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.
As the months went by with no Scotty, I got scared. Why didn’t I see him? Where was he? I remember asking to leave during class to go to the bathroom but instead I snuck by the Kindergarten class and peeked through the window. He was not in that class!
I can only explain my actions or rather inactions as being young myself. But not seeing Scotty again started to terrify me! I did something wrong. He went with a stranger and something must have happened. I never asked a teacher or told my mom but soon, that little boy crying and leaving with a stranger started to haunt me.
As years went by and I learned of the actual dangers that could lurk in the city darkness, the nightmares started.
I dreamt about Scotty being abducted, hurt, beaten, molested, and even brutally murdered. All the terrifying thoughts tormented my dreams and only got worse as I got older. It was my fault.
These horrific dreams came on a weekly basis for years!
Each time, some new horrific situation occurred in my vivid dreams and I would awake in sweats screaming, shaking, and crying. I was never able to fall back asleep on an evening that the nightmares came.
Throughout the years, well after I left Lord Wolseley School, I went back and still looked for Scotty.
I remember asking the teachers and even the principal, but no one remembered him. I could not forget. I could close my eyes and those brown tear-filled eyes were looking at me through the window, so scared.
He never left me.
After junior high school, senior high school, and even while I was in the military, he came to me in my sleep. I dreaded sleeping.
In the spring of 1997, I had finished my 4 years in the military, had taken an accounting course, and found myself in a full-time position as a Receptionist at an accounting firm in downtown Winnipeg. This was a great career start for me as I got on the job training from the accountants.
As the receptionist I worked primarily the front desk, answered calls, received mail, typed out letters at my computer and received countless parcels from couriers which always arrived during my shift.
The way my desk was situated, I was in the front of the office so I could greet people. Just outside of our office glass door was the elevator. This glass door was the only way into our office so any traffic that came in, I saw immediately.
At the same time, it was a distraction as many people pushed the floor button in error or simply to annoy, but I remember quite commonly the elevator door would open only to have it empty.
I have no idea what day it was or what time it was, but I do remember that the elevator opened and as I looked up, I noticed a young man from a courier company come out and into our office.
The minute I saw his eyes, mine filled up with tears and I began to shake. Chills went through my spine at the same time butterflies filled my stomach.
“Scotty?” I cried.
“Excuse me?” the young man almost in a nervous tone asked.
“I asked if you’re Scotty… Please?... Be Scotty… I have looked for you for almost twenty years… Please be Scotty!” I could barely get the words out with my voice shaking so terribly.
“Well, my name is Scott. Do we know each other?” Again, he asked nervously.
I explained to him that we did in fact know each other! I knew him VERY well.
I told him about our meeting so many years ago that dark night in front of the school. How he had been crying, how a stranger took him, and I never forgot about him. How much I had worried over the years and continued to look for him fearful that he had been killed.
Scotty remembered that night, in fact, it was one he also could not forget.
Scotty’s dad was an alcoholic and had occasion to beat his mom quite often. She had garnered the strength to take Scotty and leave in the hopes of starting a new safe life for them both.
They left with nothing, stayed in shelters for a while until she had found them a place to rent. This is when he started at my school. That night that Scotty was outside crying, his mom had sent an urgent taxi cab to get Scotty. His dad had found them, beat her badly and she had called that taxi from the hospital.
When they left the hospital, they never returned to the house they rented and subsequently, Scotty never returned to that school.
Scotty remembered me vaguely, but he did remember that evening because of the fear they were facing.
We talked for quite some time.
Scotty and his mom did okay although they did have difficulties as one would expect. He enjoyed his courier job but was hoping to get into another line of work, maybe computers as they were becoming quite popular. Scotty, or now, Scott as he preferred to be called, was doing well. He still wore glasses!
I never dreamt about Scotty again. I guess I did not need to because I now knew he was safe, and my actions hadn’t caused him harm.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed!
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