Thursday, April 30, 2009

History of me

9 days overdue.

Waiting for your first child to come into the world invariably makes you think about your own childhood. So, I've decided to give a brief (if that's possible) history of me. Everytime I write a history of my childhood I always discover new things. Last time it was that I am too self-pitying. The time before that I realised that I blame all my problems on others, etc. So this will attempt at being non-judgemental as well as self-exploratory. I will try and exclude unimportant extraneous details for the comfort of the reader. Here we go...

I was born in the summer of 1984 in Toronto, Ontario. My mother was the same age as I am now, and my dad was a year older than Mike. I was an 'accident', but as far as I can tell a happy one. My mom walked long distances in the mucky Torontonian heat, and from what I understand, had a relatively easy pregnancy. I was born in a hospital, taken home, and loved.

Mostly what I remember of Toronto is the east end of it known as Little Greece. I still love this part of Toronto and if I could afford it, would love to live there. Unfortunately all the houses are running at half a mill. I remember having a steep front lawn that would topple any self-respecting lawn chair; I remember our elderly neighbors with whom we shared a yard giving me ice cream; I remember my babysitter making me honey sandwiches with the crusts cut off. I remember it was always summer. What I don't remember is probably more noteworthy, but this is my history, not someone else's. All I can rely upon are these sketchy memories.

When I was five, we moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. My dad is a Nova Scotian, and met my mother there, though she's technically an American. I was first placed in the public school down the road, where I learned colors and names of foods. The kids in my class seemed enormous. My friend was a girl with stringy hair and perpetual conjunctivitis. I sat near female twins that sucked on their hair nervously whispering to one another. During recess and lunch I would stand outside the school and stare at my pink velcro sneakers that had become increasingly brown and dirty from the Halifax rain. There was no playground, it was just a perpetually wet blacktop. The black girls would play double dutch, but gave up on me immediately when they realised I had no aptitude for it. My dad would pick me up and zip up my coat and ask me how my day had gone. I think I probably lied, making up more interesting things than had actually happened in that place. After school I would ride my bike in the gravel parking lot of our apartment building while my parents looked on, god-like, through the glass sliding doors on the level just above.

We moved again within Halifax to a detached house on a residential street, and I switched to a private school. To get in, I took a test in an airy classroom with sections for desks and sections for play. The test asked me to draw lines from coloured kites to the names of the colours. I suppose I passed. What followed was 5 years of intense academic study and wonderful friends. I would cry at night because my own brain wasn't organized properly for the amount of homework that private school expected. My mind would wander. I excelled at art, singly. All other report cards stated that I enjoyed socializing too much, and that I was disorganized. My best friend organized her coloured pencils by the tiny golden numbers engraved at the side. My cubby developed an incurable case of fruit flies. I learned subversion in this place. I purposefully forgot my uniform for gym constantly, learning that it would exempt me from the tedium of jumping, running and competition. My friends were children of doctors, lawyers and construction barons. They carried leather backpacks, and lived in enormous houses with pillars and had nannies that would pick them up after school and feed them celery with peanut butter. That said, I never felt they were better than me. I never envied what they had. I had plenty of my own, really. Perhaps they pitied me, but I'll never know. I did feel different from them, but this feeling of difference was minimal compared to what I was about to experience.

When I turned ten, the announcement was made that we were moving to Ontario and moving onto a farm. This was an ongoing dream of my parents': my father liked the idea of living on the land and being able to shoot guns whenever he wanted, and my mother was an acknowledged horsewoman. So we moved to the farm. This is where things get messy. Or maybe they were always messy, and this is just where I get old enough to notice. People ask me if I liked living in the country, and I've never really felt like I can answer that question fairly. All I remember about living in the country, start to finish, was how lonely I was. Through elementary school into highschool, it didn't matter how many people I had around me. I would walk around the land of our expansive farm by myself for hours. The majority of the year it was grey or snowy and the wind whistled across the fields and through the trees and I could scream and no one would hear me. It made me feel very very sad. Of course, other things were happening then too. My mother moved out, and became a teacher at my local highschool. I stayed with my father, on the farm, where my mother still kept her horses, as I recall. I started dating a boy from a nearby town. I think I liked him because he was tall like me, and gentle. To this day, I appreciate his gentleness, because it was a quality that previously I didn't know that men could posess. After that, it was one of my main attractions to any potential mate.

He and I moved to Montreal. But that is where my childhood ended, I think. When I paid (or didn't pay) my bills and cooked my food, and got fat and then skinny again. When I bought beer and cigarettes and it was legal.

Parenthood, as far as I can see it, is a chance at a second childhood. While my own was imperfect, I hope I can give my son all that I had, with regard to breadth of experience. I look back on what I've just wrote, and I realise I've left out some of the most heart-wrenching, smuttiest and hilarious stories that I have. The best thing I can hope for him is that one day, he'll have a mind and body full of similar stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Honey, I can understand too well the feeling of being alone, and "different". I did have a great childhood though, and had a happy home-life with so many great memories that I'll cherish forever. Now that I have kids of my own, it's so exciting to see life/the world through a child's eyes again. All of their beautiful firsts, and discoveries - seeing the joy and magic in their eyes takes my breath away. The simple things that we take for granted are new again.