7 Suitcases, by Cynthia Spring

Having moved house quite often, from a young age, I came to find that ‘home’ was a place I could find within myself; a place I would go to feel safe and at ease. I have continued to carried that with me throughout my adult life; feeling at home with family and friends, and also when on my own, wherever I may be. I have come to appreciate how grounded such a space can make a person feel. I am also aware that living where and how I do, here, makes it relatively easy to feel that sense of security. So, when a group of us decided to help bring a family to Canada, from their war-torn country, I asked myself what ‘home’ might mean to them. As we scrambled to find beds and kitchen supplies and an apartment in which to house all these things, we were striving to create a home for the family. These were people who had struggled to survive and to acquire their own basic needs, living without safety, perhaps in tent cities, without a sense of security in their outside world. I wondered how they could or would possibly be able to find a sense of home here. The family of five arrived at the airport, seven suitcases in hand, after countless hours of travel, full of energy and smiles. We greeted them, standing there, with a glow from what might have been...relief? They had fit the contents of their lives into seven simple suitcases, yet it appeared that they had brought an inner sense of peace with them as well. And, that image stayed with me. They have continued to express gratitude and excitement for anything that has lined their path, greeting new experiences...and there continue to be many!...with open hearts and minds. They gather strength from each other, and now have two more children who call Canada home. I watch them carry a sense of confidence in spite of their world having attempted to take that from them. They do, indeed carry ‘home’ within. So, while we continue to share new experiences, and delight in the outside world, we see that we may have helped to provide the house, but they have brought and continue to maintain the home. I was so taken by the spirit of the parents and their children that I began jotting notes about the things they said, and about their first impressions and experiences here in Guelph. From there, “Seven Suitcases”, has developed! The three children, Hala, Farah, and Ahmed, have provided much of the words; albeit, unknowingly at first, as I noted down their expressions and first words. As they created their story, I simply wrote it down, and provided a bit of a framework for it. We have worked on the illustrations together. They each chose different pages to illustrate, so while the style changes slightly from page to page, we have attempted to keep it similar! We are excited to launch our book in October; excited to hold the book in our hands! We are thrilled to be a part of Book Bash, and so happy that The Bookshelf has offered to help sell our book! The profits from sales will go towards helping other families who are new to Canada.

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