It's funny how, as we get older, certain things we forget and others we can’t quite let go of because of the impact they have on us.
I was born in 1971 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and when I was two, mom and dad moved from a cozy apartment into a rental home on a quiet street in a safe neighborhood. But really, back in the early 70’s, pretty much every street was quiet and safe.
At the age of eight, I was confronted with my first “loss”.
Mom and dad had decided to take the plunge from renting to buying their very first home. It may not sound like a big deal, but for me this was a scary time as that rental was the only home I knew. This was, however, very exciting for mom and dad!
For me, this was big change and not a welcomed change. I remember feeling my whole world was crashing in.
The new home was only about 15 blocks away, but it felt like it was across the world! Everything that I knew would no longer exist.
I was so familiar with my neighborhood. I had spent countless hours playing with the kids on my street and times were different then.
In the summer, we skipped rope, played ball, and climbed trees. We played “Hide and Go Seek” until dark and the full city block was our hiding ground. We would play outside for hours and all of us knew that the sign to go in was when the street lights turned on. We weren’t afraid of “strangers”, we were in a safe neighborhood where everyone knew each other. We did not have cell phones, the ability to text or the like but we also didn’t need it. We were safe.
In the fall, we could jump from those same trees into the leaves we raked which made for exciting times for small kids. I find it amazing that back then, leaves were a “toy” and they occupied us for hours at a time! We all abided by unspoken “streetlight rule” but until they came on, we played carefree as many kids did then.
The winter brought different kinds of fun. The best being when the snow plows made snow hills for us at the end of the street that we could all slide down without a care in the world. Our rite of passage was quickly learning (the hard way) never to lick cold metal. At some point, every kid did it even though they were told not to, and within seconds their tongue stuck as the adults said it would.
I worried about this new home as I was losing everything. I was losing all my friends, losing my school, would have to go to a new school where I wouldn’t know anyone. The fear of this was crippling! It truly seemed like the end of the world to me.
We moved into the new house and in comparison, to our old home on Chelsea, it was an awesome house. It was probably double in size and the yard was huge with so much room to play! I no longer had my apple tree to climb (in which I spent hours in hiding from the world), but this yard would be great for Rusty, my yellow Labrador, and I to frolic in. We could still make our mud pies; we would just have to dig new holes for the mud.
I was quickly enrolled and attended grade three at Lord Wolseley Elementary School, located in East Kildonan, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Looking back, I do not remember much of the school except for the fact it was huge!
It was an older two-story school that was covered in brick walls. Walking into the school, you immediately had to climb a flight of stairs to reach the first floor of classes.
The height of the school was exciting for any child since the walls made for a perfect game of jump ball. Many a recess was spent with my favorite Super Ball and that wall and winning other Super Balls as I was a great jumper!
Slowly but surely, I made friends in my new school, all of which I lost contact with as we aged. Some of their names I cannot even remember, which I find odd as I spent not only the rest of Elementary (3 more years) with them but also in Junior High School.
This story isn’t about any of those friends, but of one child that I met on one day for approximately 45 minutes that I have never forgotten. Scotty.
As I said, I do not remember much of those years or that school except that it had early morning or after school Intramural sports classes. This was a time that either before or after your regular scheduled class, you could go to the gym and participate in various games or sports. Me being a “tom boy” and highly active kid, I really enjoyed the Intramural sports and took full advantage on a regular basis.
This story takes place after a late Intramural sports event.
I cannot for love or money remember what sport it was, but I came out after it was done to head home for supper. It was winter time and with the time change it made for a dark night walk for the three-block journey. Again, this was an age when kids were safe to walk home in the dark. I can honestly say, I was not scared at all.
As for the exact time I came out of the school, I cannot tell you but simply, it was dark. As I opened the door, I felt the cold air on my cheeks and the wind trying to whistle through my scarf. In the brisk winter air, I noticed a small child sitting by the road in front of our school which I found odd. Being a snoopy eight-year-old, I approached.
As I got closer, I could hear him crying.
Winter in Manitoba can be cold, particularly if the wind is howling. I remember thinking maybe this little child had lost his mittens or scarf and was cold. He seemed so tiny.
I came up beside him and sat down real close. As he cried, I remember putting my arm around him. He had his mittens and scarf and wasn’t cold, but he did tell me he was crying because he was scared.
Scotty was also new to the school and this had been his first week of Kindergarten which puts him at around five years old. He was told by his mom to wait there after school and she would pick him up. But she had not arrived.
Little Scotty had been waiting for an exceptionally long time and was now crying because he thought his mom had lost him or forgot about him and he didn’t know how to get home.
I find it funny that, as I said, I cannot remember some of the kids’ names I grew up with and spent many years with, yet I remember Scotty. He had a really big head on a little tiny frame of a body. He wore glasses and he had brown hair that peeked out in tight curls from under his winter hat which we commonly refer to as “toques”.
I remember I kept wiping the tears off his cheeks as I worried he would get frostbite with the temperature being so cold. I remember that I sat with him for what seemed like an eternity, yet it was likely only about 45 minutes.
I guess because of being only eight years old myself, I never even thought to tell a teacher, get a big person, or go find help. My only thought was to just sit beside him and wait for his mom.
During that 45 minutes, he did not say much of anything, I talked to him and just tried to get him to stop crying by singing him songs.
Out of the darkness, I saw the headlights of a car come up the street. I remember feeling relief that Scotty’s mom had finally arrived, and I could go home for supper.
Instead, as the car stopped, the window rolled down.
“Are you Scotty?” Asked the rather abrasive man.
While sniffling back tears, “Yes I am!” exclaimed Scotty as he jumped up from the sidewalk.
“Get in the car, I’m taking you to your mom!” he barked.
Scotty opened the door, jumped into the front seat of the car and away they sped off into the night.
I never forgot, for a brief second, that Scotty looked through the window at me. Little glasses on brown teary eyes. He did not even say good-bye, he was just there, beside me one minute and the next, gone.
I went home, explained to mom why I was late, had supper and the evening was uneventful.
The next day, I went back to school and I remember looking to see if I could spot Scotty during recess but was not concerned about not seeing him. Not at first.
Days went by, weeks went by and I continued to look for Scotty but never saw him.
In fact, I never saw Scotty at school again.