Bigger, and Almost Golden

This is not Dad’s actual Gold ’68 Plymouth Valiant – just a white one that I did a crappy colourization on.

Dad traded in the little white Simca that he’d been driving since we arrived in Vancouver from Aldergrove. What he drove home now was a 1968 Plymouth Valiant. I thought it was cool, because it was much bigger that the Simca – almost like a full-sized family sedan. The fact that it was as old as my little sister didn’t bother me. Dad paid $1300 for “the old girl” as he called it.

Not long afterwards, I was playing with some kids in front of our unit, and as one kid chased me, I ran around the side of someone’s car. For a brief moment, I looked over my shoulder to see if I was still being chased. When I turned forward again, I ran mouth-first into the side mirror of a parked car. I hit it very hard and heard a horrible crunch in my mouth. Stunned, I spit out pieces of one of my front teeth into the palm of my hand, along with a little blood from a fat lip. I panicked and ran into the house.

“Dad – I broke my front tooth!” I wailed.

“What?! Those are your permanent teeth!” he growled, very pissed off at the bad news. I just felt guilty.

For weeks, my tongue got scratched and cut on the sharp edge of my newly segmented front tooth. We never went to the dentist to have it fixed. In fact it wasn’t fixed until I paid for it myself as an adult, about fourteen years later. All my Dad had ever done about it was get mad at me, and that sucked.

It seemed like getting time alone to myself was what I really wanted most of the time. I used to enjoy climbing the big old trees between the Peacock Court and Mountain View motels. The lowest branches of the trees were too high to reach, so I devised a kind of sling-seat made from a long rope with a piece of two-by-four tied at one end. I would fling the board end up at an overhead branch (maybe eight feet off the ground or higher), and sit over the two-by-four while pulling myself up towards the branch. I’d coil the loose rope in my lap, and then wrap it around the branch when I got as high as I could climb. I didn’t have any trouble pulling myself up. I felt young and strong back then.

It was actually a pretty dangerous way to get up into a tree, but I only used a two-by-four or another piece of wood that I knew would carry my weight. It felt wonderful to get up above everything, perched up in the branches like some denim-clad bird.

One day, I sat up in this one tree, fingering under the arm of my favourite white turtleneck sweater. There used to be a large tear under my arm, which had quickly unravelled into a wide hole, but I noticed that it was now completely fixed, with no more hole to let in the wind. When I climbed down again, I took off my sweater and investigated it. To my delight, the hole had been patched – knitted – together in a similar colour of wool. I realized that Aunt Molly had fixed my sweater for me, and I remembered that simple kindness for many, many years.


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The memoir and family history of E. John Love