What does home mean? I don’t know. It used to be that little bungalow on Fox Crescent. It was my room, the one that Mom redid all in red, with flocked wall-paper and a red bedspread and a red light shade and a white desk with a red top on it, that summer that i was in the hospital for so long. It was the neighbourhood, too, home was, with Langs down the street, and Munros next door and Strables on the other side, and then beside them there were Prices and then the Morrisons. Except for Mr. Morrison and their two kids, and the Lees who ran the corner store, we were all white. Lees were Chinese, and Mr. Morrison was Black, from the Caribbean. Mrs. Morrison was white. They were both teachers. My brother and Cliff Lang and Anthony Morrison hung out together.
Now Cliff is a prison guard, Anthony is a teacher on the West Coast, and my brother is the quality control guy for a firetruck sales company in Red Deer (he got a new job! yay! the quality of the trucks he now inspects is, he says, far below the ones his plant used to build, but he does what he can. Capitalism is still evil). We’re all sad that Clifford is a prison guard. He’s such a nice man, but doing that will change the most compassionate person, I think. callused soul.
Today Mom was on a roll. She talks all the time when i’m home. She lives alone now, and she is in a lot of pain because of arthritis in her back, and some other things. So getting out is difficult and tiring and she stays in more than she used to. I think she gets lonesome. Anyway, she misses me, and she wants to fill me in on things. Stories of a life. Today she told me about one time when they lived on the Campbell Farm in Swift Current, and that’s when they got electricity. They didn’t have it before then. She was about 11 or 12. Tom had been in the hospital when they moved. I think this is what happened–Tom is her youngest brother, and my favourite uncle. When Grandpa and Grandma went to get Tom, he got all upset because they were going to the wrong place. This was not home, this was the wrong place…He was very young then. Perhaps he was two or three.
Grandma got really sick when Tom was born, and Mom took on a lot of the cooking and other house chores. She wasn’t much good for the outdoor stuff, collecting eggs and milking cows and so on (actually, i don’t know if they had cows to milk, on account of Grandpa worked at the Experimental Farm in Swift Current), because she was asthmatic. So she’d get all wheezy and spotty and drippy. I know what that’s like. But there weren’t the same kind of drugs for her there were for me. She suffered. Anyway, once, Mom made a lemon snow pudding for dessert for supper. She went downstairs to get it (i guess out of the cold room) and she tripped coming back up. Lemon snow pudding EVERYWHERE and the glass bowl broke into smithereens. Mom remembers that Grandma kept saying, “my sugar! my sugar!”
“And she wasn’t talking about me,” Mom said. this was during the Second World War, and sugar was rationed. Uncle Tom could not have been more than four or five, but he still remembers and teases her about it.
They all went to the rink one day, for a family skate festival. Mom’s older brother Eddie was skating, so fierce and graceful around barrels–racing some other boys. He missed a turn, or something went wrong and he slammed into the boards – “I’ll never forget that sound” Mom said- and knocked himself out. Mom said, “Eddie!” and Grandma, who hadn’t seen this, handed Tom to Mom and rushed out to the ice to tend to Ed. As they were leaving, Eddie’s teacher, Miss Janke, went up to Mom and said, “you take care of your brother now!”
“I’ll try, Miss Janke” said Mom, who was also holding another brother in her arms.
“Mom took care of him the best she could, of course. But we didn’t know about concussions in those days. Ed didn’t remember, and doesn’t, or wouldn’t, remember to this day, any of the skating before the crash or going home after.” She said “wouldn’t” because my Uncle Ed, who had one brown eye and one green eye, died in the late summer of 2002. he was 70. He was Mom’s protector, was Ed. Shy like her, but older, he could make a way for her. When she was in grade one, he stayed with her during lunch hours for weeks. they didn’t go into the lunch room with the other kids because Mom was too shy and scared. Finally, he told her to come with him, and brought her into the lunch room. I don’t know if it was because a teacher told them to, or if it was Ed’s judgment that it was time, but he helped his scared little sister find her place with the other kids.
Lots of stories, the present and the past all at once–i think she has to make sure that she passes these stories along so the people she loves, the memories she cherishes will survive her. I hope i will remember.
A few hours now until the new year. 2012 is supposed to be the year the world ends, according to the Mayan calendar.
Make the most of it. Ya never know.