The Last Mile or…850 Metres to School

I am a survivor of my childhood.  With all the helmets, and helicopter parenting going on nowadays, it’s a wonder that I am still alive to share any stories of my childhood.  Perhaps I am one of the lucky survivors.  Today I will share with you the terrifying tale of a specific part of my childhood.  Luckily, no child in this day and age in North America, will have to survive this kind of ordeal.

My mother had (and has) a green thumb.  No, not gangrene.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it means she can take any flower or plant (dead or alive) and make it blossom and grow.  When we moved into our new “forever home”, my mother decided that it would be wonderful to have dahlias in front of our house.  My mother loved them.  I dreaded them.  Why?  They were the perfect hiding spot for my sworn insect enemy…the grasshopper.  Foliage and insects were to be my yearly springtime horror story.

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As a child who had just moved into a new neighbourhood, there were already many challenges that I had to deal with.  New school.  New friends (or lack thereof).  New teachers.  Every spring I would walk out my front door, look to my right and see the tall, green, leafy dahlias with their perky red flowers; they were taunting me.  They knew they harboured my repulsive flying insect enemies.  I would take a deep breath and prepare myself for the attack.  My mother would be behind me in the doorway yelling at me to hurry up so I wouldn’t be late for school.  What did she know.  There was going to be a volley of insects flying at my head ready to blind me with every step.  It would take precision and trickery to fool my flying enemies.  My plan of action:  One step forward and two steps back.  I remember taking one step forward and, as I was taking my “two steps back”, IT would fly out of the dahlia bush.  Sure, this took about 5 to 9 minutes to accomplish my trek, but my head would not be permanently scarred by grasshopper kamikaze.  Mission accomplished.

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Oh, the trials and tribulations of walking to school.  Directions were not an issue.  All I had to do was turn right out of my driveway and keep walking until I got to school.  No problem there.  However, there were some challenges I experienced along the way.  Here are but a few:

  • RABID DOG:  I would be walking to school and see a dog.  It was a ferocious dog.  There was no owner walking with that dog.  Its teeth were bared and ready to sink its jaws into my neck and rip me apart.  (Ok, I have a flare for the dramatic.)
    • Usually, I would see the dog and cross the street.  If, perchance, it decided to follow me, I would point my index finger at it and yell loudly, “Go home!” as my mother had taught me to do.  Not sure why it understood me, but it would usually just meander away.
  • UNEVEN SIDEWALK:  I was one of the lucky (unlucky?) kids who didn’t have to eat lunch at school.  I could go home for lunch!  Ok, I’ll be honest, I loved coming home for a yummy hot meal.  However, as attention spans go, I was always a dreamer and it took me longer to get home than most obedient children.  By the time I got home, my mother was fuming and force-feeding me so that I would get back on time.  On parent teacher interview day, I was lectured and pre-reprimanded about being home on time for lunch.  That day I ran home and totally missed seeing the lump of dirt that was suddenly on the sidewalk and WHAM!  Face first into the lovely cement sidewalk.  I made it home on time!  I also made it back to school on time too.  Kudos to me!  My unpopularity became even more pronounced with the appearance of a bandage across my nose.IMG_3082
  • STRANGERS IN CARS:  I remember being lectured about not talking to strangers.  I got in big “doo-doo-ka-ka” when a strange lady in a car stopped beside me as I was walking to school.  Why?  Apparently “stranger lady” was my aunt’s friend coming to visit her and she was trying to ask me for directions.  (Note:  never ask me for directions.  I really have no idea where places are, what streets are called, and basically, I usually don’t know where I am.  There.  You’ve been told.)
  • BULLIES:  When my brother was old enough to attend the same school, he decided that he wanted to tell the local bully off.  My sister job was to protect my younger brother.  One day, it got so bad that Mini-bully-boy picked up a big, gargantuan rock and threw it high up in the air to annihilate my baby bro.  What happened?  I stepped in to block the rock and it landed ungracefully on my big toe.  What happened next?  I limped for several weeks.  My toe nail fell off after turning completely blue / purple / green / yellow.  Oh the rainbow of pain!

Remarkable isn’t it.  I walked through snow, wind, sleet, thunderstorms, humidity, and grasshopper skies.  I walked all the way to school.  Not once, but twice a day!  Oh sure, I had an umbrella.  I had winter boots.  I had a winter coat.  I also walked the last mile…or 850 metres.  Uphill.  Both ways.  And I survived.

Us

Us seems to be a very short title, but I believe that sometimes less words are more integral in describing a thought than a run on sentence  full of adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verbs…and nothingness. This two letter word is so full of meaning and definition. It is a concept and way of life that I am finally beginning to fully understand.

We begin our lives as wonderful, dependent, little bundles of cuteness. Some babies are born into loving families. Others are born into dysfunctional families. In the end, there is a beginning. We emerge and grow and learn. Some lessons are taught to us and others we discover on our own. Life lessons. The world is our educator. In most cases we are taught to find our perfect soul mate so that we can live happily ever after.

Poor girls, we try so hard to find Prince Charming everywhere we look.  We can overlook the flaws in order to have someone to hold us and take care of us. Right? Heck no. Nowadays we want the handsome Prince, but he had better know how to wash dishes and do laundry and make  dinner. We are very busy women folk. Not to mention adding child  bearing and raising that child. Who’s going to do all that?

Fast forward in life…career woman,  make dinner, make lunches, attend meetings, get stuck in traffic, driving children to and from school and after school?  Dance or karate or baseball or soccer.  Grocery shopping, clothes shopping.  Hang out with significant other. Who? Oh yeah,  I remember you.

I remember when we used to jump into the two door sedan and just go driving. (Can’t do that now because gas prices are so crazy and we  have a mini van not a cool sporty vehicle). Remember when we would go out for dinner and just talk about nothing. (Dinner out now means going out when we get a coupon in the mail and then talking about bill payments or house renovations). Remember when it was just the two of us? Us.

I remember the early dating days. Money? We were lucky if we had 40.00 between the two of us. We would talk for hours. We would write little notes and letters to each other. There was no texting or e-mails.  It was pen to paper and it was beautiful and thoughtful.  Little things were monumental. A cup of coffee, ready-made, and nice and hot when I woke up. Sitting around on the balcony of our rented apartment and just enjoying the view.  Beautiful.  Calm. Quiet. Some music playing softly in the background.  Bliss.  Us.

Us then became extended us. Children and elder family. Family obligations. Us went from having no furniture to an apartment overflowing with stuff. Suddenly Us took a back seat. Everyone and everything else was more important. Keeping children happy was number one. There were bills to pay and items to purchase. There were future houses and mortgages. New / used cars to be purchased as old ones fell apart.  Schooling and weddings and grandchildren. Work became the most  important thing because money is needed to pay for everything. We were ships in the night….literally…since we ended up working different times of the day. What happened to Us? We talked about date night and once a year, for our anniversary, we could count on that, but otherwise, Us became a non-existent thing…until tonight.

Tonight was special. Tonight you created magic. You decided to cook up a beautiful meal. I came home and did not have to prep anything.  We sat around and talked. Not about bills. Not about renovations.  Not about anything that adults would deem important. We talked about the sky and the perfect weather. We talked about your shopping spree at the grocery store and how meticulous you were in picking what you thought I would enjoy most for dinner. I was your primary concern and nothing else mattered. I want you to know how much I appreciated that and love you for it. My meal was excellent. The flavours were invigorating and the company was my favourite part. We sat outside. Just Us. The two of Us.  I realized more than ever tonight that in the end, we are in the “Us” part of our lives. The children are grown and living their own lives.  Taking care of elders is no longer part of our responsibility. All we are left with is Us.  You and me, as was before, but newly modified.  Husband and wife, grandparents, friends and lovers.  Another new exciting stage of our lives.

I love you, my other half of “Us”. Thank you for making tonight a special time and a special memory for me. I enjoy being able to date you again. The serenity and peacefulness. The non-drudgery of everyday life.  The laughter (including piggy snorts…my specialty).  You refocused my perspective and helped me don my rose-coloured glasses that I had misplaced.  Living in the pink is a pretty nice place to be.