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October 16, 2019

The Things That Unite Us

Fostering Community

Over the Thanksgiving weekend we welcomed a new generation into our family as my nephew and his wife gave birth to a beautiful little girl – Evelyn Weerin Foster-Duffy. It was a time of celebration, so we cancelled the planned turkey dinner in Whitby and congregated at the hospital instead. We brought food for the new mother (who after a 40 hour labour was surprisingly cheerful and perhaps not surprisingly famished). My mother is now a great-grandmother, and we felt blessed that she was able to hold this precious new life in her arms, knowing that the story of her family will continue for another generation.

Our time together was joyful as we shared stories of growing up, reflecting on the formal and informal traditions that Evelyn is now a part of. We laughed, thinking about grandma’s infamous tradition of accidentally nicking every grandchild’s finger while stubbornly insisting she had to do the inaugural nail clipping. “Hide the clippers!” became a humorous refrain when grandma visited the wee ones. We took bets as to how quickly Pops (now a great-grandfather) would try to put Evelyn on hockey skates. And we pulled childhood songs and favourite bedtime stories out of our collective memory bank to make a list of the canon Evelyn must hear.

We asked Penny, the proud mother, about her own family traditions back in Thailand. We listened as she cooed softly in Thai to her small child, mesmerized by the undulating sounds that told the story of another family far away. We shared pictures and FaceTimed with Penny’s family who had been anxiously awaiting Evelyn’s arrival from halfway around the world. And most importantly, we felt our two families united in celebration.

During this time of joy we also reflected on those no longer with us – those who shaped the prologue to Evelyn’s story: her feisty great-great-grandmother, Evelyn, for whom she was named; her beautifully eccentric great-aunt Ruby who would have showered her with warm hugs, frilly dresses and sparkly shoes; and the unsinkable Thomas Duffy, her grandfather, whose Irish charm and willingness to stand up for the little guy lives on in his son, Evelyn’s father. Each are a piece of the mosaic that forms the emerging picture of Evelyn’s life.

My family is a microcosm of our country and our school. We are made up of bits and pieces from around the world. From Canada, England, Scotland, Germany and the United States.  From Ireland, Thailand, Italy and Denmark. We each bring different dishes to the table yet join hands to give thanks for our shared blessings.

As I welcomed our students back from the long weekend, I thought about the diverse story each one brings to our school community. I wondered about the many and varied pathways that brought them to our door – each student with her own unique story of family traditions, of new generations being born and new chapters being written. I was struck not by the differences each story would bring but by the things that are the same – the celebration of each birth, the mourning of every death, the innocence of the young and the desire of parents to give their daughter a better life. It feels comforting to think that there is more to unite us than divide us. And at a time in our country when divisive politics, environmental protests on both sides and personal attacks via social media seem designed to place us in opposition, I am thankful that the Trafalgar community remains aligned through the values we share.

So welcome, dear Evelyn. Your much celebrated (albeit rather drawn out) arrival is a gift that reminds us of the importance of family, the value of community and the need to create shared experiences to unite us all. Thank you for this gift – the first of many I know you will bring. Now please, let your mother get some sleep!

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