Chances are you don’t remember this, Bergen, but about two weeks after you were born I drove up to your parents’ house in Nelson to meet you for the first time. It was a gorgeous August afternoon in the summer of 2016 and when I pulled up to the sidewalk in Uphill I could see my friend Sam Van Schie — your mother — cradling you in the window.
“Her name means mountain dweller,” she told me, placing you gently in my arms. Eyes closed, swaddled in blankets, you were clearly mid-nap.
“Isn’t she beautiful?”
The name was perfect because you lived under the benevolent gaze of Elephant Mountain, which I picture as a tree-covered Ganesh, and two minutes away from Kootenay Lake. In my opinion, it’s one of the nicest places to live in the world. As soon as she said your name I imagined Future You tree-planting and hiking, your forearms toned and your forehead sunburned.
Your mother and I have known each other for about 10 years now, since we started working together at the University of Victoria’s student newspaper The Martlet. We’ve kept in touch over the years, jumping from one journalism job to the next, and she was the one who convinced me to move to the Kootenays and take this reporter gig after she was done with it.
She’s an impressive woman, hyper-ambitious, and I imagine you’re going to follow in her feisty footsteps. That means you’re going to strut into this world with a firm idea of who you are and what you want to accomplish. And I figure that means you’d like to hear a little about the world your parents brought you into, and the one they’re trying to create for you.
Shortly after you were born, Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall posted a picture of you on Facebook. You were wearing a little toque, sleepily pawing at your face with tiny fingers, while she beamed up into the camera. Suffice to say that there aren’t many newborns who get world-greeted by politicians, so from the moment you arrived it was clear you were going to be special.
Michelle is only one of the powerful women who will surround you growing up. Two years ago, your parents worked on the campaign team that helped elect our first female mayor, Deb Kozak. It might seem unthinkable to you in the future, but there used to be a huge equality gap between the sexes. This is something we’re trying to actively address as a North American community — the U.S. may elect Hilary Clinton later this year — and something that the Kootenays is ahead of the curve on.
But politics is just one example — there are a huge number of female role models in this community, from actresses like Bessie Wapp to popstars like Kiesza to dancers like Slava Doval. Your mother was a respected journalist for half a decade. Women in our community run movie theatres, museums and ramen places.
In other words: anything a man can do, so can you.
Now that you’re reading this on some far-flung space station in 2036, having accomplished more than I can imagine, I want you to remember that back when you were a baby we all had big plans for you. Back then you still looked like a squished raisin, your skin flushed pink, but you were already sporting a pair of wide-blinking ice-blue eyes. When you caught my gaze I thought I saw an old soul flash, a look of knowing.
Maybe I was imagining it, but maybe not.