When reading both Meg's Sunday Scribblings and Laini's recent "I was once wild, too" post, I have to wonder whether a certain freedom or wildness in our youths is a common feature of creative bloggers. Their stories took me to that magical period of my childhood in that fantastical place called Montreal. We actually lived in a small town called Roxboro, but in our family, "Montreal" has come to mean a particular time in our lives, a time of freedom and exploration, a time of barefeet and spying, a time of ouija boards and pup tents, a time when Suzie and I felt like gypsies. I don't have a lot of pictures from this time. The fuzzy photo above was taken with my very first camera, probably by my Mom. On the left is my best friend, Karen, who lived up the street. Then there's me holding my little brother, Jason, and Suzie holding Shannon.
Within a year of this photo, we moved to Toronto. That summer our parents knew that we would soon be leaving, but instead of telling us, they let us have the best summer ever. I was 12 years old, and I had no rules. I had the ideal summer with my friends. We'd have picnics in the woods at the end of the street, preferably backwards picnics where you ate dessert first. We slept out in tents in our friends' backyards. We'd go to the corner store at 2 in the morning to get more treats. We'd sing at the top of our lungs as we walked down the street with the brashness that only 12-year-old girls can muster.
I always felt free in Montreal. I remember spending entire summers outside and never once putting on shoes. I remember creating games like "Lightness/Darkness" where we could move and run as long as the sun was upon us, but as soon as a shadow struck, we were frozen. I remember posing in our picture window during thunderstorms and yelling, "Thanks for taking my picture!" after every lightning flash. I remember creating a library for all the kids in our neighbourhood. I remember starting a business washing doll clothes. What a disaster! I hung the clothes up to dry, and they all flew away. I remember the night my parents let me go to the street dance all by myself! I remember my friends' older brothers coming up with all sorts of plots to scare us. I remember my first day of French immersion and how little I understood. I remember my first art class designing mushrooms on a piece of cardboard. I remember feeling like my life was ripped away when we moved to Toronto.
In Toronto, people cared what brand of clothing you were wearing. In Toronto, people were actively mean to me. In Toronto, the cool girls tried me on for size but decided I didn't really fit in. I agreed. In Toronto, I was shy and lonely. I made one good friend, Carol, and I am so thankful for her presence in my life then and for many years after that. It took me a year to bounce back and a hard year it was. But by grade 8 I had decided enough was enough. I wanted to do things and have fun. I wasn't going to wait around to be included or invited. I was just going to make things happen. Carol and I started organizing movie outings and water fights. We went to concerts and parties and clothes shopping every Saturday.
When I was wee, I learned what it was to be me, to run wild and dance and shout at storms. And when I grew, I was tested, more than once and still. I was squashed and discouraged and taught that sometimes it may be harder but I can find my joy and be my self. I carry the magic of Roxboro with me.
Suzie & Me ~ Roxboro