Last month I went home to Fredericton, the city where I met my love, to marry him (my love, not the city). The following weekend we attended the wedding of two dear friends who also met in Fredericton – at the abortion clinic where I used to work.
You can read the story from Tania here – it’s really sweet, although of course I am biased (I’m the Peggy in the story! Confusingly age-inappropriate!). People who know me know that I love love, and it absolutely warms my heart to think that two people I care about not only met, but decided to marry, in the parking lot of a place that has been the site of so much drama and heartache. Love is often political, and I feel like proposing to Tania in that spot was a radical act on her partner’s behalf – like they were taking back that space for love.
Spaces hold meaning, and in small communities they hold many memories and associations. When the abortion clinic opened in Fredericton, the adjacent middle school was closed for the day out of fear of violence. Friends of mine who went to that school remember this vividly; for many, it was the only reason they knew there was an abortion clinic in our city before I started volunteering there. And still when the school (which is downtown and doesn’t have any outdoor exercise space) has outdoor gym classes or safety drills, the kids are often running by protesters holding up giant gory anti-abortion signs.
During their annual March for Life, anti-choice protesters reach over the back fence that divides our clinic from their crisis pregnancy centre (yeah, it’s next door) and rub holy water in the shape of the cross on to the building. The small fences create a boundary where the protesters are not allowed to walk on clinic days. A safe zone.
When my partner had a summer job painting dumpsters (so glamorous!), before my association with the clinic, he started on the abortion clinic dumpster when the clinic manager – now a dear friend of ours – came out and eyed him suspiciously, asking what he was doing messing around with their garbage. The dumpster is kept locked. Anti-choice people will dig through it to find medical records and waste – things that would never be thrown out with the regular garbage, but never mind.
At the clinic I have seen people crying, screaming, hugging, sleeping, barfing and fighting. I have gently urged people out of their cars through an onslaught of protesters. I helped one woman climb over the fence when she realized she had accidentally parked at the crisis pregnancy centre. I have played with patients’ children, soothed their mothers, hugged their friends. I have refused entry to countless aggressive men, and hung up on many more. I have frozen my ass off in the parking lot, and had some of the funniest, deepest and most engaging conversations of my life with the other volunteers, and with the patients’ friends. Before I worked in the clinic, I volunteered outside – I spent hours patrolling those fragile boundaries. There’s no physical space in my life that I have protected so vehemently. I huddled there with a mass of strangers, holding candles, when Dr. Tiller died. I sat inside at my desk ignoring the stares of protesters through the window, willing myself to keep the blind open.
I thought of that space as my friends enjoyed their first dance together at their wedding. How truly lovely that a space that held (and holds) the hopes and fears of so many of the people that I care about should give birth to this moment. How strange the evolution of the places we call home.