Childhood Home(s)town — A Short Story

Nervousness and excitement and curiosity and a lust for adventure. Those are the emotions I remember feeling. And I remember why. I was going to have a baby sister, so we were moving from our apartment on Barrydowne Road and we were going to live in a house with ghosts. Murder-suicide.

White siding.

A home.

The small round kitchen table is on the left of an archway leading into the living room — a dark cavern beyond. To the right, a window. At the forefront, an island with cupboards above it. They are brown; the countertop is white. Beside the island, lining the wall to the right, more cupboards and countertop, a kitchen sink, another window. I can’t see a stove or fridge. I must be standing in a doorway.

Dust fairies dance in the sunlight streaming in through the windows in slanting rays, almost tangible. I hear my toddler sister laughing. This is mostly all I can remember of my second home in Sudbury, on Lansing Avenue. That and dancing in the living room with my mother and sister to Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical” video.

Of my third home on Sherwood Avenue, I remember much more.

The driveway and the main door leading into the house are on its right. From the entrance, short flights of steps go down to the right, into the basement, or up in front into the kitchen, which leads into the living room. To the left, the windows above the kitchen sink are covered by transparent, white curtains, light and billowy. Sunlight shines through them, stretching across the kitchen, across the table, to a doorway that leads into a hallway the length of the kitchen and living room. Bedrooms and a washroom snuggle at the back of the house.

We have a brown van in which we throw a mattress. My parents sit at the front, metal speakers hanging from their windows. My sister and I play in the back, on the mattress. The sound of a helicopter fills our ears. So does La Bamba. We learn the story of Ritchie Valens in bits, watching the big screen over the tops of other cars then rolling around in the back, inventing our own storyline.

I now have to ask my mother where the drive-in used to be.

A red brick house. That’s what I have to look out for when taking the bus home from kindergarten at St-Dominique. But today I am talking to Caroline and forget to get off the bus. I realize this too late and when I tell the driver, she tells me, sternly, that I must wait until everyone is gone. I return to my seat. It wasn’t so bad while Caroline was there, but it’s boring now.

Finally, it’s my turn. I recognize where I am — a convenience store off Madison Avenue, a block away from home. My parents meet me in the driveway, angry that I was made to walk so far by myself. But I’m just really hungry. An hour late getting home, I missed my snack.

We know what the taxation centre looks like because our mother works there. We often take the city bus with our father to go pick her up from work, then drive back home with her. Whenever we drive by, we half sing, half chant, “Le bureau à Mom! Le bureau à Mom!” We have chants like that for most landmarks *#8212; McDonald’s, the water towers (although at the time I didn’t realize there were more than one).

The lighting is dim in the basement, but it’s homey and warm. The floor is carpeted, the walls wood-panelled. There is a post in the middle of the room. We climb it and slide down, like firemen. Our toy box is in a corner, but it is nearly empty. Toys are strewn everywhere. The couch and some chairs face the TV, but we use neither. Sitting much too close, we usually like to watch Tom and Jerry or Three’s Company.

Our neighbours are an old couple, Annette and her husband. They have a dog we like a lot. I think its name started with a “B” — or maybe that was the couple’s surname. She bakes pies, like the friendly neighbour in Dennis the Menace.

The living room faces the street. Huge picture windows let in lots of sunlight. The TV sits in a corner, to the left of the windows, with another toy box in the opposite corner and two couches sit against the walls across and to the right of the windows. Our babysitter times her jumping jacks to those of the spandex-clad women on the screen. Her daughter helps herself to our toys. We won’t share today, though we’re usually all great friends. On a time-out, we wait restlessly on the couch and pout.

Our baby brother arrives with our grandmother in tow. She’s there to help us help out with him. His bedroom is the one just across from the doorway in the kitchen. I can see her bustling about. Then my sister and I are in the room, too. Standing at the foot of the changing table, we oversee procedures. Quick learners, the next time we stand at the head of the table.

There is an apple tree in the front yard. The fruit are very sour, but we eat them anyway. They’re small, like us.

Nervousness and excitement and curiosity and a lust for adventure. Those are the emotions I remember feeling. And I remember why. We’re moving nearer to my grandparents, so we’ll have a new house, a new school, and new friends.

Too young for sadness, too inexperienced for nostalgia, we move to the country.

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