In late August, 2006, Angel’s efforts were successful, and she was awarded custody of her siblings. Soon after, thanks to B.C. Housing and Capital Region Housing, the children and she moved into a rental home. With assistance from the Ministry of Children and Families, and thanks to the organization of Kim Garnett (Angel’s work colleague) and help from other supporters, the family now had a furnished house and bicycles for each of the kids. An article in the Times Colonist brought further attention to Angel’s situation, and the family gratefully accepted food coupons and gift certificates (see endbar).
Their “family routine” was established within a few weeks. “Mornings are fun at my house,” she says with a laugh. “I’m not a ‘morning person,’ but I’m learning.” Despite attending new schools, the children settled in quickly; it helped that they had already spent some of their lives in Canada. Still, they missed their Thai friends and their mother. Because their dad had seldom been around — and, when he was, fights were common — he wasn’t really missed. They cried for their mom, though, especially as the few calls they were allowed during the first month of her incarceration were reduced, by prison regulations, to a trickle of letters.
Still, stability has allowed the children to plug into their areas of strength inside and outside of school. The boys play soccer and basketball and the girls enjoy singing and dancing; two of the children play instruments. The family even discusses the possibility of making the story of their lives into a movie one day. Meanwhile, Angel runs her household with the understanding that “you lead by example.” The older children tell and show the younger ones the way, and Angel, for her part, is determined to complete her high school degree one day. With just one math course to go, she has to graduate, she says, because her brothers and sisters are watching her. She doesn’t want their role model to be a high school dropout.
She has already completed a six-month intensive post secondary program at the Victoria Motion Picture School, studying film acting, directing, and lighting. But for all the resiliency she’s shown and all the support the family has received, it’s hardly the life she once expected to lead. “I had my idea of my perfect world: I’d be a film actress, have lots of money, live in Kitsilano with the kids and Mom would be there: [we’d have] multiple houses, connecting or something.
“People with kids say to me, ‘I don’t know how you can do it, and I only have two kids.’ And other parents say, ‘I have a daughter your age and she’d never take care of five kids.’ It’s interesting to be doing what no person will do, and be what no one could be.”
Nevertheless, she continues to take the world in hand; she is, after all, the girl who in grade seven wanted and got the part of King Midas in a school play because “it had the most lines,” and despite the fact it was supposed to be a male part. She may not be living in Kitsilano, but by responding to her father’s death and her mother’s incarceration as she has, she’s proven to herself that she’s capable of more important things. “This is who I want to be,” she says simply. And she knows that “keeping the kids together will hugely change their lives, and a whole other life comes out of that.”
Their home life isn’t perfect, of course; after all, they’re siblings. At times she feels like she’s constantly putting them in their corners, telling them to stop bugging each other. “It’s busy, it’s hectic. It’s five kids to one adult. It’s insanity. You have your hard days, your really hard days, and your really, really, really hard days. But there are moments that make it all worthwhile.”
Moments like when she took the 11-year old boy out for some quality time, something she tries to do weekly with each child. He’d just won a soccer game, so they drove to a fast food restaurant for a treat. Sitting in the car, sipping his drink, he turned to Angel and said, “You’re going to be a great mom, a terrific mom.”
“Why? What makes you say that all of a sudden?”
“Because. Somehow you figured out how to take care of five kids and yourself.”
Margaret Crane is still in a Thai jail, awaiting a trial that will take place in 2008. Communication is difficult; her lawyer speaks only Thai, although she does have a translator. Angel does her best to help from a distance, but already she has learned that, whether the government is Canadian or Thai, everything is a process.
Her faith supports her. “I’m a Christian,” she says. “That first year I was very blessed in how everything came together. The survival mode was just that: every day was survival, hanging on by a thread, every day just getting from one task to the next task. Now I’m grounded and strengthened in my faith that everything is going to work out. I trust in God and Jesus. This is meant to be and this is all going to come together. The family’s together, the kids are together. Now it’s just a matter of keeping it [together], of making it happen. It’s still very busy and stressful, but now I’m not surviving — I’m living this way.
“In the beginning I had a lot of help from all sorts of places. God puts people where you need them to be when you need them to be. Now moving into the second year, close friends, a best friend, an older sister, and a grandma all help. It isn’t so sporadic. It’s turned into a real routine. These people who are close to me have been through it all. Some friends go on their way, some stay with you. Now I have continual help I can rely on. Not only have we made a new family, a new home: this is the way the kids are growing up — now we have roots where we have close friends and a church family that support us for ‘the long haul.'”