Category Archives: Friends

Growing Up, Pt. 2

[Part one is here.]

I may have started out as a wee fellow, but as the years went by, I moved on up the food chain. I became a pre-teen, then a teen. I got things like insecurity, hormones and a driver’s license. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though.

I had a paper route that defined much of my after-school experience for a couple years. Those were the years when my dad sat at home every day with a few beers, waiting for me to return with the collection money. Wait- sorry, that’s the plan I have for my boys. Only with them I think I’m going to go for modelling. They’re really quite striking lads.

The whole thing could take me up to a couple of hours. I got to know a lot of my neighbors this way, and really enjoyed doing so. People seem to like their newspaper carrier- or at least, they seemed to like me. I think one of the reasons for that was my passivity when it came to collections. Every week, on Friday, I collected mandatory delivery fees. Only with me, they were more like subjective delivery fees: subjective as to how much I was actually paid, and subjective as to whether they ever got paid at all.

Let me just add one more thing: my daily round was extra special because I had a big old crush on one of my customers. Well, I guess it’d be more accurate to call her the daughter of one of my customers- the real customer, her dad, I was vaguely terrified of. These things go hand in hand.

Whenever I came by her house, I would look up to see if she was in her window. Sometimes she was, and she would wave at me. That turned me into a little puddle of Dan every time. I felt as though all the inky fingers and unpaid fees in the world were worth it for that wave. Occasionally she even talked to me. To what extent I sounded like a bumbling idiot in my responses, we will not go into detail. One February I even snuck a valentine into her paper, hoping she would find it. I expect she did. In any case, a friend of hers emailed me soon afterwards and I denied everything.

In that line of thought, I once got a call from a girl who I went to class with in grade five or six. As I recall, she had with her another girl from my class- and naturally, this other girl was the one who I had a crush on. Girls know these things, I don’t know how. I guess it may have been the way I blushed like crazy every time she looked in my direction.

The conversation went something like this:

“Hi, Daniel, It’s Sam!”

“Hi, Sam.”


“So, Jenny’s here with me…”

“Oh! That’s neat.” Dan’s mind becomes more frozen than ever as he contemplates the reality of being one person and a telephone away from Jenny.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m just… watching Alice in Wonderland. It’s on TV.” A this point the conversation becomes a little strained.

“Cool… are you watching it with anybody?” Because that’s what girls like to know. Naturally.

“Yeah, my… mom.” There sure are a lot of ellipses in this conversation, aren’t there?

“Uh, cool. Well, did you want to talk to Jenny?”

“Looks like the commercials are almost over. I’d better get back to the movie.”

“Oh… alright. Well, have fun watching the movie!”

“Thanks! Bye!” And in desperation, I hang up the phone.

Boy, were those some stellar years for dealing with the fairer sex. I would say that they were, in fact, more than fair with me, considering the way I dealt with them. Which is to say, not at all well.

I was a big league babysitter not too long after the paper route days, too. All around the neighborhood, I was the go-to guy for childcare, at least until my sister came onto the scene. The bitterness I held in my heart over her usurpation lasted for years. Maybe I exaggerate. In any case, these were golden days for me. I’ve always loved being with kids. It probably says something or other about my undeveloped personality, but it does remain true. It’s stood me in good stead in recent years.

I babysat, more than anyone, the two little gals who lived in the same house as Rupert. For several years they were the darlings of my heart, although I certainly didn’t have the words to say so. We horsed around playing Pokemon, or watched movies, or went to the park. I believe I had as good a time as they did. And there were several other families who meant a lot to me as well, as well as a few who terrified me.

Through all this babysitting stuff I feel as though I was able to share the sweetness of childhood that much longer. My peers were one thing, and I had my share of older folks at church, but my affection always lay most strongly with the small ones in my life.

I guess it all makes sense. Through many of my years as a young adult, I struggled to part ways from my inner child. I felt, in some respects, as though I were doing a rotten job of growing up. I looked at my friends and I thought, “Man, they’re so much more mature than me.” Maybe they were. But it was in finally embracing that child within that I found my feet- both in the ability to decide what I wanted, and in acting upon it. Instead of languishing in self-consciousness and indecisive thought, I learned to disconnect from my over-analytical mind when it came time to act and interact. Not that we- my child and I- don’t still get separated sometimes.

You know, I’m still growing up- but it’s a lot easier to chuckle about old foolishness than to look in the mirror and let out a belly laugh. So wait a few years, and I’ll tell you about all the ridiculous things I’ve done lately. Until then, do continue to take me seriously.


Sunday Morning Special

Hi everyone-
Given my newfound love for social media, I thought I’d harness its reach to tell you a little about something my friend, Mark Duncan, is doing.

Here’s the blurb from the official website:

Started in 2002, the RIDE FOR KAREN is a yearly cycling event that is held as a tribute to the life and legacy of Karen Tobias and to raise money for charities that help people living with cancer, and those who care for them. In the last ten years the Ride for Karen has raised over $1,640,000, which was used to help build and furnish new cancer care facilities, provide much needed resources for cancer support centres and send kids with cancer to camp.

As a cancer patient, Karen knew first hand that hospitals were not a very positive environment in which to spend a lot of time. Karen wanted to make a difference and was dedicated to improving the quality of life of cancer patients with one goal in mind – Improving Hope – which she felt was a critical component of cancer care. We as a family have created the Ride for Karen to continue her work in an effort to harness the positive power of hope.

All the monies raised from the 2012 Ride for Karen will be used to send kids with cancer to camp. This year’s ride will feature four events, a 160km course for advanced riders, a 100km course for intermediate riders, a 25km course for recreational cyclists, and a Kids Fun Ride for children 2-12 years old.

Having seen my mother in law go through cancer- the illness that took her life just over a year ago- I can appreciate how important it is to provide care for the seriously ill, and support to their loved ones. We relied heavily on the incredible organisation that is Hospice Peterborough. Some of you supported us in this past May’s Hike for Hospice. Please consider making a small donation towards Mark’s effort.

There is more to cancer than the cure– there is also the care. Without charities like Ride for Karen and Hospice Peterborough, cancer patients and their families are on their own in coping with the deeply personal, highly emotional baggage that goes along with the disease. You can help make the difference by empowering theright people and facilities with the financial resources they need.

And if you just can’t make a donation today, check out Mark’s page anyways, and send him a kind word.

Donate or comment here.

Have a great Sunday, everyone- I’ll see you on Monday with my next regular post.


There for Me

I have an awful lot of good people in my life. Today I’m going to introduce four of them to you: Nathan, Caleb, Jayda and Tom.

Well, Nathan was living across the street when we moved in, so meeting him was inevitable. When my mom did take me over to see who my future friend was to be, he grinned at me from his doorway. I must not have given him the sort of grin he expected back, because he then walked on over and brought his foot down on my toes. Such was the beginning of a long friendship.

We had our hideout in Nathan’s basement, where the TV and the computer reigned over us in all their splendid light and color. The carpet was thick and itchy under my elbows as I lay on my belly like a prostrate vassal. It was Jason and the Argonauts, or the WWF- this well before they changed the initials to avoid confusion with the World Wildlife Fund.

Or it would be the Playstation that kept us enthralled- sneaking around with Solid Snake or being extraordinarily contrary with Squall. With the controller in my hands, I was somewhere else, someone else. I had the power to interact with my world, through Nathan’s basement, in ways that my observer’s nature would never permit in reality. In a sense, I was setting the stage for character development of my own: making choices and judging values, my sense of self growing more intricate through the playing-out of endless scenarios.

When it wasn’t the screen that held our attention, it was Nathan’s backyard pool, or water guns or homemade board games or long hot bike rides. Nathan was my first and best neighborhood friend.

Doug Anderson is a friend of my dad’s from their teenage days. Fortunately for us all, from his marriage there came a son exactly my own age. It was a friendship written amongst the stars. In fact, my first exposure to Star Wars took place in the walls of the Anderson home. This particular fellow’s name was Caleb, and we became playmates from the first after-Sunday School hangout onward.

Our friendship really has been, for the most part, centered around church. When I finally stopped going, the strain on our friendship was difficult. In some ways, its existence was diminished for good. But there were golden years, countless hours rolling by in the comfortable retreat of Caleb’s bedroom, or at large at Hope Valley Day Camp. We counselled together, we took counsel together. A deep sense of empathy and communication that I have seldom experienced was born between us.

I miss those days, sometimes, if only for the intimacy of that particular union. Caleb was, and is, irreplaceable in his own right. That red-headed, guitar-playing, Bible-thumping dude holds firmly to a portion of my experience and personal development- and, of course, my heart.

Jayda- my very first Asian friend. Vague confusion filled my soul when I encountered her the first time- wonder at the differences between us. To this day I am not sure what secrets lie in the deep pools of her Japanese spirit. Any fear I had of the unknown, however, was dispelled once I got to know this sweet, fun and tender girl.

From the exchange of grade school Valentines to shooting pool at her mom’s, Jayda became my rock to confide in during some of the most difficult- and some of the most exciting- times of my life. Jayda has always been a gracious hostess- or co-hostess with Shannon, her mom. Parties at Jayda’s always managed to be low-key and pleasant; even going for an afternoon visit tends to put me more at ease than alcohol ever did. Shannon and Jayda- and let’s not forget little sis!- always made pleasant company in sharing their home. Looking into a family dynamic from outside is a hard thing indeed, but I think that Jayda and her mom must make each other very proud.

I took Jayda to prom. We were going to drive in on my moped, but for some reason that fell through. I don’t truly remember what restrained us from that astonishing plan. In any case, I sold my moped that summer and was never again to feel the adrenaline of its fifty kilometer speed cap. But we got to prom somehow, and Jayda was of course gorgeous in a silk dress and I did my best to be a sharp date. Now, as not a few of you may know- and some of us even before we had a right to know- my prom date was gay. So although there was dancing and carrying on of all kinds, there was no necking that night.

And then there’s Tom. It was Tommy back then, Tommy K. Like Jayda, Tom was with me from Kindergarten on up. He was a playmate from the hay forts in summer to the water works in springtime, from the leaf forts in fall to- what else?- the snow forts in winter. Do you see a bit of a pattern? This boy stuff was the meat and potatoes of a little guy’s recess. But Tom also played kissy tag, a cootie-ridden activity I never stooped to.

We had another activity for which we were, in a small way, famous. We called it Adventures. I think I might have instigated the practise, but Tom took it to a level of his own. We would start with an idea for a story, and one of us would take on the role of narrator. From there it unwound like one of those old Choose Your Own Adventure novels- the narrator would present a situation and various choices, and the participant would decide what to do with that. We made so many walking tours of the schoolyard in the process of these intense discussions, we could have worn a path. Recess after recess, the story would develop- I went in for the humorous spin, while Tom had a preference for the thriller. He did Silent Hill one time, and I had nightmares.

Fast forward a ways, past early high school, past rowing, past my most Christian years- during which I lost touch to some extent with my man Tom- and into my senior year. I had come a long way through a number of personal journeys, emerging to find Tom as fine and steadfast a friend as ever. It was heartening. We made the party circuit together, quietly drinking our beers and laughing at the foolishness of fools. We got a job together when school let out- and I will tell you about the Wheels sometime, but only once I’ve sorted out a way to do that without slander. We had a great time, though, surrounded by hapless out of towners in our dilapidated domain. And nearly every day ended with a cold one in Tom’s hereditary river paradise.

These were some of the most special individuals from my childhood. Some remain with me- some were lost to the dark magic of growing up. All of them abide with me still, in some way. To each one of you: Nathan, Caleb, Jayda, Tom: thank you for being there for me.

Growing Up

[This post I dedicate to Tom, who reminds me of childhood- and to his dad, Jim, who I quietly idolised.]

When I was maybe seven, even eight, I used to climb up into the trees on my front lawn and watch people walk by. Middle aged women would jog by in pairs and I would try to hear their breathless conversation. Old men would whistle while they walked past, on their way down the street to get the mail from our community mailbox. I especially liked Don, who was always hollering hello at someone in a way that could make them jump out of their pants if they weren’t expecting it. Other kids went by, too, but I was so absorbed in my game that I wouldn’t call out. I was a ninja, or a spy, or an Indian scout. Really, though, I just liked to watch.

I was born in Ottawa in December of 1988. Back there my folks attended a little church where they called me The Judge. The grey-haired set liked to pinch my little cheeks and give me sweets, cracking up when I just solemnly stared back. It might be a stretch, but it seems to me that even from that time I was lost in my own world, an observer in a world of participators. I suspect I enjoyed those candies all the same.

We moved to Peterborough when I was two- just me and my parents at the time. Eventually I would wind up with a sister, then a brother: Julianne and Michael. One of my earliest memories is the terrific fear I carried through childhood of the bathtub drain. I couldn’t bear to stay in the tub when the plug was pulled; a persistent vision of swarms of lobsters or crayfish coming up out of that black sucking hole troubled me to my soul.

Dad brought Lego into my life sometime in that dark stage, conquering the crayfish with the sweet distraction of construction. He had saved a quantity of the precious bricks from a time that predated the dial-up connection. I can’t express just how many hours I sank into those and the others that gradually expanded my collection. It’s a habit that has remained with me to the present, where I can and do share the same passion with my boys. Kieran became a solid convert just months after I met him nearly three years ago, and Emery is of late going down the same way. I couldn’t be more pleased; the Lego calls to its own with little need for encouragement.

I spent as much time outdoors as I did in back then. I miss that. There was, and is, a small woods down the street from my folks’ place. When I was eight, though, it was not a small woods. At that time it was still enormous, a deep and dangerous mystery that only the kids dared explore. Some of my older peers went there and left their parents’ bottles and butts. My friends liked better to see how far we could get into the swampy areas before turning chicken. I had heard very often- and this was like some legend of a holy grail- that there was a couch somewhere on the far side of the forest. I doubted, sometimes, if there was another side. I did reach it once, though, years after I started my excursions. Who was it that was with me on the big day? I can’t remember anymore. We didn’t find a couch, but we did emerge in the back field of someone’s farm. I guess that’s what it was, anyways.

My dad had a real time of it trying to get me to ride a bike. I’m experiencing the same thing now with Kieran, and am thankful that I was as stubborn and apprehensive: it grants me a measure of patience. I understand. I was dead certain that I’d fall off and tear up my limbs- the awful thing is, I was totally right! Dad finally forced the subject and took me on that final afternoon of thrills and torments. I was drunk with the new sensation, and showed off my new ability to anyone who would watch thereafter. Many trees hold little scars of which I was the perpetrator, but they have nothing to complain about next to me (not me in the link!).

What did I read back then? The Hardy Boys, mostly, I guess. They were always exclaiming over something, maybe Chet’s souped-up jalopy, or Biff’s washboard abs. Joe and Frank’s mom was always nearby with a pie. Their dad was always working a big case that they absolutely had to stay away from, and which they inevitably solved themselves. I loved them from the first motorcycle chase to the last kidnapping. I was also into Brian Jacques– talking mice who lived in an abbey, strangely enough, and badgers with axes twice their size, always coming head to head with the nasty stoats and weasels. It definitely gave me an early impression of the moral character of British woodland animals.

I didn’t always go in for the tame world of books, by the way. Video games played a major part of my formation of hobbies. I used to call Nathan, my pal directly across the street, just about every day the moment I came off the bus and got my backpack off. His telephone number is engraved indelibly on my mind. Then it was Red Alert, and Metal Gear Solid, and the many other cryptic things that yong boys do on a television screen. When I wanted to go in for a real bad boy sort of activity, it was down to Andrew’s to play Mortal Kombat. Remember the controversy? You used to get to pop your enemy’s head right off, spine and everything. Sometimes they would fall on the spikes below. That was hard stuff. Sorry, Mom and Dad, but you had to find out sometime.

When I was maybe eight, maybe nine, I went up to my parents’ room one day and opened the box where they kept money for babysitters. I took out a loonie- was the toonie even around yet?- and brought it outside. I actually buried it under the soil in my tree fort, then dug it back up. Then I brought it in and showed Mom. I raved about how lucky I was to have found a dollar in the ground. Looking back, I don’t see how she could have believed this. She probably didn’t. But she let me get away with it, and I’m grateful still.

I have lot more buried back there in the tree forts and the parks and my friends’ basements. There’s more to the present than the past, of course, but it seemed suitable for me to give you a window into that old world of mine. I hope, once again, that you got a kick out of this. Feel free to share your own kid stories if you get the urge. Until next time–!

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