5 Diplomats, Barefoot, drinking whiskey and talking politics

After 7 years of my early life being abroad, my first experience of Canadian wilderness was at our family cottage. Having had no freedoms, having never seen a forest or a clean lake, we spent a hot ride in our Ford Ltd, packed to the brim with bedding, food, water and books. My Father would be anxious to get up there, wanting to leave the house as early as possible. My Mother, dragging behind slightly, needing to make sure we didn’t forget anything, including dog food. The first time, my first view of this beutiful piece of land, I noticed how quiet it was, how, how dark it seemed with the clouds rolled in, and just how happy my parents seemed. My Father, happily away from phones, electricity and politics, would unwind with a stack of books. The book pile would decrease in size each day, and my Father would get more cheerful by the minute. He wouldn’t put on shoes, would wear old shorts, and t-shirts. He would shed his diplomatic distance and let go, just a little bit.

It would happen mid week. Another diplomat, who my Father was good friends with would show up to fish, and stay at the next cottage, another would join. Soon there would be 5 senior diplomats. 4 happened to be newly retired, except for my Father, who wwould sit politely asking about the fish, full well knowing, they weren’t there to fish. They would laugh, then break out the whiskey. My Mother would get us all down to the dock, to keep swimming. We could hear the laughter from the dock. My Father rarely let go, always slightly guarded, worried that someone would overhear. The cottage was different, there was no one around, no electricity, no way anyone could hear.

I would take breaks to run up and get Oreos, or water, and hear bits and pieces of war stories that no one knew about. Wild stories of defections of famous people, incidences that would make your blood curdle. Between the laughter, would be serious conversations about loss, about stress, about safety and security.

The first time I did it, I felt rather guilty, like I was eavesdropping on something so intimate, I crouched beside the open window that looked onto the screened-in porch, and overheard them all talking about guilt. The guilt that no one outside of the diplomatic circle would ever understand, keeping secrets crippled them, made them hard, made them unable to bond with their kids or wives. They had split personalities, and were relieved when they could retire, but also missed their sense of belonging in the department. My Father, never saying anything, listened. I had wondered if that is what he felt. He was distant, and often times, sentimental yet removed at the same time. A strange combination for me to understand as a child.

There it was, 5 men, dressed in cottage clothing, no suits, no shoes, sharing whiskey’s, while talking about their experience. From an early age, I knew this yearly ritual was important. I didn’t understand why, until later in life. It was group therapy. The only kind of therapy a group of ex diplomats and a then current one could have, away from civilization, away from ears (except for mine), away from the department. They never fished, they would bring their bottles of whiskey in their tackle boxes. The ice that they claimed would be for their caught fish, was for their whiskey.

As I get older, I realize how much more important those times were for my Father. Being able to let go, and express some sort of emotion as a release. I wonder if there are groups of diplomats today that meet, and do the same thing up at a cottage somewhere!

Dip Kid

Redefining What Mobile Means

Growing up, I was mobile, we were about as mobile as they came. My Father got his marching orders, we packed, we moved, and we plunked ourselves in a new country, with little contact to the rest of our family. My Father, orderly to a fault, would make sure our basics were met, food, clothing, shelter and school. The rest, was up to my insane Mother, who was blind to all warts, she saw every new country, even in its war torn stage, as a new, beautiful adventure. Between the 2, we were immersed in a countries art, food, language, and political state. It is how I fell in love with the anthropological side of every country we ever stepped foot in.

That state of mobility, had its advantages. I never had roots, I never had to make a deep and lasting friendship, I never had to love a country or a people for longer than 3 years, I knew I had an escape. That mobility, that sense of needing to leave, would later bite me right in the arse when I met my husband, and had a baby of my own.

My need to see the world, but also give my son a sense of community, and a sense of place has been so important to me. I have had conflicting emotions over the last year, full well knowing, I need to stay, I need to create a home, something stable for my son to always come back to. I wanted him to feel that he had other adults, friends, mentors, and sports that he could lean on. I, having grown up mobile, never had any of that. I was talented, so talented in keeping people at a distance, that my Father groomed me, to keep that distance in pursuit of a career that truly made me ill. What I learned in all of it, was the day my Father died, I had no one outside of my immediate family. I had made sure I kept everyone at a distance, and my parents mobile life created the perfect opportunity to not have my own community that I could lean on when I was grieving. In fact, our mobility, crippled my core without knowing it, while also making me need that sense of adventure that only travel gives.

So, I have set a plan. I have been reaching out to old friends, and I am going back to my past. I am revisiting countries that were significant to me, and finding those souls that meant something to me, but were long forgotten. We are making a home in one place, and I have opened my heart, for the very first time, to having people visit, to us being mobile enough, that we hop on a plane and visit friends.

I want my son to see, I am not afraid of having roots, but also making those connections around the world, because my roots are in fact, around the world! It dawned on me, I can have both, and I can love the adventure of both.

So where is my first stop. Well, it will have to be Ottawa of course!

Dip Kid