It was good to be back in Victoria with Poppy again. The first thing I noticed about Poppy’s house at 1002 Cook Street was that it was much quieter than before. There was an empty space. Something was missing.
Sam was missing.
Her absence was felt but nobody ever mentioned it. It must have been both comforting and disturbing for Mum to be back home with Poppy, but without her mother.
After living in a new place in Langley for two years, Poppy’s 50 year old house felt worn, and a bit mysterious – like you could tell that many things had happened there which you would probably never know about.
Just like two years earlier, sleeping arrangements were a little cramped. It was Kim and I who made the most sacrifices. There weren’t enough beds for all of us, so even though she was a lot bigger now, Kim still had to sleep in her old baby crib, and she curled up almost in the fetal position just to fit inside. I usually slept in the living room on the couch, or in the dining room on the familiar yellow folding lounge chair, padded with a foam mattress. In spite of these bedding arrangements, I don’t remember either of us kids really complaining. Maybe it was the novelty of being together – I don’t know.
Kim was now six years old and starting Grade One, and we’d both be going to the same school together, back to St. Paul’s Private School in Esquimalt. Each weekday, Kim and I would be dressed in our navy blue private school uniforms – me wearing a small cap and Kim wearing a navy blue beret. Poppy would walk the two of us out into the crisp morning air, through the backyard and out along Rockland Avenue to Cook St., where we would cross the intersection of Cook and Rockland to catch the Lake Hill bus. After 10 or 15 minutes, we’d get off downtown near the corner of Yates and Douglas St., near the Hotel Yates, where Poppy worked as the manager. Even though Poppy was now well into his seventies, he still worked a full day, Monday to Friday.
Poppy would buy his morning paper from a little news shop, and then would see us onto the Esquimalt bus, which would take us the rest of the way to school. Poppy seemed to be familiar with many of the bus drivers in Victoria – probably from having lived there for so many years. Kim and I got to know the driver of the Esquimalt bus fairly well too. Poppy had made a point of introducing us to him early on. His name was Joe, and he was a lively and friendly Irish gent who seemed to always be on the verge of telling us a joke or pulling some prank. After our first few trips with Joe, we felt pretty comfortable with him and with our long daily bus rides to Esquimalt. Usually, while waiting for the bus to leave, Kim and I would sit up near the front and talk to Joe. More often than not, he would crack us up, teasing that he was going to steal our lunches. He even snuck into the bus through the back door once trying to catch us unaware. Kim got a big kick out of this. Joe’s kindness and sense of silliness made the long bus ride a lot more fun.