miles up the road. It was a time that seemed so long ago. Not a fun time… not for me as a child growing up in the slums of the city. Going anywhere away from the ugly life, living in the Jarvis Avenue area in the 50’s, was good.
Anyways… I went in and approached someone at the front desk to ask for direction to the “juvenile detention center”, where I thought I might find a job. As I got closer to the counter, a child, on big chair, in front of a window, beside a fireplace… caught my eye. No. It wasn’t a child. It was a little old lady wrapped in a blue patterned blanket. She was so tiny and upon getting closer, I saw how frail she was. I was amazed! She looked so familiar. She had such deep dark eyes and a large nose. A nose that reminded me of a majestic Egyptian queen or someone closer to me… Hmmm?
Then it hit me. There was a tiny dark eyed-haired woman, who would come twice a year, riding a big orange and yellow transit bus. With the “big pumpkin” spitting out stinky diesel fumes, parking right in front of my house, near the Salter street bridge underpass, this woman would herd a whole lot of us onto the bus.
All of us impoverished kids, about one third visible “Indians” would be loaded on and taken away. Off to the Red River Exhibition, to eat American ice-cream and ride the thrilling-scary rides. Off to the amusement park by the locks on the Red River. Places that our parents maybe dreamed of going themselves or wished they could send us. For many reasons our parents or whom ever was looking after us, could never afford to send us. Even though I was scared… the times I spent at those midways and on those carnival rides were so exciting and such wondrous events for me.
Mrs. Noble – She just sat there, her head not moving. Looking straight ahead. I walked closer, very slowly and deliberately and I knelt in front of here. I looked closer and tried to smile. I caught her eyes and she tilted her head to the side. I felt a sadness and joy at the same time… kind of like, when, you say I love to someone that you’ve missed and haven’t seen for a very long time. Memories of little white and red stands, confectionary shacks with all kinds of food and candy and rides and lots and lots of people swarmed through my head. I was so excited. Meekly in my most gentle tone, I asked, ” Mrs. Noble?”
She raised her head slightly and said “Yes.”
It was her! Mrs. Noble.
I gently reached for her tiny hand and said, “Do you remember taking kids to the Red River Exhibition and to Lockport Amusement Park and to the Shrine Circus?” She answered, “Yes.” I was so touched that I had tears in my eyes as I said, “Thank you.” And as I said this I realized that she was tied to her chair! She was wrapped mummy-like. At first I didn’t understand this… I felt – deeply connected with to her being tied up and confined. Locked up. She seemed so all alone. And this was a people’s “old folks” home.
I just remembered her gifts to me long ago… and even though I didn’t understand why she did it then, I felt “special” from her actions. A fleeting escape from that life long ago.
I wanted and needed to let her know that her taking time and effort to care for me – even if she didn’t recognize me then, that I would – eventually be able to – To become able to care even more for others because of her.
I said to this compassionate woman – a hero in my eyes, “I came here, Mrs. Noble, to say thank you from all those kids you helped out so many times. You gave us all so much hope and helped us escape from the old North End. from poverty – from life. When I think of what you did for me, Mrs. Noble… I feel so much happiness and I need to say to you –
Pilamaya, Wakan Tanka – thank you, God – for you Mrs. Noble.”
With her eyes shining deep black at me, she asked, “How can you remember those days so long ago?”
“I choose to remember those good times because they were the best times of my childhood.” I softly said. trying to smile through my thoughts of loss and sadness.
As I fought back tears as I gently hugged her and I couldn’t look her in the eyes and I muttered, “Thank you… Good – bye Mrs. Noble.”
As I walked to my car, I cried silently and smiled inside. I didn’t get to ask where I was or where I was going to, but I did find a treasure. This little white woman… and how she had brought to me hope… faith to me…. in a desolate times in my childhood. After all, she was and is the grand Mrs. Noble – an angel.
I wrote this again and again and I think about her often… wonder about what made her able to do the service she did… and she silently inspires me to be a better human being.