A CHRISTMAS MEMORY

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Way back in late 1967, my father decided that it was time to move yet one more time. My whole childhood was a series of exercises in packing and unpacking. From Ontario to New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia and finally back to Ontario. It’s no wonder that I only remember snippets of my early years. Unlike those who spend most of their time in one place, I have no physical anchor points. I can’t look at the house down the street and remember how we stole the pumpkin on Halloween. I can’t drive a few miles and see the spot where I first kissed a girl – hell, I can’t even remember what province that was in.

My memory is filled with disjointed scenes like a weird David Lynch movie. Watching my best friend in Peterborough burn himself when we decided that our games with plastic soldiers would go better with the addition of gasoline. Falling through the ice into Chocolate Lake in Halifax in December with Evan Nickerson where we would have surely died if it wasn’t for a young student who jumped in and saved us. Going with two beautiful girls at the same time who knew about each other (aah, the glorious 60s).

Anyway, back to the story. Dad had been transferred to Vancouver and we had to be there before the first of the New Year. It was time to go. We watched the movers load our posessions for the long snowy drive across the continent. I really don’t remember why we had to move right before Christmas but there we were, four of us in the whale that was the Plymouth Custom Surburban station wagon equipped with 8 track player and studded tires.

My father loved to drive. One of the things I inherited from him was the quest to “MAKE GOOD TIME”. The autombile club said the best winter route between Toronto and Vancouver was through the States so off we went. Again my memory is fragmentary but I remember rain, snow, ice, snow and rain in that order. We got snowed in at Grand Island Nebraska where we stayed at a Holiday Inn. The experience was like some bad disaster movie that Irwin Allen might have coughed up when he was a little behind in paying his bills. Everything was white and nothing was moving. I don’t remember how long we were there and if the little girl got to the hospital in time for her transplant (OK, I made that part up) but finally we hit the road and Goddamitt, we had to MAKE SOME TIME UP. Ted drove long and hard. We watched cars spin off the road somewhere in the Dakotas and we ran over birds that were frozen to the road (that part I’m not making up).

Finally we got through the mountains and left the snow behind. Christmas Day was spent in Portland Oregon and it rained. Rain? My whole life had been spent with Christmas’ of white. So there we are stuck in a motel with the rain coming down. I was pissed at having to move yet again, I was tired from sitting in a car all day fighting with my sister and listening to the 8 track of “Kismet”. And now this? Take your Merry Christmas and stick it up your fucking ass Santa. On the other hand, I remember that I got a table radio which was pretty cool.

After the big day it was time to push north towards Vancouver. We made it and checked in to a motel in North Vancouver called The Maples. I’m sure it’s long gone now and has been replaced with a Starbucks (everything in Vancouver gets replaced with a Starbucks or a Payless Shoe Store) but back then it was a quaint little place that had kitchenettes. You see, we had to wait for our furniture to arrive – the moving company drivers weren’t as good as my Old Man and didn’t MAKE GOOD TIME. As a matter of fact, they made terrible time and we ended up staying at The Maples for what seemed like an eternity.

We survived. I learned to love Vancouver. I lost my virginity there. I got to know recreational drugs fairly well. I earned my first paycheque working for a Japanese family in a third story warehouse near a bar that opened at 9 am. I got married, I got divorced. I shared a house with a bunch of guys from New Zealand and Australia and got to know and love their bent senses of humor. I grew up.

As another Christmas fast approaches, I look back on the winter of ’67 and, with the mellowing that comes with age, smile at the memory.

Maybe next year I’ll dredge up the details of how we had Christmas dinner at a Polynesian resturant in downtown Halifax.

One thought on “A CHRISTMAS MEMORY

  1. Hi its your mom.

    It was interesting reading your version of our trip across the U.S. and Canada to Vancouver.
    Your Dad would have loved to read it. You got most of the things right

    Love

    Max

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