Sunday, November 12, 2006


I was waiting for the Queen streetcar today when all of a sudden, a grey cargo van pulled up right in front of us waiting folk. It appeared out of nowhere, and pulled to a halt very suddenly. Suddenly enough to make me panic a bit, and flash back to a time when my brother and I had to walk home from school and used to hide in the ditch or the bushes alongside the road everytime one of these drove by (I blame Unsolved Mysteries - we saw an episode where the 80s version of that van, with the bubble window on the side, kidnapped some kids off the street, and it scarred us for life).

ANYWAY, the grey van pulls up and out of it spring three people - a dad, and two kids, boy and girl, both under 13 or so. Mom was sitting in the back seat, couldn't tell what she was doing, never got out of the van. The kids and the dad, though, were filling up the news boxes right beside the streetcar stop - Condo News, Auto News, Renter's Guide, that sort of stuff. They were a precision drill team - each kid was responsible for a couple different mags, dad too, and they all pitched in uncomplainingly, chit-chatting with each other all the while. And watching them brought back yet another memory, this time not one that involves cheezy 80s television.

My parents haven't always been as financially stable as they currently are. In fact, in my early childhood we didn't have much - us kids never wanted for anything, but there weren't a lot of frills, if you know what I mean. My mom didn't work full-time outside of the home until I was in grade four or so, and it wasn't until then that our familial bank balance started to look a little healthier. Until that time, my dad worked full-time painting houses, and they both did other odd-jobs to make ends meet as necessary. My dad delivered pizzas for a while, my mom had a series of part-time jobs on weekends or the occasional evening - office cleaning, a memorable stint as janitor at the local psych hospital, and of course, the job that the grey van reminded me of, the rural newspaper route.

Now, I was a little kid, so I don't have any really focused or clear timelines associated with this period. I think it must have been before either of us was in school full-time, because I remember going with mom (occasionally dad, on weekends) on the route in the middle of the day. My parents had a green Datsun at the time, with matching green faux fur on the seats in the inside that my brother and I loved.

The three of us would pile into the car, and off we would go. The first stop, an exciting brush with the newspaper factory where we picked up bundles of papers off the rollers and there were lots of burly men and smoke and machines. Now, to be fair, I don't remember actually doing any of the work here - I suspect we were mostly spectators, an easily-distracted audience with the attention span of, well, impatient hamsters.

So we'd get the papers in the car, and off we'd go, out into the country surrounding Thunder Bay. Once we got there, our job (and by our job, I mean mom's job) was to roll up the paper and stick it in the little yellow Chronicle Journal box at the end of the long country driveways. I remember my brother and I ostensibly "helping" by trying to roll the occasional newspaper, but I suspect we mostly fought with each other and made our mom crazy.

The moment we lived for on this trip was when the last paper had been delivered, and mom would stop at a country store to buy a Mars bar. The three of us would sit in the car (or outside the car if the weather was nice) and share the chocolate bar before heading home.

Pretty simple memory, really. But watching that family today made me realize how much I owe my parents. And its thanks to them that I have the security of knowing that you do what you have to do to make ends meet, and that honest work is never something to be sniffed at or looked down upon. My life is so much easier than theirs was back in those days, but I have no memories of them complaining about being tired, or not having the time to play with us or read to us or cuddle us. I'm sure their memories of that time period aren't as rose-coloured as mine, but I wouldn't exchange mine for anything. Not even a Mars bar.


Anonymous roro said...

Love this post, ers. Great story! Your folks are pretty awesome, as are you.

12:39 PM  
Blogger ers said...

Thanks roro! I'm all sentimental lately, not sure what's going on with that. ;)

2:41 PM  

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