Maryland

We had always lived in the north end until then, as far as I can recall. When we lived in Winnipeg. But we moved to a walk up apartment on Maryland when my father went to the sanitarium for his tuberculosis. We all had to get TB tests after that, for a while. It wasn’t like a needle; more like getting pricked with a grocery stamp, a round disk on the end of a syringe-like device, with five pin prick points that poked into your skin. It didn’t hurt like a needle and none of us ended up with the TB.

This is where we moved to on Maryland. We lived on the third floor at the back.

We moved here so mother was close enough to walk to the sanitorium every day to visit father. I only went to visit once, which was fine by me because it was a bit of a long walk and you had to cross several quite busy streets. And the place had a smell to it. Like Lysol and dead things. The sanitorium patients were kept behind glass doors but were allowed to come out to a lounge area to visit. There was no cigarette smoking allowed. It was on the walk to the sanitorium that I learned about two sisters that were born but didn’t live. One came too early and her lungs weren’t developed enough. I’m not sure about the other one, but she didn’t live either. I guess that is why the Angel Monster got to be born.

My second school that grade six year was Wellington. My teacher was Mr. Kirkpatrick. He kind of looked like a young Gabriel Byrne, the actor.

It was a regular grade six class except for one thing. Every student had the assignment to write their own novel. They had the whole year to complete it but this was my second school, so I was already months behind. It seemed like a rather ambitious thing to ask of a grade sixer but Mr. Kirkpatrick said everyone was already writing their story. Though it was a daunting task, it was also kind of exciting. To write your own book. I decided mine would be about space travelers. Men exploring deep space, encountering space monsters and alien worlds. This was an interest that came to me in grade five when I heard John F Kennedy make a speech on TV saying they were going to the moon. What could be more exciting than that? But then he was killed.

Writing that novel was the best thing about Wellington School and even though we moved away after a few months, the love of writing stories has stayed with me ever since. Thank you Mr. Kirkpatrick.

Wellington School was six long blocks from our apartment on Maryland. I walked there every morning, walked home for lunch, walked back for the afternoon and then walked home again after school. It could be quite a boring walk so I always tried to find a classmate going the same way so at least there was someone to talk to. One day on the walk home after school, my classmate told me he had to hurry home because they were having pizza for dinner. I asked him what that was. It sounded exotic and something only rich people could have. So I decided right then that some day I would have pizza too.

Father got out of the sanitorium by November. I know that because it was November 23rd that he told me that my favorite Uncle had died the day before. On the anniversary of the killing of John F Kennedy. You can read about it in Death of An Uncle. It was cold outside but there wasn’t too much snow.

I played scrub hockey at Notre Dame park. Scrub meant you didn’t need skates or equipment. I played in goal. They said I was a very good goalie but I think that is only so they would have someone to shoot pucks at. I thought I was quite good stopping pucks, except they hurt. I got one right in the knackers and decided I’d had enough. There was no money for things like hockey equipment. I didn’t even ask.

We were poor, I guess, though it just seemed like a normal thing to me. That year, on Christmas eve, father went for a walk and came back with a Christmas tree. He said he didn’t have to pay for it because the lot was closed for Christmas and they would just be throwing it out anyway. I wondered if that meant our Christmas tree was stolen.

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