Despite our best-laid plans, we ran out of time to see the places in Calgary where I grew up, or as the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World said, “the places that made Joe, Joe.”
It’s too bad.
Much of my early, happy life was here.
Here I had two parents. Here I had a neighbourhood full of friends. Here I played ice hockey on the icy streets, played soccer in snowy fields, and made snow tunnels so immense that the Vietcong sent me a note saying, damn, boi, that’s some tunneling. (Looking back, maybe we never had summer in Calgary for some reason).
Of my life in our first house, when I was a small child, I remember sitting in the sun on the porch with our dog, a lab named Bobby. I remember not getting supper one time because I refused to stop watching Lost in Space. I remember digging in the backyard, which I defined as gardening and not, you know, digging up the flowers.
But I recall so little of when I was that young. Most of my other ‘memories’ are no more than extensions of photos taken at that time. Funny how that is.
Of my life in our second house, I have many, many more memories. We lived on a cul-du-sac in LeDuc, and if not every house, then every other house had kids around our age. We built snow forts in the winter, and cardboard forts in the summer. We built used hot wheel car lots and stocked them with our best cars (then forced our parents to pick which one was best and even though I always made the best one, I didn’t always win.)
During those times, we ran wild and had fun, being kids in a time before iphones, youtube and stupid morons like Logan Paul. We had a street full of parents who made sure we never got into any real trouble and sent us home if we got out of hand (and God help us if that happened because, by the time we got home, mom had received a phone call detailing what we’d done!)
I traded and collected hockey stamps in that neighbourhood. I threw stones at the bigger kids in that neighborhood, then spent a year hiding behind telephone poles avoiding getting beaten up by them (strangely, a lot of my childhood stories involve throwing stones at people for some reason I still can’t explain). I watched my first football game in colour at a friend’s house, played tag around the cars, and found the best places to hide for hide-and-seek in that neighbourhood.
We had street BBQs, no crime (at least anything serious), and so many kids to play with, we were never short of company.
Or at least that’s how I remember it.
I remember my dad made a skating rink in the backyard that took too long to freeze and rolled downhill, ultimately creating a very deep, but very narrow skating rink. I remember walking the dog with my dad beside the yellow grass-way next to the highway. I remember making a lemonade stand with my mom in the summer. I don’t remember selling any, though… odds are, I drank it all myself.
I remember playing with my brother when he was my best friend in the world. I remember watching Bugs Bunny and eating hamburgers and ripple fries while my dad rolled cigarettes. I remember being woken up one night when one of dad’s friends arrived at our house drunk and playing the bagpipes. I remember the wolf that used to hide in my closet and scare me. I remember my mom coming in and chasing it away with a broom. A whole lot of times.
So for the years that I lived there, did that place help define me?
Without question. I felt loved. I had a street full of friends. I had a small world to play in.
Only much later in life did I realize the magic of that time, of the wonder years of skinned knees and sleepovers, of living in a community, not just a house on a street.
I understand why we had to move, why my dad made the choice to move.
He hated the long hours at work, hated not being with his wife and sons, and hated that he had not found the balance between money and a quality life.
He made the choice to move so he could read to his sons, throw the ball around with them, or take them to the library. He made the choice to listen to his boys in those terrible school concerts, to coach my soccer team (being English, this was more of a deal than I ever knew), and to be there to cheer us on, wipe away tears or teach us how to be men.
Did he know he had only a few years to live?
I don’t think so, but I do think he knew that being a good dad, a good husband, a good man was more important than a big paycheck.
And I get that.
He made the best move possible, but I look back on those Calgary years as some of the best in my life.
Who could not? I had nearly everything a kid could want.
And hey, thanks for reading this!
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