Everything Changes — Chapter 1

IMG_0500The most discreet and defining change in my life was about to happen shortly. My mother was very socially conscious and living in a wartime home was simply not good enough. She wanted to be looked up to, envied and seen as having it all. With this in mind, my parents set out to buy a new home.

The purchase of the appropriate home was essential to how they saw themselves, or at the very least how my mother saw herself. My mother’s family was farmers by spirit, but my grandfather had taken a factory job. I don’t know the details of when they left the farm or when they moved into the city, but I do know that they always managed to live well, despite food stamps and the recession. They always had an abundance of food and enough money to buy what they needed.

The way that this was explained to me was that certain allotments of food stamps were for cigarettes and alcohol. Since my grandparents did not partake of either of these, they would trade these stamps for baking ingredients; sugar and flour. My grandmother could bake. It is not adequate to say that she could bake really well, because that cannot possibly describe how her fudge would melt in your mouth, or how a mouthful of butter tart was so delicious that you simply could not speak while eating one. She gave out fudge for Halloween and I witnessed a man that had drove from a neighbouring city to visit her house on Halloween in order to receive a piece of her fudge. She sold these baked goods for a tidy profit.

My father’s family was city folk. His father was in the police force and his mother, his father’s second wife, was a schoolteacher and significantly younger than her husband. I still don’t know how many half cousins I have on my father’s side because there was an almost complete split between the two families. My father had not gone past grade twelve himself. Not because he was not capable, but because it was not necessary.

We lived in chemical valley where crude oil is converted into gasoline and other products. He was hired full time right out of high school and was doing very well financially. This had to be demonstrated to everyone by the type of home that we lived in, or so my mother felt.

We visited these gorgeous places. I remember running around the schoolyard describing beautiful homes to my friends. I had to tell everyone. There were patio doors that looked out onto landscaped back yards, there were pools, there were large rec rooms and finished basements. The possibilities seemed endless. We were moving out of our old home, that was heated with a stove that sat in one corner of a livingroom, into places with central heat. I didn’t know what central heat meant but it sounded exciting to me.

The visits to the homes for sale went on long enough that my friends started to not want to hear about it anymore. Lost in the excitement of the move, I had totally missed the fact that I would be leaving most of these friends, to never see them again, or only see them in passing. That did not concern me very much.

When new students came to our school, they were celebrities. Everyone would flock around them to try to get to know them first. They were coveted potential new friends and everyone wanted to meet them. I assumed it was like this at all schools.

The conflict between my parents was unseen by me, at the time. My father was a very practical man. I know that my father wanted a garage and that he wanted to deal with the issue in a logical way. My mother wanted some place extravagant. I don’t know if money was an issue. The house that was decided on, my father explained to me, was largely because the person selling the house would also buy our A-frame from us. This was practical and straightforward. It was important to my father that this detail be taken care of. I don’t know if this purchase preceded the ability to put an offer on a house conditional on the sale of your other house, but if it did, that would explain my father’s decision. To be stuck with two homes would be a problem for any family, at any time.

My mother was not happy with the house.

I was not happy either. It was terrible when I realized that I was losing all of my friends, my backyard, my maple tree, my large bedroom, my tree lined neighbourhood and my family as it turns out.

The new house was a three bedroom bungalow, situated on the corner of a very busy four lane road, in a newer part of town. It was a block from the school. My father had to back out into traffic in order to get the car out of the driveway. There was no backyard because it was a corner lot and the large two-story double car garage took up most of the yard and blocked out any sun that may have entered the small sliver of lawn. There was no room for a pool, or a garden and there were certainly no trees of mention.

Vicki and I flipped a coin for the large bedroom and I lost. The room that I was now in was so small that my bed needed to be replaced with a single bed because there was not enough room for the old one. The basement had been divided into several small rooms, so even though it had a rec room, it was not much of a room. It was also uninviting in a way that some basements are.

So, in the summer of 1971, I found myself a freshly minted nine year old that did not have any friends, any backyard and no place to spread my toys out to play. To top it off, my cat did not make the trip. I heard that there was another nine year old girl on the block and I decided to go down and introduce myself. Now all I had was to go to the new school in September and see how that went.

Keep Reading: New Friends

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available


Martha Beck teaches you how to navigate the ever changing landscape of your life.


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