Ashley might have tried some of the legal pot here in Ontario, or maybe brought her own, and washed down her meal with her favorite beverage, a fizzy and boozy Palm Bay. Likely she would have made some crack about showing the politicians how to do the whole pot thing. Then she'd giggle, and venture off to play with her gaggle of nieces and nephews, threading marshmallows, painting faces, and singing the kids' songs so many of us forgot so long ago.
Everybody would be there. There's half a town of young people from Thorold and St. Catharines who call her parents mom and dad. Ashley and her sisters adopted a slew of strays along with way, latchkey kids whose parents were always working. They've remained friends since primary school, and shared the joys and grief of life together at Simpson feasts and barbecues.
But this year, once again, Ashley will not have a place around the bonfire. For two and a half years, she's been absent for every festivity, replaced by photos on the wall, and sweatshirts emblazoned with images of her lovely face, taken back in happier times: the selfie queen, the gypsy who long ago mastered the art of the take down on anyone who dared challenge her.
Where are you? her father asks from his lonely perch where he spends hours scheming, ordering t-shirts, and weeping. Where are you? her mother wonders as she boards yet another ship destined for the lakes of Ontario where she feeds armies of sailors from all over the world.
Her mom, Cindy, believes Ashley is still in the Okanagan, where she went missing in April 2016. She speaks to Ashley every night, crazy she says, but Ashley has told her that's where she'll be when she is finally discovered.
Not in Pink Lake, thirteen hours away from Salmon Arm where her Ontario driver's licence was recently found in a sewage truck.
No, Cindy is convinced, she's a stone's throw away from where she first disappeared in Salmon Arm. Maybe she can see the trailer where she once lived and fought with her boyfriend.
Hiding in plain sight under branches, and moss.
The driver's licence discovery created quite a stir this week. I received five media calls on Wednesday after the news leaked out. John dutifully took all the calls in between trying to find some work for himself. And Ashley's case was the subject of an APTN documentary which aired last Friday. She's also part of a Toronto Star investigation which you can read here.
The swarm comes out, then goes dormant again, sometimes for weeks -- reporters who get the unenviable task of talking to the parents of their beloved child. They are always amazed how eager the Simpsons are to talk -- they can't stop talking about Ashley because if they do, they fear, she will disappear from view, and that is not an option.
There was also news this week about Curtis Sagmoen who will will be in court again on Wednesday. He's the waste of air who's been terrorizing women for years in Enderby/Salmon Arm, beating them up, leaving them on the side of the ditch like road kill, forcing them to run for their lives.
The cops say Sagmoen is not a person of interest in Ashley's case.
Well, someone is, right?
In any event, if there is an upside to this piece of shit, it's that his trial reminds people that at least half a dozen women went missing in the last few years from this area, and that B.C. can boast twice the number of missing and murdered women compared to the national average.
Put that in your tourism ads, B.C.
Gord Downie would have written a song about it.
When Curtis appears in court next Wednesday, he'll have groupies, but not the kind he likes. There will be men and women picketing, and drumming, and reminding the community about the plight of our Stolen Sisters once again.
For John's part, all he wants is closure. He dreams of the day when the cops get an anonymous call telling them where to find Ashley. He just wants to bring her home.
He wants to have his daughter near, where he can visit her, talk to her, and keep her safe.
It's what we're all working for, too.
Ashley's Army. Never give up.