Saturday, May 26, 2007

I Gave Birth To This Child

The Thunderbird is Tanya and Karla's clan totem.

Last Saturday, I was sitting on the bench outside the grocery store waiting for the Care-A-Van to come and pick me up when I saw my friend Tanya with her two year old Jonathon in the stroller. They were getting ready to go for a walk-a-thon. I've known Tanya since she was about 13, and she has to be the most volunteering woman I've ever met. She is always putting her energy into the community. This week she is helping to build a play ground.

When Tanya was a senior in high school, she was a member of TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use), among a number of other groups. She was chosen as one of two teens in Alaska to attend a conference in Washington D.C. honoring the top 100 teen aged volunteers in the country. Tanya and her mother, Karla, were flown to Washington and spent most of a week seeing the sights with the group and being honored.

In Washington, the teens and their parents were put up in a nice hotel, the teens with roommates from another state. The first night, Tanya wasn't hungry for dinner at 5:30 EST. Her stomach was still on AST, and it was much too early, so she ate what she could and then stopped. At 9:45 she was starving to death. The teens were not allowed to order or bring food into their rooms, and they couldn't be out after 10, so Karla ordered dinner brought to her room for Tanya. At 10 the chaperon from the event did a room check and discovered that Tanya was not in her room, but rather right across the hall in her mother's. The chaperon descended on Tanya and Karla, full of bombast and moral rectitude, demanding that Tanya return to her room "right this minute." Karla explained that Tanya was hungry. The chaperon said that dinner had been at 5:30.

"Yes," Karla responded, "but we are from Alaska and she wasn't hungry at 5:30. Now it is dinnertime for her stomach and I'm feeding her."

"It is after 10. She has to be in her own room."

"Very well, we can take the food in there."

"There is no food allowed in the kids' rooms."

"I gave birth to this child," declared Karla -- and that foolish white woman from Washington D.C., who had never dealt with a Tlingit mother before did not hear the sound of mother bear.* "And I am feeding her." After that I don't know what was said, no one has told me. I do know that Tanya spent the rest of the week as her mother's roommate. And I know that she ate when she was hungry.

* Anyone who has dealt with a Tlingit mother knows that when she says, "I gave birth to this child" the only wise thing to do is back off. The farther, the better.


J at said...

Hmmm. I may have to adopt that saying, if it gets anyone to back off....

Chancy said...

What an inspiring story.

I am sure all of us who are nothers can relate to
"I gave birth to this child" :)