(This is being recalled from a very young mind...)
When my father would begin telling a story from his childhood, he would begin with “When I was a little girl…” which would cause an uproar of high pitched objections from my sisters and myself. He would simply smile and continue on, as he now had our complete attention.
I started this post at the beginning of November of this year when thoughts of my father return annually on the anniversary of his birthday. This story, however, is not about my father…
When I was a little girl, I lived in a small house on Pine Street with my father, mother and three sisters. Ours was a busy, full house. Lisa was the oldest, very beautiful and very bossy. Pam was next, also very beautiful and we envied her fashion sense. I was the third in the line of my sisters, a middle child that cried a lot, made funny faces and was very comfortable at the centre of attention. My little sister, Joanne, enjoyed the status of being the baby in the family. She was adorable and quiet and she was my main playmate. Next door housed our friend Jennifer, her mother, father and her little sister. Joanne, Jennifer and I were like the three musketeers on the block.
One day, a moving van pulled up to the house next to Jennifer’s and we were told that a new family was moving in – moreover, that there was a girl our age to play with. We were so excited for another friend to even out the numbers, to play on the swings in our small backyard, and to join in the sandbox fun. The moving truck came and went but the house remained still and empty for a painfully long day or two.
Finally, there was some activity; finally we saw the girl! She was beautiful, she wore pretty clothes, and she had gorgeous, long wavy hair. I came to know her as Loris J Conn. Her new house was much larger than ours, her backyard was very large also, and she had a huge black dog that kept us away from that backyard. I was now very curious about this house, it was all a novelty. I should have envied Loris J for all that she had, but I did not; her house was always quiet, a sad quiet. I never saw her father. On occasion I saw her mother, but only inside of her house (I was rarely inside that house) and only for very brief moments. My memory always has her mother dressed in a fancy, oversized moo moo. I saw Loris J’s brother, her adoptive brother Ty, only once. I remember that day well.
Joanne, Jennifer and I were playing in the front yard. There were toys everywhere, mostly belonging to Jennifer. I was walking up and down the driveway mesmerized by a Fisher Price Corn Popper that I was much too old for, but I did not care. I walked and watched the different coloured balls as they took turns popping. Loris J joined in our play and then announced that Ty was coming for a visit. Play stopped as us girls became interested in the idea of a boy, a brother. We had questions.
Loris J noticed our ignorance concerning a brother, and with the authority she had earned, she explained what it was like to have one. We were fascinated. We learned that brothers were loud, tended to get into more trouble than their sister counterparts, and they were prone to peeing in their pants. I think I made a sour face when she said that last bit because she went into detail to support her claim. This was to be the first time I can recall hearing the word penis. I was both disgusted and curious. She smiled when she realized how little I knew about boys. She even demonstrated how much easier it was for girls to hold their pee. After that discussion, I was so glad to be a girl. It all sounded rather awful.
Ty showed up shortly thereafter, driven to the house by people we did not know. A procession of rather serious faces led Ty into the house without so much as glancing our way. I stood between Joanne and Jennifer, and we watched in awe as this boy, head down, a book between bookends, walked into that house. Loris J cheerfully excused herself and ran after them; we were not permitted to visit. Ty came and went that same day. I would never see him again.
Within a short time of that day, my family moved into a much larger house right around the corner on Bleecker Avenue. Jennifer’s family moved across town. Loris J and I went to different schools. That was that.
Twenty years later, I am perusing the books in the non-fiction section of the library when one title catches my eye, Who Killed Ty Conn. Written by Linden MacIntyre and co-authored by Theresa Burke, this book would explain in detail why this boy walked with his head down. A tragic story of abandonment, abuse and a boy whose wish it was to have a family. A story of poor judgment by the Ontario Child Protection Services, a story of the entitlements that come with position and money in our society and a story that reminds us that human attachment is essential to each and every one of us in our desire, our strong need to be loved.