Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Monday, 5 October 2015

Where is Emma Fillipoff (Two)

previous segments of Where is Emma Fillipoff
ONE: The Grieving Mothers of Perth, Ontario

Two: She’s Missing

So many things run through my mind every minute of every day. Emma’s life essence courses through my veins so I can feel her being within my own. So many fears haunt me. There will never be a moment’s peace until my beautiful, amazing daughter is found. She is everywhere I look and yet nowhere to be found.” (Shelley, Facebook Status, May 2015)
Shelley and I sit on the couch where Shelley spends most of her days. The couch is covered in dog hair.
“You can only imagine how little I care about keeping the house clean,” Shelley says. Cash, her bulldog lies between us and snores loudly. Shelley curls herself into a corner and starts smoking, an old habit she took up again, after more than thirty years. Throughout the interview, she smokes rather vigorously and barely ever smiles.
Shelley was my fantastic grade six French teacher. Grade six was wonderful year. Unlike so many French teachers, Shelley taught with enthusiasm, humour and creativity. I remember her being so vibrant and beautiful. She is still beautiful, but there’s a weariness in her face and in her eyes. She looks very tired and very sad. Her voice is so soft that sometimes it’s hard to hear her above the sound of the dog snoring.


I asked Shelley what Emma was like growing up. Artistic and free-spirited, Emma was the quiet girl who was everywhere. She was always welcome in any group. Although she wouldn’t say much, she laughed a lot and her smile was magnetic. Everyone loved being around Emma. From the outside, Emma appeared to love her life which was filled with piles of friends, dance classes, photography and writing. And yet, when Shelley read Emma’s old journals, she discovered that her daughter had been unwell and unhappy from as young as eleven years old

But she made sure that nobody ever saw that side of her,” said Shelley. Shelley has since asked friends and parents of friends if they ever got sense of how much Emma was suffering. Nobody had any idea. 


In addition to being secretive, Shelley describes Emma as “non-confrontational.” While her siblings would debate and stand up to Shelley’s rules, Emma would simply retreat into her room.

“Emma wanted to grow up from the time she was about eight,” said Shelley. In objection to her curfew, Emma moved out on her sixteenth birthday. But she left a note telling her family she’d gone to her friend Ellen’s house.  She didn’t just disappear. 

Emma with Ellen's sister, Marie.
Both Ellen and Marie Flanagan did interviews for the Fifth Estate documentary, "Finding Emma."

After discovering that Ellen’s mom also enforced a curfew, Emma decided to rent an apartment with an older guy.  Although this roommate wasn’t her boyfriend, Emma had already begun to attract men far older than her. Physically stunning and quietly mature, by the time she was sixteen, she had a boyfriend who was 26. A bit of stretch, but not surprising given Emma’s beauty and grown-up persona.  To make rent, Emma, quit school and worked at KC’s video, a gem of a dive all us Perthites know well.

Emma, always so beautiful

It was at this time that Shelley realized that she couldn’t take a hard line with Emma like she could with her other children. At any sort of conflict, Emma would withdraw. In attempts to keep her daughter as close as possible, Shelley gave in to Emma’s request to see her younger brother. He was only eight and heartbroken that Emma was gone. The two adored each other. Emma has three siblings and Shelley claims she was close to all of them.
On Sundays, Shelley would drop her youngest son at KC’s video so that he and Emma could hang out and watch movies together.  At the same time, Shelley would drop off shampoo, treats and fresh fruit. Things she knew Emma would be struggling to afford.
Emma lived on her own for eight months. Finally, in September, she asked to come home. Like many teenagers, Emma detested high school. Instead of enduring the torture, she enrolled at the alternative school, where she could work independently. Her marks were excellent and she won a scholarship to Loyalist College in Belleville. She studied photojournalism, combining her talent for writing and taking pictures.
I wonder how Emma would frame her own story.

When I was in India, I watched the CBC Fifth Estate documentary on Emma’s disappearance. “Finding Emma,” it is called. Alone on my bed, I remember staring at the screen and feeling terrified and haunted. As an actress read words from Emma’s journals, I got the sense that I wasn’t supposed to be hearing them.
“What was in her journals was horrifying,” said Shelley. “So I don’t know if she was psychotic, or schizophrenic, or major depression issues. I don’t know.” The police don’t know either. Nobody knows.

Emma: "There is promise of flight.
And I lay in fear
In fear somehow
Fear crept in.
She’s missing.
I am missing."

End of Part Two.
-Written by Erica J. Schmidt
Where is Emma Filllipoff
Read More:
(NEXT SEGMENT) THREE: Wednesday, November 28, 2012

FOUR: Mental illness runs in the family
FIVE: A Mother's Instinct
SIX: Okay. So I'm dead.
SEVEN: She ran away because she fucking hates her parents.
EIGHT: Safe Until She Returns
NINE: A Perfect, Beautiful Family

Please Share Your Stories and Tips
Help Find Emma Fillipoff Facebook Group
Email Erica: ericaschmidt85(at)gmail(dot)com
(contact form below)
Email Shelley: fillipoff(at)hotmail(dot)com
Call the police.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Erica on Twitter: @mypelvicfloor


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