“Where’s Trapper? I didn’t hear him this morning,” Kokum asked, referring to her daughter’s husband. She always called him Trapper or White Man in her Ojibway language. She never called him by his English name, Bill. Her daughter, Naywich had been with this white man for a long time now, since Paul was very young. Naywich had left Paul’s father while Paul was still a small boy. He had not treated her good. Paul called the trapper, Dad and loved him as his dad. Kokum respected him.
“He’s checking the net we set yesterday. He’ll be back later.” Naywich managed to answer between pants.
“When did the pains start?”
“They started a long while ago, but they are coming so close together now that I know it won’t be long.”
“Let me have a look and see how you are doing,” Kokum said as she moved closer to help her daughter lie back. “Paul, bring some boiled water and a cloth,” she yelled.
A few minutes later, Paul entered the tent with a small pot of steaming water and a towel that had been hanging on the clothesline. “Is this what you want?” he asked.
“Yes, that’s good, now bring me some tea,” Kokum directed.
She washed her hands and commenced to check her daughter’s labour progress. After a few minutes of feeling and prodding, she sat back and said with certainty, “It won’t be long, all right. I hope I have time for my tea. Paul, hurry up!” Kokum laughed to ease the nervous look on her daughter’s face.
All they could do was to wait until the baby was ready. It would let them know when it was the time to start pushing. Kokum sipped the warm tea and sat on the floor, cross-legged, her bones still strong and healthy for her age, allowing her to sit this way. She hoped the baby would be a girl. It had been a long time since a girl was born to the family.
“Kokum, I’m hungry,” Tommy wailed off in the distance.
Kokum smiled to her daughter, whose face was contorted in pain, and got up to tend to the boys. She quickly found the flour and the frying pan and in no time at all had bannock frying on the fire. If Trapper brought some fish, they would have that later.
The dogs barked excitedly and Kokum knew before she looked up that her son-in-law was returning. The four large Husky dogs, tied to the trees at the edge of the clearing, were more than pets; they were used for the sleigh in the winter. They had to be kept tied so as not to chase a porcupine and suffer the pain of quills embedded in the mouth. The trapper had the difficult experience in the past of having to dispose of a dog with quills down its throat to end its suffering. The dogs now howled and jumped about at the sight of the canoe, knowing it was their Master returning. Their stomachs, too, ached to be fed and they knew their Master would share his fish with them. The canoe was just rounding the tip of the island and making its way toward the camp site. Paul and Tommy paid no attention to the excited animals, too occupied in their meal of hot bannock.
“Oh, I need to push,” her daughter whispered as Kokum returned to the tent.
“Okay, you push now,” Kokum said.
The long, wooden canoe slid up to the shore silently. It was steered by a man of a slight build, maybe five feet, four inches in height. A white cap covered his head and beneath that a nicely trimmed beard adorned a handsome face. He called to Paul to help him pull the canoe up onto the rocks and tie it to a tree. He then began the process of emptying it of the fresh fish that lay on its floor. He had pulled them from the small fish net that he relied on to feed his family. They would have a good meal tonight and enough fish to smoke in the smokehouse later.
He looked toward his tent and wondered why his wife had not come out to see him and his catch. Maybe she had gone to get some wood in the bush. The boys seemed to be busy. Where was the old lady, his mother-in-law? He walked toward the tent and then stopped suddenly. What was that? A baby’s cry?
The flap of the tent flew open and there stood Kokum, her face red with sweat, exclaimed with laughter, “It’s a girl!”
“A girl! Tommy, Paul, you have a sister!”, the trapper yelled excitedly to the boys. He then quietly crept into the tent to see his new daughter.
And that is how my mother came into this world.