I’m sitting at my new MacBook Pro looking out the bay window of my office, which faces exactly east. I can see into my front yard, which is in terrible need of water. It has been a gorgeous July if you like to swim and sun bathe, which I do, but a terrible one if you are into water conservation. You would never know that there are any watering restrictions, or restrictions in the use of herbicides, for that matter, in my neighbourhood because it is the ultimate, multiracial, middle class neighbourhood on the edge of a university town, population 100,000.
Life is jubilant. I am in good health. Solvent. I have a lovely home, a great dog, four daughters, good friends and a steady job. I really did wake up in paradise, which raises the question, “How did I get here?”
My earliest memories are of a small A-frame house; the kind that were made by the thousands to accommodate the soldiers when they returned from WWII. It was built on a child friendly crescent. The road had too sharp of a bend for cars to drive quickly and they had no choice but to slow down. It encircled a small grass lawn which was common area for the children to play on, which we all did. The house was about thirty years old by the time that I remember it and the trees reflected that. I had several really large trees of my own in the back yard.
There was a row of tall, pointed trees on the property line. My father explained that this type of tree had been planted because they grow so tall so quickly. He remarked that no one considered how hard it would be to cut them down, in the small backyards, once they towered above all of the houses. My yard also boasted a mature maple with broad dark green leaves that my father built a tree fort in. He also built a sand box in the back corner of the yard. We were lucky that the grade in our yard had not been done properly. After a rain, or a melt in the winter, a puddle often formed in the middle of the yard. This meant for great body surfing fun in the summer and a maintenance free ice rink, of our very own, in the winter.
We also had an old metal swing set that had a slide going down one side and a glider in addition to two swings. The glider was like a small two sided porch swing designed so that you could enter from the side and sit across from someone. When the slider was pushed, you went first toward the person you were facing and then away from them.
This idyllic setting belies the fact that if examined by today’s standards, I was not cared for very well. My most prominent type of memory is one of being alone. I remember sitting in front of the television alone; climbing up on the kitchen counter to reach the food that was safely stored in the upper cupboards, alone; knowing that I would get in trouble if I woke my mother, alone.
I have memories of “swimming” in garbage cans that were kept in back of the house and had become full of water and maggots because they had been left without lids in the rain. I remember fights about milk going missing and cereal that was unaccounted for. There were great arguments between my parents. I was ever so afraid of doing something wrong, but I did not know why. I have vivid memories of stealing chocolate barrels that were filled with caramel and covered in a yellow gold foil. My mother bought these chocolates in a bulk mixture and they were intended for ‘guests’.
One evening my parents were getting ready to go out. The house had the characteristic feeling of anticipation. I could smell my mother’s perfume and my father’s aftershave. It was late and the sun was already down. There was light pouring out of the bathroom, where my father was, and the odd accent light on illuminating an otherwise dark house. The babysitter was expected and I knew that meant that there would be a 69 cent bag of potato chips purchased, which I’m guessing was a full pound of potato chips, but I don’t know for sure.
I was trying to answer a scientific question. My father used a hand held razor. By turning the handle, the top of the razor came apart in the centre and the two halves opened up from the middle leaving an opening for the blade. Inside there was a flat surface for the blade to lie against with a screw in the centre that held the head of the razor onto the handle. When the blade was dropped into its place the handle was turned in the opposite direction to close the housing on the blade. The blade itself was a rectangle with two long sharp sides that were the cutting blades and a keyhole shaped opening in the middle that kept the blade in place and made room for the screw head that was attached to the handle.
My question was a simple one. Was there something inherently sharp about the metal or were only the edges sharp? There was a very direct way to find this out. It was simple. All that I had to do was to take a razor blade and stick my finger into the hole in the centre to see if it was as sharp as the edges were. I knew that I was not supposed to touch the blades. There was no question that what I was doing was not permitted, so when my mother walked into the living room I thrust my hands under the pillow on the sofa. Unfortunately, when you are holding a razor blade in your hand, making a fist around it to hide what you are doing under a pillow is not such a great idea.
All I remember after that was that there was a great amount of blood and my mother being very upset. I don’t remember if they went out for the evening. I know that there were other evenings that they went out. An examination of my hands now does not reveal any permanent scaring so I couldn’t have hurt myself too badly.
By the way, only the long edges are sharp.
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