Last Thursday I made some notes outlining my next story covering my early days in Toronto. On Friday my grandkids came for a sleepover, then my son showed up from University in Saskatoon and we had a great Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. The kids are quite demanding physically so after they left I headed straight to ‘da couch’ for some RNR.
My thoughts drifted and I began to reflect on my childhood. I tried to work on my story I started on Thursday but I kept drifting to my youth and sibling rivalry. I am in the middle of an older sister and a younger brother, a year and a half on either side. Sibling rivalry is a natural occurrence.
When my older sister and I would get at it, my mom would yell at me, ‘boys don’t fight with girls’. My sister fought dirty, she used her nails, and I was defenceless.
When I’d pick on my brother, of course I could not fight with my younger brother either , I could still hear my mom’s voice, ‘don’t fight with your brother’, while he was beating the crap out of me, of course I had to take the blows.
One of my parents was always around; sometimes I wished they would just disappear for a day so I could have my way. I think my parents enjoyed seeing me get my butt whooped, probably provided them with great entertainment. Pay back maybe, I had a potty mouth.
Growing up we didn’t have too many store bought toys. My mom would buy us a toy like a fire truck or police car and toy guns on Christmas Eve. I grew up in the 50’s. I had a policy, store bought toys only was suppose to last until the day after New Year’s Day. By then I would have found a way to destroy my toy and was working on my brother’s (one of the reasons he would ‘beat me up’ with my parents’ permission). I wanted to see what made them work.
Where I lived in Trafalgar my neighbours to the left were quite poor, my neighbours to the right weren’t, and we were literally in the middle. I had friends on both sides. One of my friends to the right, G, had lots of store bought toys. His family had a caregiver, Mrs H who lived to the left. I don’t think she had children but her sister did. She was a heavy set woman, who happened to be the village news monger and delivered the gossip with great gusto. She was intimidating.
My friend G and I would play with his Tonka Toys. When he had outgrown his toys he would give them to his caregiver for her family. I must admit I was a little jealous, what kid wouldn’t be.
One day I asked and he gave me one of his Tonka trucks, a nice big yellow truck. I was quite excited and headed off home; I probably would play with it for a few days then open it up. On my way home I saw Miss H walking toward me. I sense some trouble and from the distance I still had some options. I could turn left go around the block and avoid her completely. I could cut through the Bridgewater property and over our back fence and again avoid her completely. I pretty much had the same options by turning right. What to do?
With all those options I select the ‘dumb ass pick’. I walked straight at her and as I was about to go by, I showed her the truck, the devil made me do it. I think maybe I was being spiteful. She asked me where I got it from and I told her that G gave it to me. That was not what she wanted to hear. She accused me of stealing it so I told her what I thought about her. Remember my potty mouth?
The next few minutes was scripted from hell. She started to shout, the whole village was her audience;
‘Miss Carter, Miss Carter, Miss Carter, you son teef G truck, I see him with me own eyes, he teef it, o lawd he going staight to hell’.
We were still a good fifty yards away from my house. I am sure my mom could hear her loud and clear. Unfortunately my dad was also home. I started to run with Mrs H, the devil’s assistant, behind me shouting at the top of her voice.
My dad was a very proud man, gave us everything he thought we needed so why would I steal, eh.
I ran into the shop and I started to plead my case, my dad was not interested in my explanations, without saying a word and with his ‘evil dad face’ he simply took the truck and turned it over to Mrs H then escorted me in the back.
I won’t say what happened after that, I don’t remember exactly, but I could not sit for a whole day, he used what was closest at hand, a piece of salt fish tail. I promised never to steal again, although I hadn’t. It was one of those life changing moments.
To make matters worse, the next day I saw Mrs H’s family playing with the truck.
No one can take away my memories, the real toys I grew up with included, homemade catapult, made from guava tree stems, bicycle tube and parts of car tires. Of course my parents did not approve, those things were dangerous. With a catapult in your hand you were like David, you could take down Goliath with one swish.
We also played with a bicycle wheel and a piece of stick used to propel the wheel, there were kids in the Village who could make those things move like the stick was attached to the wheel.
Having fun with those homemade toys only lasted for so long and as I got older my needs changed. I would go by the Horsford store and see nice cricket bats and shiny balls and footballs and boots in the window. I wanted my own. I had no money; my dad had ‘beaten the urge to steal out of me’. He didn’t say I could not take from him, so that is what I did. I found ways to divide my parents and conquer; I found ingenious ways to ‘borrow’ money from my dad. I still don’t know how he did not figure it out, after all my ‘toys’ were not cheap. I would buy a nice cricket bat and shiny ball and he would show me how to protect the bat with linseed oil and never ask me where I got the money to buy them. Parents are complex.
I once made it all the way Antigua on a plane trip with the Cadets when I was about 15. When I returned my dad asked me how much the trip had cost me and offered a refund. I did not have a job. Again I am not sure where he thought I got the money from. Maybe parents aren’t that smart.
Way back then my parents hired a construction crew for a major construction job on our house that lasted a few months. There were 5 or 6 workers on a daily basis and during the summer I had to pitch in, help with fetching the water for the concrete mixing for example. I remember at the end of the week on Friday afternoon my dad would take out his roll of money and pay the workers. Of course I worked so I would stand there with my hand out.
He would take great pleasure reminding me that he fed, clothed and gave me a bed to sleep. Maybe parents just have to do things their way, a control thing.
I must admit that as a youngster I was not the easiest child to deal with. Being the 11th of 13 children, I think my parents were tired of raising kids so I got away with things my older brothers hadn’t. I never in my wildest imaginations thought I would be a parent, else I probably would have been a better child.
Today if you ask my friends who knew me when I was a kid, they would not admit to knowing that side of me. I saved my dark side for my siblings and parents only. I was a model citizen to my friends, except, you know there is always an exception, when I was not doing really well in a ball game I would take my equipment and go home, ownership had its privileges.
I was in my later teens when I stopped fighting with my siblings, even my potty mouth went away. It turns out I was not that bad kid after all, a small part of my life journey, just a phase I went through. Oh and I believe that I am a great parent, ask my kids. Yes I am a little controlling, learned that from my dad.
Despite all that, my dad sacrificed to get me through Grammar School. Maybe he saw the potential in me.
I was in my second year in Toronto when I started to find myself. Next week I will continue my journey. I think.
The only Kittitian Couch Potato in Calgary.