It’s Monday. It’s drizzling outside. I feel like sleeping in, or baking something. I’ll bake after school this afternoon, but for now, ChildHood Installment – III
I like to think of my family, as a little ship. Life is an ocean, and God is God. He’s the One who decides what weather we’re ready to face. He’s also the Captain. When we allow Him to, He helps us through the weather he has sent to us. Cliche. I know. That’s ok. We all need little cliches in our lives.
Texas was to me, the beginning of our sea voyage. Our arrival there marked our leaving the safe harbor of the known world, to the foreign beyond. Maybe Texas wasn’t alway smooth sailing, maybe it had its choppy waters, but Toronto was a storm that we were about to face.
Daddy had applied for permanent residence in Texas, and for three years we didn’t have our yearly visit to our family in Brazil. After three years of waiting, we were informed that we had to restart the process. It was decided that instead of restarting the process, our family was to be moved further north, to Canada. We spent two months in Brazil prior to making the move, I was ten years old, and Victor turned five during our stay in Brazil.
To me, that year was a very difficult year. As a preteen, I had just moved away from everything and everyone I was used to. I had gotten accustomed to my people there in Texas, to the extent they were a second family to me. Now I was taken away from family, again. I cried myself to sleep every night for a whole year and a half. Then I just stopped caring. Victor wasn’t allowed to watch our home videos anymore, because he’d start sobbing because he wanted to go home to Terrell.
I had become so used to the open land, air, sky, freedom, and now we were moved to the middle of a Toronto municipality. We lived in the back apartment on the church lot, which meant our backyard was paved parking lots, and a few square feet of pine trees. That first year I’d walk out there barefoot, and sit under the pine trees, listening to the wind whisper to the pines. But it was missing the Texan drawl. It wasn’t the same. At the end of the church property there was a high fence, and behind it is a provincial park that’s quite large. I suppose I didn’t have it to bad, but at the time I felt suffocated. I wasn’t allowed outside on my own, there were fences on each side of the property, neighbors came and went silently, never even giving you an acknowledging glance when you happened to catch them scurrying into their cars.
I could hear ambulance and police sirens, planes passed overhead every day and night, and occasionally a helicopter flew overhead, and sometimes its search lights would pass over the treetops. It was a whole new strange, noisy world for me. And I hated it. I wanted to go home. I wanted to get back to my horse neighbors, cow smelling, sun scored, vast prairies. I wanted to go home!! Now! I was lonely! I missed my friends! I missed my house! We were renting now, we had owned a home in Texas. We had had abundant land, now anyone could drop by at any moment. That included random strangers who decided they needed a place to park to um- mess around, walk their dogs, or a place to smoke. I remember every night having to close the driveway with a chain, or Daddy having to go outside and ask someone if they needed anything, or at least to make sure they knew there were people on the property.
One time a bike was hidden under the bushes in the front of the church, we have no idea where it came from, or whether it was stolen and hid. Another time a guy we dubbed “the hoodie” jumped the neighbor’s fence, into the church yard, looked around, jumped into the other neighbor’s yard, stole something and ran away. By the time we called the police, and they arrived, he was gone.
The neighbors were a funny lot. Every week as father and I swept the parking lot, and maintained the yard, we would look up to see neighbors peering through their curtains, or pretending to be gardening, but they were eyeing us from behind the tomato plants.
Eventually the church bought a leaf blower, and as dad cleaned the yard one Friday, a lady hollered from the other side of the fence, “Keep you dirt on your side of the fence!” Father wasn’t even near to her yard, but he shook his head, smiled, shrugged and continue cleaning. Then he realized that that wasn’t a nice way to leave things, so he stopped the blower, came over to her fence and introduced himself. She immediately changed her demeanor, and asked “Oh! So you’re the new priest here now?” From then on, Albina became one of our friendliest neighbors there in Toronto. One fall she presented us with a few peaches from her peach tree, and every Friday she was out tending her garden, and we were cleaning the yard, she would walk over to the fence to say hello.
The lady who peered through her curtains, would call us a few times every spring, to complain that our grass was too big, and that the dandelions were going to get into her yard. Father would always keep the grass mowed, but she’d continue calling. Then one time, he asked her about her husband, and how he was doing because we’d never seen him in the yard. As she told Daddy about her husband having passed away recently, she broke into tears. They talked for a while, and never again did she call to complain about dandelions. Instead, every time she was in her yard, and father was out in ours, she’d greet him and say hello.
Dorothy, a neighbor a few houses away, became friends with us as well, and she was constantly inviting us to play in her pool every summer. Every week, however, we’d hear the neighbor’s fight, and although at first is was so very different from our small town folks in Terrell, we began to find it humorous, and even joked about missing their bickering when they hadn’t fought in a while.
In Texas I had grown into a child, in Toronto I had to grow up for real. Fast. I learned things there, that I believe I was taught a bit young, but I’ve come to acknowledge the fact that it was better that way, because children heal faster sometimes. I was taught you can’t trust everyone, I was taught oftentimes people like you for who you are, oftentimes they don’t. And then there’s the oftentimes when they pretend to like you, only to extract you from your shell, and stab you in the back. It hurts, but children heal faster sometimes.
Toronto wasn’t all bad, though. In fact there were many many good things, lulls in the storm if you will. We had the opportunity to visit our family in Brazil every year, which sometimes made it hard to come back to Canada, but we enjoyed the time spent there immensely.
Camping trips were often, and I found out Canada is beautiful, and its lakes are freezin’ cold. I found out what snow is. I thought I knew. In Texas it “snowed” for about two days every year, and we’d go outside in pajamas and gather up handfuls of “snow” to make a muddy little snowman. I write “snow” because compared to Canadian snow, Texas gets flurries. No really. It does. I used to pray and pray and pray so hard in Texas for those little flakes. Our first year in Toronto I just stood with my mouth gaping. Snow. Packing snow. Up. to. my. knees. I marveled. Little did I know that in the city, it barely snows. We headed up north for a church Christmas retreat. There it snowed. Packing snow. Up. to. my. waist. It was beautiful! I learnt to make real snowmen. The ones that are taller than human beings, the ones that you can punch and they keep right on smiling because your hand is the one that gets hurt. I learnt what an astronaut feels like in their space suits. I had fun. Until it was time to shovel out the snow in the parking lot, I started to pray, and pray, and pray so hard that it wouldn’t snow. Ever! Again! By the third winter of shoveling, salty boots, slushy streets, black snow, and being wet from snow fights, I decided snow was nice for about a month of heavy snowfall, then it had to go. Then in the blazing summer sun, you begin to miss it again …. Oh Life…
I made new friends in Toronto, we saw each other every week, and got together every now and then for special activities. One friend in particular was special. They say every brunette has her blonde, I am blessed enough to have two. Crystal from Texas, and Xenia from Toronto. Her parents and sisters were so open, friendly, and simply amazing. They were inclusive, and made me feel special. I love them all and miss them so much.
Father, shortly after our move, was given a second job, as Youth Leader for our church headquarters, which means he traveled the world over to preach in youth conventions. He left me big shoes to fill. Mother and I tried. Which resulted in me learning to buy plane tickets on my own, learning to say goodbye various times a year, to read a map and give my mother driving directions, pay bills online, among other things. I was growing up.
As I said, Toronto wasn’t all bad all the time. I began A Beka homeschooling, church outings were mostly fun, skiing trips hilarious. During those years, I laughed many times, smiled, accomplished things, and our family was together. One year, my uncle came to visit us, and then the next he brought his family with him. It was such a special year, such a special winter, for them, but even more I’d wager, for us. The last two years especially, which were building up to the climax of the storm, weren’t all that bad. Somehow I believe we were ready. So no matter how many times I cried myself to sleep every night for six years, no matter how many things I didn’t understand, no matter how dark the storm got, I don’t have any regrets. Would I do things differently if I were given a second chance? Maybe. I probably would have tried a bit more, to brush things off without taking them to heart so much. I’d probably try to bite my tongue too, but then again, that’s part of me. I say it like it is, and I don’t hide behind a smile. I guess I probably would go back, and try to find those who were hiding behind smiles, peel of their fake layer of friendliness and not trust human nature so much. I’d try to accept the fact that I’ll never fit in in certain places, but that honestly, I shouldn’t even want to.
The whole time we spent in Toronto, I thought I wanted to move to Brazil. To move back to our family and old friends, to go back to a place where I felt loved and comfortable. But when our move to Brazil didn’t work out, and we moved out West instead, I realized that really, all I wanted, was to move away from there. From where I was. So to everyone who hurt me those years, all I really have to say, is Thank You. Thank you for teaching me such important truths so young, thank you for making me realize that I shouldn’t change in order to fit in, but instead truly question whether God wants me to fit in with such a group anyways. I pity you, and pray for you, but for now, you’re simply part of my past.
To all those wonderful people who supported me instead, I thank Heavens for you. A very special church lady payed my ticket to Europe one summer, two others were my piano teachers, and others provided moral support, and friendship. Thank you.
Today’s post was a little vague wasn’t it? Well tomorrow’s will be more meaty, and cheerful! But for now, TTFN! Ta-Ta For Now!
|Fall, circa 2009. Toronto.|