Our Daughter Protested Coal Trains in Her Anime Costume

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.

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