I’m now in the family room. It is a large room with three leather sofas, a large screen TV, a fireplace and three garden doors across the back wall. Garden doors are the same size as a regular door and they swing open normally, but about eighty per cent of them is glass. These particular doors do not all open. The centre has a lattice that makes them look a little like french doors, but the lattice is between the two panes of glass and there is no bevel.
The doors provide a view out the back of the house. From here, I can only see the tops of the trees and some of the houses that are on the other side of the green space. It is the perfect view of the sunset and that adds a certain drama to the room at that time of day.
I usually do not write this much in a day, but it is a Saturday and none of my children are here. I have the whole day to myself and it feels quite satisfying to be sitting on my computer committing these stories to the page.
The day that I left for university is etched on my brain the way any significant life changing day later becomes stylized in your memory. By this time I had another Ford Capri, I believe this one was a 1974 model and I was never as attached to this one as I had been attached to my first car. It was in better shape and much more reliable than my first car but not as beloved.
I had packed the car full of my possessions and anything that wouldn’t fit in my car had been left at my sister’s place. I had ended up staying with her near the end of grade thirteen and for the summer before university. She had a spare room and even though she was married at the time, it was OK that I stay in that room.
During that summer she moved from the one side of the semi, to the other side when it became available. I had begun to believe that I would never stay in any place very long. There had been numerous moves over the last few years and at the very least I was becoming more efficient at it.
It is a liberating experience to be leaving the world that you know behind and going to an unknown place where anything can happen. Unlike those that make this sort of move in order to find new jobs, or try a shot at acting or living in a big city, I had a plan. I had been accepted into university and I was going to become a veterinarian.
In hindsight, this was probably not the best career choice for me. I did not have a lot of people in my life that could guide me as far as career choices or educational opportunities were concerned. My only experience with the guidance counselors at school was not positive. They had become aware that my parents had separated and called me down, out of class, to speak to them. Getting called out of class is never a good sign when you are in school and it exposed my family problems to all of the people that I went to school with.
I don’t know if they ever considered making an appointment with me and having me come at a time that was convenient, but they didn’t do it that way. Public humiliation, in the form of being called down to the principal’s office was what I experienced. When the meeting with the counselor and my sister commenced it only got worse. Divorce was fairly uncommon in the seventies. Birth control, which provided the first opportunity to leave a marriage, or choose not to be married, had only been around for about ten years and was only becoming mainstream at this time.
The increase in divorce may not have been a result of birth control but it was definitely related from a temporal perspective. The seventies were the era of swingers’ parties and sexual freedom; freedom that had never been experienced before. This was the first adult generation that could have sex without the fear of an unwanted pregnancy.
But I digress; the way that the counselor saw our predicament was that we were going to be in a state of utter confusion and emotional turmoil. Our best bet, if we wanted to survive in the world, post divorce, was to get our high school diploma as quickly and easily as possible. She recommended that I drop down from my university level, grade thirteen classes into the four-year program. Interesting. My sister took this advice. I did not.
Another tool that was used at this time was a type of aptitude test. By filling out questions like, “Do you like the smell of turpentine?”; they decided whether or not you should choose a job as a painter. I filled this out and there was a notation on mine. A computer generated question of whether or not I had filled in the “sex” part improperly. Another female friend of mine, who later became a doctor, experienced the same thing when she got her results back.
This test said that I should become an engineer. There were a few other suggestions but this one makes the best story. When I spoke to some people that I knew, including my father, about this option, I was told that this would be a mistake because trains were going out of fashion. You can’t make this stuff up!
The good thing about my singular focus on becoming a veterinarian was that it took all of the decision making out of this time in my life. I had a focus. I had a goal. When my boyfriend wanted to get married right after I finished high school, I knew that this wouldn’t work for me because I wanted to go to university. It also meant that I only applied to one university and that was where I was driving on the day that I left for school.
I remember driving down the newly built four lane divided highway that had no stops and no distractions at the side of the road. I had a clean, clear feeling of having everything that was important to me with me in the car. I was leaving the drama, the history and the conflict behind and I was taking the next step out into the world. I had a good feeling that life was only going to get better. The problem with having all of your worldly belongings with you is that a simple car accident could have destroyed everything that I held dear to my heart. On the other hand, I felt mobile and self-contained. I was meeting all of my own needs and everything that I wanted was with me.