Our Daughter Protested Coal Trains in Her Anime Costume 17


The headline in our local newspaper yesterday was, “Coal Hearings Draw 1,000.”

Daughter protesting coal trains in Miku anime costume, Maureen Kay, author blog

Because of my concern about climate change, I felt it was important to participate in the protest that took place the day before against the coal export terminal proposed for Longview, Washington. My daughter was adamant she wanted to join me.

She felt like being Miku that same day, and so she dressed like Miku (a character from Japanese anime). There was no anime event, no school party, and it was not spirit week—just a random day she felt like appearing this way. Fortunately, she attends a public school that allows her freedom to express herself creatively.

Daughter in Miku costum, Maureen Kay, author blog

For the sake of her privacy, I will refer to her as “Ava” (her name choice) and—at least while she is a minor—not post photos that show her face.

Ava went to her orthodontist appointment as Miku. And to school as Miku. I tried to talk her out of joining me at the coal train hearing, knowing I would miss an hour and a half of it if I waited for her to come home from school. Thinking she would be tired. Picturing her in her Miku costume at the serious public event, and concerned it might cause confusion or send the wrong message. But even after her school day, she was determined to take part. There was too little time left for her to change her clothes.

I’m not just a concerned citizen. I’m also a mom. I wanted her to experience the coal trains hearing. I wanted her company.

We would sit quietly in the back, I assumed. We would communicate which side we were on by holding the small signs the Power Past Coal volunteers distributed. (The link is http://www.powerpastcoal.org/ to find out more about the campaign.)

Volunteers suggested we each take a speaking ticket, and said if we didn’t want to talk, we could pass the ticket on to a Power Past Coal organizer to give to someone else who had been waiting for a turn.

We took our tickets, and sat inside. Ava realized blue was the color of the signs and T-shirts for the pro-coal side, and she worried about her blue wig, until she decided to remove it. I offered to take our tickets to one of the organizers, but Ava said she would do it.

Coal train hearing, Maureen Kay, author blog

Small portion of the hearing room audience. Screens show ticket numbers.

An official drew ticket numbers to decide who would talk next. I felt stunned when Ava announced her ticket number had been selected. I unleashed my anxiety at her, whispering, “You kept your ticket? What will you say?”

As much as I wanted to change her mind about speaking, I knew my saying more would be a wasted effort, and only undermine her confidence even more than I already had by expressing alarm. She strode in her laced boots with 4 1/2-inch heels toward the front.

Daughter at coal trains hearing, Maureen Kay, author blog

Ava introduced herself and spoke clearly. She had thought about what she wanted to express. She spoke from her heart. She was beautiful.

Power Past Coal, powerpastcoal.org, Joelle Robinson

Joelle Robinson, with Power Past Coal, giving Ava the book, Believe.

Dan Zadra and Kobi Yamada, Believe, book

As she returned from the podium, a Power Past Coal organizer hugged her and gave her a book, titled Believe, a collection of inspirational quotes written and compiled by Dan Zadra and Kobi Yamada.

Later, looking at the book at home, Ava and I both suddenly became excited with a shared realization. We began jabbering at the same time about a significant experience we’d shared soon after we’d met, regarding that word, believe.

Ava joined our family as a child in foster care; we adopted her as soon as that became possible. When I was about to drive her to our house for the very first time, her two-year-old hand grabbed my camera and took a single photo with it. The picture turned out to be of a fancy paper bag that sat next to her in our car. A single word I hadn’t noticed earlier was printed on it: believe.

Thank you, dear daughter, for teaching me again and again to have faith in your choices. Thank you for supporting me as a writer by approving this post about you. Thank you—especially—for believing in me as your mother.


About Maureen Kay

Maureen Kay has just finished writing a novel called Fracture. She blogs about her personal experiences, bigger issues, other authors, and her writing journey.


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17 thoughts on “Our Daughter Protested Coal Trains in Her Anime Costume

  • Diane

    What a beautiful story about a daughter who is following in her mother’s footsteps. Look at how the people were watching her and listening intently. She had their attention.

  • PS Sawyer

    How fantastic of you to make all of these connections. Life is full of such coincidence but few have the insight to see them. We love Ava’s self expression and your willingness to let her be herself. Hugs to all of you and great job fighting the good fight for all of us!

  • Allyssa Axell

    Maureen, I got chills reading through to the end.

    I love your synchronistic cycling back to your and Ava’s origins of becoming mother/daughter.

    Power Past Coal & Power Past Foster Care . . . I believe, I believe!

  • Mary Dessein

    Maureen! What a wondrous story, thank you. I know my thoughts will come back to this over and over. Your insight about Believe and connecting the amazing experience of Ava’s speaking with her two year old action was grand. Thank you.

  • Maureen Kay

    Thank you all for these very thoughtful comments!

    I considered stating in the caption of the sack photo that I did crop my daughter’s photo a bit, and I enhanced the color so the word “believe” would pop. Given the placement of the caption as the last thing to be read, I decided it would hurt the flow of the story to include this fact in the caption, but to keep things honest, it needs to be stated.

    It is her photo she took while on the car ride to move in with us though, and she and I have always felt the word “believe” showing up on the photograph was significant. But it took writing this post for me to fully understand what that word “believe” means for the two of us. That is what most excites me about writing–the discoveries that can be made.

  • Sue

    I was lucky enough to be there with Maureen and “Ava” and can affirm not only that Ava gave a beautiful little speech, but that there was a huge amount of applause from the audience. Both of you took risks that day and it all paid off! Yay team!

    • Maureen Kay Post author

      Sue, I almost included your role in this post, but it was edited out to keep the word count down. You not only were there, but you encouraged me to trust it would be okay to let her go speak. Thanks for your ongoing support in so many ways!

  • Kristin

    This is an amazing story! I can picture all the emotions you must have felt in anticipation of the event, which made the successful ending so much better. I bet Ava’s participation in this meeting was extremely meaningful because of her age and her genuine response. Thanks for sharing!

  • Carlo D'Anna

    Excellent article! It is not an easy task to speak your mind in front of an ambivalent audience.I am sure your daughters courage led many to reflect whose lives and livelihoods are really at stake.

  • Margaret Stonich

    What an amazing event! I love it when our children surprise us. Your “Ava” is brave and strong. It brought tears to my eyes when you both remembered the significance of the word Believe. Motherhood is difficult but it is times like these that make it all worth it.

  • Annette B

    Maureen, I’m so proud of Ava for her willingness to stand up for her beliefs, and to do so in her own style. It also warms my heart to know you gave her the opportunity. Way to go, Mom!

  • Maureen Kay Post author

    Thanks so much to everyone–your comments mean a lot to me.

    I want to add that I try to be careful with what I publish online concerning my family and extended family, so I did ask my daughter to review this post before I published it,. She approved it without changes. So, “Ava,” thank you also for your support of me as a writer!

    • Ava Loves You

      Ava here,

      I want to first thank my wonderful mother that I love so much. She has always been there for me and to have even been able to be written about is a happy thing for me. I right now would have to say that the word ” Believe ” to me means a lot more now. Not just to me but to my mother too. I know that if she did not believe in me i would not have been here and turned out like this…I owe so much to my mothers inspiring and loving ways she has brought me up.

      So Ava is saying this to you MY ONE AND ONLY MOTHER.
      I love you and thank you for everything that makes you you!
      I love your writing! I know that you’ll go far with whatever you do in life!
      I know this for a fact because I BELIEVE in you!

      • Maureen Kay Post author

        My Dear Darling Daughter, “Ava,”

        When you and I went online today from our different locations, and you read this post aloud to me over the phone, and I ended up emotional with my love for you, I never thought it might lead to you adding a comment here. And then to read this loving, beautiful, and thoughtful comment from you is incredible and wonderful. I love you so very much. And I BELIEVE in you also, my AMAZING, GENEROUS, TALENTED, KIND-HEARTED DAUGHTER!

        Much much much love, Mom

    • Maureen Kay Post author

      I’m still overwhelmed by my daughter’s comment! Thanks for sharing the big impact it had on you also.

      Those last 40 seconds of that video are really something–thanks for adding that to the conversation.