Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

My Dad, Allan Cooper, reading poetry at the Université de
Moncton library.
"Everyone knows Allan Cooper."

That was how my father was introduced on Thursday, April 24th, when going up to read his poetry at a Frye Festival event here in Moncton.

Something about that moment filled me with such immense pride that, I couldn't help but beam and clap loudly as he went to the front to read.

Those few words summed up my childhood with Allan Cooper pretty well. If I went anywhere with Dad, you could be sure that we were going to run into at least one person he knew, and he'd have a chat with them. It was, and still is, an inevitability. He'd even spend a few minutes catching up with the woman working the counter at the post office if he was just popping in to get the mail. Anywhere I went with Dad would end in a slightly longer trip than expected.  Sometimes, though, it wouldn't be because we ran into people, but because we went on an impromptu adventure. He'd tell me stories about when he was a kid and his father--my grandfather John Cooper, who I sadly never met--would take him on adventures. They'd get to the bottom of a street, and Grampie John would ask Dad "left or right, boy?". Dad continued this tradition on with me, and we still do this sometimes on my days off. My Dad loves to golf, too, and often spends a sunny day in the summer time on the greens of Fundy.

My Dad is a social animal, but he is also well known for his talents. He's is a poet--that's his full-time job. He's written 14 books and won literary awards. As previously mentioned, he's read at the Frye Festival, on numerous occasions. In addition to being a poet, he's also a musician. He started out with a blues trio and went on to do his own solo projects. He's been nominated for Music NB awards and has played showcases for both Music NB and the East Coast Music Awards. Dad wanted to be a poet since he was a young man, and the fact that he's been able to follow his dreams his whole life has been an immense inspiration to me.

Me and Dad a few years ago, heading out to see the band
Mother Mother in concert together.
Dad also was the one in charge of cooking, most of the time. Being a poet, he would stay at home while Mom went to work. Most of the time, she was working as an English professor, but early on she did some freelancing. Dad would stay home to do the cooking and the cleaning while I was at school, and I would often come home and plop myself in front of my Nintendo 64 while he worked on one of his delicious suppers. I attribute my cooking ability today to Dad's influence.

Being an artist himself, Dad always has encouraged me to pursue my own dreams of becoming a writer. He has helped me edit and proofread my own poetry and helped me find my voice, in addition to all the guidance he gave me growing up. Now, spending time with my dad isn't just like hanging out with a family member--he's a good friend. We still spend a lot of time going for hikes together, which we did when I was in high school--this, and his influence, helped me have an appreciation for the woods and nature. We used to go on the back of the hill and pick blueberries to make pies together. We've played many, many hours of Mario Golf and Mario Kart together. Besides the serious side he displays while reading poetry and playing music, many friends and family members can account for his silliness and fun-loving attitude.

One of my favourite early memories of Dad was when I was very young--probably only 2 or 3. Dad had a big garden in our lower lot in Riverview. He grew big, beautiful tomatoes, and one day had picked one to show me. It was gorgeous--but sadly, I thought it was an apple. He encouraged me to take a bite, and I did. And I didn't like tomatoes again until I was about 23. Now, I'm growing my own tomatoes.

I could go on forever about my dad. I feel incredibly lucky to have had a close relationship with him all these years and I always enjoy spending time with him. He's promised me we're going to spend some time this summer doing a writing workshop together and going on hikes. Last year, we spent a day out on the beautiful Matthew's Head trail in Fundy park, and I can only imagine we're going to do something similar this summer.

Thanks for everything you've done for me, Dad. Here's to the future continuing to be filled with a healthy mixture of silliness and seriousness. I love you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I was born in the Moncton Hospital in 1986. I lived in Riverview until I was 5, when we moved to Alma. I started attending Université de Moncton in 2004, and lived in Moncton in fall and winter until 2008, when I moved here year-round. I joke to people "I was born in Moncton, and I'm still here! I haven't gone far in life!", but I love this city. I can't go for a walk without seeing somebody I know, and that's just from working customer service here in the last five years.

Last week, tragedy unfolded. Our beautiful city, a vibrant and close-knit community, was under threat from a gunman. More than a third of Moncton was in lockdown. I had friends who heard the gunshots while out walking, thinking people were setting off fireworks because it was such a beautiful day. I knew at least six families, off the top of my head, who were in the red zone. We weren't, but we were close enough that we didn't want to risk it--the closest police barricade was only five minutes away. #prayformoncton was trending globally on Twitter--a recognition we sadly hoped would be in better circumstances.

Everyone in Moncton was somehow affected by the hours of terror that followed. Five officers were shot, three of whom died from their wounds--their families and friends, to say the least, were among the most affected.
These are the three officers whose names we must remember: Constable Dave Ross, Constable Fabrice Gevaudan, and Constable Douglas Larche. These three men died protecting our city.

Despite the terror and fear, though, there was one thing I noticed about the situation that made our beautiful community seem even more so.

Love. Support. Unity.

People were sharing information--not the locations of the RCMP and their movements, mind you, as was requested of us--and putting friends up in their homes. Porch lights were on across the city to aid the police in their manhunt, leaving a city that felt very dark covered in lights of hope. People stayed in their homes in an attempt to make the suspect the only person moving. The whole city was at a virtual standstill as businesses closed and buses were pulled off the roads. When the announcement came that the suspect was in custody, there was a flood of relief. People were on the roads at 1:30 AM, cheering and smiling. I'm sure I'm not the only one who immediately felt safe again.

The days that followed the shooter's arrest were filled with such an outpouring of support for the RCMP and other first responders that I couldn't help but be proud. I went to get lunch with my mom the day after, and an officer was behind me in line. With tears in my eyes, I shook his hand and thanked him. I watched as he approached the front of the line and a man tried to pay for his lunch. The woman behind the cash smiled and shook her head, saying "it's on us". Business signs on Mountain Road were changed to say "thank you RCMP". My own workplace started selling muffins, 100% of the proceeds going toward the Moncton Fallen RCMP Members Memorial Fund, and today I am trading in my work uniform of green and black for red and white to show my support.

Friday night, a candlelight vigil was held in front of the RCMP's office on Main Street. I've heard mixed reports that anywhere from 2,000-10,000 people were there, but I would believe any number on that spectrum. My husband and I went to witness it, and it was incredible. Flowers covered the steps leading to the building to the point that they had to be left on the street. There was so much love and respect.

This is a public thank you to the RCMP, who were professional and dealt with a difficult situation in a way I can't imagine being any better. Thank you for protecting our beautiful city while mourning your friends, who must have been like family members to you. My heart is with the family and friends of everyone affected by this tragedy.

Violence causes so much pain in everyone's lives, both physically and mentally. To see Moncton come together in love for each other has been so important during this time. It is my sincere wish that through these horrific events, something beautiful can come, and from what I've seen, it's already begun. Nothing can change what happened, but we can prevent events like this from terrorizing our lives again. Violence can only beget violence; let's try to love each other a bit more.

Moncton's motto, by the way, is "Resurgo", which means "I rise up again". Never before has it been more appropriate.