April 14, 2022 Message to Members
As a single man, I drove a Jeep. It was a 1984 CJ7, and I loved it. I drove it with a hard top and doors for half the year, and swapped those for their vinyl counterparts in the spring. The best time was when I could put down the top and lose the doors all together! It was a bare-bones model, with no insulation. The metal chassis was all that separated driver and passengers from the elements, which was fine for most of the year. However, living and working in Fort St. James made it tough to be a Jeep owner in the winter. Really tough.
Not long before our first child arrived, it became very clear that we needed a different vehicle. We replaced the Jeep for a sporty SUV. While more appropriate than an off-road deep freeze, it was still stylish and independent. I could see myself shuttling a family around town in this vehicle for many years to come. But before I could realize that vision, circumstance would step right in; before I had time to register the transformation, I was the owner of a ‘minivan’.
It was green, with a sliding door on each side. It had a third row of seats, and plenty of storage room behind them. The back end was a full-size hatch which opened like a yawning mouth. It was a very practical vehicle, and the first automatic transmission I ever owned.
The minivan made it official: I was a family man.
Although we had only two children, we travelled heavy. The sheer volume of bags, gadgets, and gear required to equip our family on the road made the minivan indispensable, something I discovered on its inaugural trip: the long weekend in April.
I have three brothers, and the one nearest to me in age lives in the Fraser Valley. He and his wife have two children as well, of similar ages to my own. Having been surrounded by many, many cousins in our youth, my brother and I made every effort to come together with our own families, so that our children could make memories, too. They are ‘Danyluks West’ and – with our home in the Kootenays – we are ‘Danyluks East’.
A frequent point of gathering over the years is exactly mid-point between our homes; it is our father’s house in Sorrento. For many years, our swollen minivan pulled into Dad’s driveway late on Thursday of the April long weekend. My brother’s entourage would arrive soon after. He and I would make several trips up and down the front steps, hauling inside all we had brought with us. Dad’s house would be overrun by toddlers and toys, and girls and boys, as we installed ourselves for the longest of the long weekends.
Over the next few days, we would over-indulge in so many ways: we ate too much, we played too much, we slept too much, we laughed too much, we argued too much, we teased too much, and we loved so much. We would spend hours at the kitchen table with candles burning and kitska in our hands. We would later gather around the same table to determine the Trivial Pursuit champion. These weekends were filled with tradition and ritual, little of which had anything to do with faith.
On a number of occasions, I have shared that my wife has her roots in Newfoundland. She was raised in a devout Roman Catholic community. I, too, was raised in the same faith, but with far less observance or adherence to its tenants. While our children are part of a faith community at home, and they understand the significance for many of this April long weekend, I believe it is fair to say that for us, this holiday in spring is most bound up in feelings of warmth and love for family.
I believe it is also fair to say that my children, as is true for many of their generation, recognize that the calendar they grew up with is narrow and incomplete. While it may be only thirty days, April is a month filled with the significant observances of many world communities. For Muslims across the globe, these weeks in spring are a sacred time for devotion, reflection, and celebration of mercy and love. April holds the Festival of Ridván which is the holiest of days in the Baháʼí Faith. In this month, Yoam Hashoah is observed with candle lighting ceremonies to honour and remember Holocaust victims and survivors. Jewish communities commemorate the anniversary of freedom from slavery during Passover this month. One of the most important Hindu festivals, Gudi Padwa, arrives in April and is thought to bring good luck, success, and happiness. A time to visit, remember, and honour family ancestors is found in Qingming Festivals, celebrated within Chinese communities as April begins.
I could continue, for the list above is far from complete. Each of these celebrations and observances, from diverse communities with many different beliefs, is unique; however, the qualities of love, honour, devotion, and connecting are present and woven across cultures. People find their essence of 'family' and 'home' in many places, and in a rainbow of formulations.
Each year, as we step through the days of the calendar, we hope that we have learned something by the time we turn the page. In this year of our learning and growth, equity calls us to draw up our calendars with space for the observances of every community, and to better understand that the joy and meaning felt in traditional celebrations are a human experience, common among all peoples.
And, for gatherings to come, our children will load their own vehicles – likely battery-powered, perhaps even hovering – with bags, gadgets, and gear, excited to connect and celebrate with family down the road. Their appreciation of diversity will continue to deepen, and to validate the purposes for which they gather on any day of the year.