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Sitting in my grade one class at Melody Public School, what I was doing is lost at best. What I do remember is the principal taking me to meet 2 grownups who didn’t look familiar. One was Uncle F and other was Aunt M; apparently they were my aunt and uncle. After that my memory is somewhat of a blur. I know we had trouble finding my younger brother. I know he was with our babysitter, probably out shopping. I remember my book of paper dolls and that I was taken to a green and white house where 2 more grownups were plus 5 kids, 2 younger ones and 3 older ones. Only one was a girl. I remember having lots of fun with my paper dolls and getting Kentucky Fried Chicken!
The next day after a long drive, my brother and I visited our Mom in the hospital. I remember how she talked with lots of breaths in between her words and how her face was all squished up! (I was 7 years old and my brother 5) She told us that the doctors were going to operate on her head and make her better. She told us we were going to stay with her brother’s family, Uncle F and Aunt M for a bit, but just until she got better. I remember being very sad and that a round nurse took us to get donuts in her office before we left. I believed my Mom would get better fast just like she did when she got a new nose. This did not happen, she didn’t get better! (Mom remained in hospital for 25 years until she passed away from pneumonia)
It turns out my Mom had a ruptured brain aneurysm that was not discovered in time, in fact it was not found until they operated the next day. Why so long? It was 1978, medical, science and technology wasn’t what it is today. The 1st MRI was in its introductory stages in London, my Mom was in Toronto. During her operation, it was noted that her motor centers of the brain were severely damaged by blood as was her voice box, and some of the bone (marrow) had also soaked up a lot of blood “like a sponge” (someone told me this). What this meant was that she couldn’t talk, one side of her brain was dead, making her a hemiplegic (paralyzed on one side) and the other also suffered some damage which cause her an inability to weight bear or move with the exception of some small movements of her arm and leg back and forth. I was told that she was in a vegetative state and that doctors were working on her getting better. (It was 1978 and I was a 7 year old!)
We officially moved into Aunt M’s and Uncle F’s with our 3 boy cousins; C, S, and R. It was a very hard adjustment for all, I am sure! (coming from a parent now) My brother and I were wild kids! My Mom tried her best but she was a single mom who worked full time and could only afford one babysitter during most of the day for us. Mrs, D. had her own 5 kids and had very strict rules on hours she would work; 9-4:30 pm. My Mom worked longer so we walked, rode bikes and fought our way to/from the sitter alone and I had a house key to let us in after…. it was the seventy’s! We were also often left to our own devices when playing outside unsupervised directly. There were bigger kids, neighbors and anyone who wanted to tell us what not to do, but for the most part we did DO whatever we thought of.
Aunt M’s and Uncle F’s house had rules and we were not really left to our own devices or at least not like at Mom’s. We couldn’t just wake up and head outside to bike ride, go to other kids houses, go to the park or play by the river. Yes we were only 7 and 5 years old, but that’s what we did. We played with neighbourhood kids, went to their houses for food, fun, animals, we watched cartoons, played in the Humber River, made forts in the bush, climbed the rock cages (the protected against bank erosion up to the 401 highway), climbed trees, threw rocks at the cars on the ramp, tobogganed across frozen areas of the river, bought candy at gas station, and I fondly remember spending hours with our widowed neighbour Doe.
We now had to stay inside when our Aunt and Uncle were sleeping, sometimes we watched cartoons (not allowed to turn t.v. on), not allowed outside in the dark or after dinner (until older), couldn’t ride bikes or go anywhere without permission or where we would be unsupervised. Yup, a lot more rules than before!
- a child of one’s uncle or aunt.
- a person belonging to the same extended family.
- a thing related or analogous to another.”the new motorbikes are not proving as popular as their four-wheeled cousins”
We adjusted with time, we learned to play quietly so that we could continue to play and avoid cleaning! I had more kids to play with inside the same house, cousins! I could play with C, R, S , my brother J or all of them. We played with Micronauts (Early science fiction toy line based on a Japanese company), Star Wars action figures, cars, Hot Wheels tracks, and made our own Comic Book paper dolls! (Sorry Boys, that’s what it was, we cut out the characters from the comic books to play with). With only one adult working and 5 kids, we made the most of making our toy’s accessories.
All 5 of us gathered empty cereal, cracker and any other box we could get our hands on to make them into space ships, command centers and even restaurants for our action figures. We made money with coloured paper, we taped, cut, and glued cardboard to make drinks, plates and furniture for our centers. We even took apart buttons so that we could use the metal inside to make transporters (like Star Trek) so our action figures could move between bases. We spent a lot of time using our imagination making all of this stuff, maybe even more time than actual playing….maybe!
Over these childhood (8) years we became not only a family but a sub-family of brothers and of course one sister-me! We bonded and hated each other at different times. We helped each other and we also conspired against one or two every so often (Yeah S, I knew you messed up the coats/boots so I would get in trouble.. knowing I was the last one in the door!) and R, I had nothing to do with squishing your teddy bear between the storm windows…it was all C! If it wasn’t for us growing up together, we would not have had these experiences that makes each of us who we are now. For this I am grateful!