“Thank you, your Honor” I announced softly from the witness box. The words seemed surreal leaving my lips. After all we had been through, how could this be part of the plan? Before I can bring you to that experience in my life I must first give you a better understanding of when things were just alright.
It was a chilly spring Saturday morning and I had just finished watching my early morning cartoons. You see my mother would always be the first up in the morning, preparing breakfast and making sure the house was in good standing. Before I discovered video games I was an early riser, always eagerly waiting for the next episode of “Looney Tunes” or “Power Rangers”. I was about 5 or 6 years old at the time and like most of my peers.. I had my routines and rituals. 7am wake up, pour my bowl of Captain Crunch cereal and off to the couch I go. You might be wondering why a 6 year old is waking up at the crack of dawn.
Well you see, when you grow up with three sisters you quickly realize early on that you need to compromise when it comes to using the TV remote or even getting a chance at the toy in the cereal box. I digress… Early morning cartoons became my escape and a chance to watch whatever I wanted! This morning however, was different. It was moving day for us! Everyone was frantically running around our small Downtown apartment in an attempt to pack every last little toy or Knick knack. I remember helping my dad put the last box in the U-Haul truck and slamming the door shut with a huge sense of relief. Out with the old and in with the new!
The whole drive I anxiously sat in the back seat of our family van wondering what our new home would be like. “Would we each get our own room?”, “How big is our backyard?”, “Would our new home come with a pool?”. I know that last one was a bit of a stretch but come on… a kid can dream. “Alright everyone, seatbelts off!” my dad shouted from the driver seat. So many different thoughts running through my mind that I totally zoned out to where we had just pulled up. I thought to myself, “Wait, this can’t be our home… this place looked just like our last place”. Little did I know at the time my family was still in the midst of working through a financial crisis but as a young kid you just don’t think about those kinds of things.
My first real memory of staring through that small van window was that these people look nothing like us. We were now living in a CO-OP Apartment west of Toronto. The fact of the matter is we were never getting a pool or our own bedrooms… we were actually losing more than we were getting. Stepping out of the van for the first time was a real shock for me, there were a ton of apartment’s surrounding us with two giant basketball courts right smack dab in the middle. That Saturday afternoon the basketball courts were jam packed with kids of all ages and sizes. You could hear the shouting and excitement from a mile away. Instinctively, without even thinking about it my feet started to gravitate to where all the kids were playing, it wasn’t long before I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t go too far buddy” my dad muttered. “We don’t know what the area is like, so lets get everything unpacked and then we can explore some more” he said. At this point in my life I had retained full innocence, little did I know that years later that would all change.
Gathering some of our things we entered the front entrance corridor as a family. My dad fiddled with the buzzer for a while as the number didn’t seem to work. Finally the combination had been entered correctly and “click” the door to a new beginning for us had unlocked. We entered the lobby dragging luggage and bags behind us. Julia and Stephanie are my two older sisters, at the time Jessie had not been born yet.
As we continued on we were approached by what appeared to be a short stocky man with chest hair so long that you could braid it… not that anyone would really want to. I remember hearing an extremely loud scream from the elevator all while my pops was distracted talking to Mr.Wolfman.”Mommy! Daddy!” Julia cried. All of us turned our heads to the elevator so fast it seemed like something from right out of the movie The Exorcism. Julia had wandered off into the elevator while nobody was looking and all I see is my dad running as fast as he could toward the doors, but it was too late. “Slam!” the door shut and off my sister went like a rocket headed for the moon. The memory is a little foggy when it comes to the extreme detail of the situation but I do remember my parents losing their minds over the fact that they had no clue what floor she was headed too. You see if we were in the Trump Hotel or The Marriot then I’m sure we would have seen the floor that the elevator was going to stop at but, nope… this place was a friggen dump!
My dad shot down hallway like Donovan Bailey and threw open the door to the stairwell. “Stay together, I’ll be back!!!” My dad commanded. About 15 minutes had passed when all of a sudden the elevator doors open and viola, their stood my dad with a teary eyed Julia laying in his arms. This wasn’t the first time my sisters had wandered off, this happened a couple times before when we had shopped at the mall or another department store like Zellers or KMART. I’m sorry future generations of retail daywalkers but you are probably never going to know what those stores are. So get this, my sisters thought it would be cute to slip into one of those many clothing racks and hide in the middle for what felt like hours. One time Julia hid from my mom so long that we had to ask security to lock the doors and get everyone to help find her. I can’t remember for sure but I can assume that once my mom found Julia that she wasn’t going to be naming a street after her anytime soon.
Moving at this age was interesting because I didn’t really have many friends before that point so I wasn’t leaving much behind. The inside of our new home was similar but also very different from our last apartment. We were on the fourth floor and had a balcony. Ah, the fresh air flowing right into my lungs, the sun was shining and this was going to be great! Then out of nowhere I heard what sounded like a gunshot from the street below. “BAM!” I immediately jumped down to the ground in a scared panic. At that point I peaked over the frosted railing and saw a purple caravan below with about 5 Indian men piling out of it. They all seemed so confused and rattled by the noise. It appareaed to have come from the van, at that very moment one of the men looks up right at me. “He did it, he did it!” one of the men yelled. “What the hell are you doing kid?” another one of the men shouted. There was a bit of a language barrier but I could tell they were pissed! My heart sank, and my body went colder than a friggen popsicle. I stood there in shock for a minute before darting back through the sliding door. I guess my face must have been pretty pale because it warranted my mom asking me if I was okay. Thinking that the men on the street would eventually come to the conclusion that it was all a misunderstanding and just continue on.
But… that wasn’t going to happen.
I replied “Yeah mom, I just felt a little sick while standing on the balcony”.
Not 5 minutes later I hear several very agressive knocks on the door, “Bang, bang, bang!” My heart once again started climbing to record beats, thinking “please, please, please be the neighbor coming over to introduce themselves.”
Nope, that didn’t happen either.
It was in fact a large group of Indian men in a great panic. The same men that had seen me standing on the balcony at the very exact moment the massive bang went off. Of course they think I was responsible. I was a short, skinny red headed kid that apparently gave off some kind of Dennis the Menace vibe. I can remember my dad immediately defending me as he always would and then turning to me and asking “Son, did you throw something at their car?” I was so freaked out by the whole thing I stuttered at first but then quickly replied with “No dad, I was just watching the kids at the basketball court”. Another one of the men demanded that he see our balcony to see if I was throwing rocks or other objects. After complying and allowing one of them to come in and take a peak we heard a second massive “Bang!” from below. Well… would you look at that, the exhaust from the van was misfiring causing an extremely loud noise. My dad was relieved that nothing else had happened but I was pissed that they had accused me. After a couple empty apologies the men left. “What a relief!” I thought.
“Pass the sweet and sour please?” I yelled from the other side of the table made of cardboard boxes. It was kind of beautiful site in a weird way but we had built a makeshift dining room table with the boxes from the move. Furniture was a luxury we did not yet have. These are the memories I will cherish and remember forever, how could I possibly forget about those delicious McNuggets and golden fries.
This is our home now, welcome to Garnett-Jane.