Brenda’s Unfortunate Record #31
Last night my dad randomly forwarded a couple photos he’d found whilst clearing out some boxes. I don’t have many pictures of me as a kid. In these ones I’m beside my first best friend, a little boy named Paddy. We were neighbours and our older sisters were the same age. People used to always assume he was a girl.
Our childhoods were pretty similar. We both had one European parent (his mum was German, my dad’s French) and were fortunate enough to have spent summers with grandparents on the other side of the duckpond. Plus, at least when we were little, we liked the same things. Paddy had more toys than me though. Lots of Playmobil (including the pirate ship, which I totally coveted) and superhero figures. His favourite was Batman and we used to run around his house, caped, imitating the POW! BAM! BLAP! we’d seen on telly. He also had one of those, a colour one, and was allowed to watch whatever he wanted (my older sister and I on the other hand, had very little contact with the cathode tube). I had imagination though. At my house we’d pretend to be moles, ducked under covers, burying our way down the stairs into a basement labyrinth of tunnels and dens. I was so excited when our mums sewed us matching black cat halloween costumes. Crawling around on all fours, meowing, hiding under the table & getting tangled in the legs of our intoxicated parents during interminable, smokey dinner parties.
We were the youngest of a huge mob of kids. Despite being born just over the cusp of Strauss-Howe Hero generation (increasingly protected), the way we were raised fits more with the Nomad (under-protected) way of our older siblings. It was fun. Giant games of Manhunt and Mississippi, a communal backyard which extended far beyond the limits of our three estates, into the park at the end of road. As soon as we’d learned to ride, we were off on our bikes and down to the forest, where days were spent building tree-forts and staying away as late as possible. I got my first taste of independence before I was two and reckon I was hooked – wandered off to the beach wearing nothing but a red and white stripy top and was missing for quite awhile, much to the chagrin of my distraught mother.
By the time Paddy and I were in 3rd grade, things were beginning to change. Both our families showed signs of tear and as the older siblings grew into teenagers, our mob was shrinking.
I remember the last summer we spent together. His mum took us to their cabin on Saltspring Island and whilst Paddy had discovered Stephen Hawking and was prematurely working his way through ‘A Brief History Of Time’, I’d discovered boys and was prematurely working my way through first loves. Barely in double digits, we still managed to get along. There was bushwhacking, star-gazing, ouija boards and liquor. We’d hitchhike into town where I’d try to smoke cigarettes, shoplift sweets and insist on hanging out with other degenerate youth. Paddy trailed along but once back on the mainland, our paths separated for good.
We did end up in the same secondary school for a year. As he was keeping his head down in the accelerated programme, I was busying myself with LSD and skipping class. I barely noticed him. By the time he was fifteen he’d enrolled at the university and was studying second year calculus.
I haven’t thought much about Paddy all this while, but seeing those cute little photos prompted some googling. Unsurprisingly, it turns out he’s a professor of mathematics in a top Canadian faculty. I found a picture. He looks happy, with the same smile and says he’s a dad. Despite our different lives and different outcomes, I can’t help but feel proud. Going back to Straus-Howe, I reckon he must’ve caught up with his proper generation while I remained a Nomad. Cause it’s more than the legend of time determining where we’ll end up, right? Hehehe.