March 08, 2015 - Rhiannon & Avery (1st people I approached)
It was such a lovely day and all I could think about was getting outside this morning and finding today’s story. Aside from meeting Emily during filming for the documentary ‘Not A Stranger,’ I haven’t written about anyone new for five days. I’m experiencing stranger’s withdrawal, perhaps?
I had it in my mind I was going to go out, find today’s story and then go sit at one of my favourite coffee shops, Moii Cafe on Cambie Street. It’s a small independent cafe near Broadway on Cambie St. It has an eclectic decor, including a decent collection of Archie comics. They serve some amazing looking crepes, bubble tea and good coffee. Recently, Moii Cafe become a sponsor of my project, buying my coffee when I go there to write.
I had a few areas in mind that I was going to walk to, looking for someone to chat with. I saw Rhiannon and Avery, who I took to be mother and daughter, walking down the street holding hands. I wasn't even that far from my house. I walked ahead of them, as thought about asking them to chat. I stopped, turned around, and asked if I could chat with them for a bit. I explained what my project is about, and said that I normally speak with one person at a time. With it being International Women's Day, I thought it would be nice to speak with a mother and daughter. The mother told me she didn’t mind, and asked her daughter if that would be ok. The young girl shrugged her shoulders and said “Sure, I guess so.”
After I asked Rhiannon how to spell her name, she told me
“If you can’t remember it, there’s a Fleetwood Mac song called Rhiannon. It’s a Welsh name.”
Avery added “I knew that,” proudly. I asked if she was referring to knowing it was a Fleetwood Mac song, or a Welsh name.
“No, I just know it’s a good song, I like it,” she said.
Rhiannon was born in Edmonton, Alberta.
“So you’re an Albertan?” Avery asked of her mother.
“I was born there,” Rhiannon said.
“But when I was three years old we moved to the (Vancouver) Island. We lived in the Parksville/Qualicum area,” she said. I asked if she had any siblings, and Avery answered at the same time as her mother.
“No.” Her father had passed away when she was very young, Rhiannon was an only child, raised by her single mother.
“I left school in Grade nine. I just wasn't a student sit-in-school type of teenager,” she said.
“I worked and then when I was about eighteen, I left and started travelling. I’ve been all over the country.”
“I was pregnant with Avery when I was twenty-seven,” said Rhiannon. Avery was sitting on a low, concrete wall behind the bench where we were sitting. Then she would jump off the wall, and climb back on again. She’d come back, sit down and join in on the conversation, then move around some more.
“I’m eight,” she told me when I asked.
“I was born in January, 2007.” It’s clear the two of them have a good relationship. Avery attends a Francophone school and is fluent in French and English. I asked Avery if she ever spoke in French so that her mother didn’t know what she was saying. She smiled and told me that she didn’t.
“She’s tried. I’m not fluent in French, but I speak some of it. We get along well. And I’m the mother,” said Rhiannon, looking lovingly into her daughter’s eyes. They smile at one another.
Rhiannon recently completed high-school and got her Dogwood Certification (British Columbia Education standard).
“I’m doing a writing course at UBC (University of British Columbia) now. I’m taking the HUM course (Humanities). They offer support with transit fares and they provide meals before classes as well. And I’ve got my UBC Student Union Card. The course is designed to help people living in the Downtown Eastside, downtown south, as well those living nearby. It’s a good program,” Rhiannon told me. (*Fact Check - see link below.)
“Avery isn't a glittery girly type girl, she never has been. She spends time playing with other girls but she also had good friends who are boys. My best friend was a boy when I was growing up as well,” said Rhiannon. Avery then makes sure we know that she either plays with her group of friends who are girls, or her group of friends who are boys.
“I don’t play with (them) together at the same time,” she says, using her hands to punctuate the distinction.
“She has a good solid group of friends,” her mother adds.
“I thought about the fact that it's International Women’s Day when we got up this morning,” Rhiannon says.
“I was wondering what we could do to mark the day, or something that would represent it.” As a mother of a young girl, Rhiannon worries about the information that Avery sees as an eight year old.
“We haven’t gotten into sexuality, or boyfriends or the like, yet. But I know she sees information everywhere. On television, in advertising, it’s everywhere. She sees Victoria’s Secret models and doesn’t think of it in terms of sexuality, but she knows that the boys look at it,” Rhiannon says.
“My mother has a close and different relationship with Avery. She’ll come home from school and tell me about something that happened at school, and I panic and worry. My mother is a bit more removed from it in that way, and has a good handle on speaking with Avery about all kinds of things.” Rhiannon’s mother grew up in Vancouver.
She was, as Rhiannon describes her “a feminist at a time when they were and still are, fighting for rights and equality.” Her mother has talked with Rhiannon about how life was as a single parent then, compared to how thing are now.
“Avery can ask her anything, it doesn’t matter. And she knows that. There isn’t anything we can’t talk about.” Rhiannon is a single parent.
I asked if Avery she knew what International Women’s Day means, or if she had any thoughts about it.
“I only heard of it for the first time last year,” she says quickly. She then spends a few moments considering the question.
“No, I don’t really know what it is.” Her mother asks her what it means to her, when she hears the term. Again, Avery considerers it for a bit, then replies,
“I really don’t know.” Rhiannon tells her that it’s about celebrating women all over the world.
"It’s to acknowledge all the work that women have done for all of us. For those who have fought for rights and for those that still do. It’s about how strong and wonderful women are. We can grow and carry a baby in our bodies. How amazing is that?!” Avery replies
“Well, men can grow a baby, but they can’t give birth to one.” I confirm this to be true.
Avery agrees that it’s important to celebrate women. She tells me that she doesn’t feel that boys and girls are any different.
“No, not really,” she says. Avery also says she doesn't experience being treated any differently from boys either. She continues moving around, climbing on the wall again, walking along it, jumping off one end, then running to the other end to climb it again. It’s time for them to continue on with their morning.
"I worry that she won't... well, I certainly can't afford to buy a house, and I worry about what things will be like for Avery when she's older. I mean it's not that buying a house is the only measure of success. But it's a security. You don't hear as much now about people having the family home that they've had for generations," Rhiannon tells me.
“Tell Colin what we’re going to do, Avery,” says Rhiannon.
“We’re going to go buy some tennis balls so we can go and play tennis,” Avery says, excitedly.
I ask to take their picture, telling Avery to sit however she wants to for the photograph. She climbs on the bench, then onto the wall. She puts her arms around her mothers neck and then slides in behind Rhiannon. I take a few pictures and Avery stops long enough to take a quick glance, before getting back to climbing. “I used to climb a lot when I was younger," says Rhiannon smiling.
"Except it was hiking in mountains and hill climbing that I did. Nowadays all the kids are climbing on everything, everywhere.”
I thanked Rhiannon and Avery for chatting with me, especially with it being International Women’s Day.
“I grew up with a lot of women in my life, and Avery has a lot of women in her life also. Lots of girls and women.”
As we were saying goodbye Avery calls out
“Hey Mum, watch this!” She runs at a pillar at the end of the wall. It's tall enough that she can just reach up and grab the top with her hands, her arms fully extended. She climbs the pillar, pulling her weight up. With very little effort, she gets to the top.
“Ok, let’s go get those tennis balls.” #notastranger
*Fact Check - http://humanities101.arts.ubc.ca
Today’s story is sponsored by Moii Cafe, 2259 Cambie Street, Vancouver.