Carla, Clay, and Carrie.

Carla was a woman who lived nor far from us in Peacock Court. She had black shoulder-length hair, crooked or missing teeth, never wore makeup, and was often staggeringly drunk. I don’t know if she found my parents first, or if they found her.

On one occasion, she woke us all up in the middle of the night by pounding on our front door and yelling for cigarettes in her hoarse, deep voice. Dad was absolutely furious! He leapt out of bed in his underwear and began yelling back at her from our side of the door. He yelled to knock it off or he’d call the cops. After five tense minutes of them yelling nasty things at each other through the front door, Carla finally gave up and left.

Not long afterwards, I guess Mum, Dad and Carla must have all gone off somewhere, because it fell to Kim and I to look after Carla’s two young little kids, a boy and girl named Clay and Carrie. I think Clay was almost two years old, and Carrie was maybe around three. They were both very young.

This was my first experience with young children, and these two turned out to be a little bit wild! They didn’t have any toys to play with, and were bored of our place within 30 seconds, so I brought out a plastic bag full of various Lego bricks. Within moments, the whole bag was dumped out on the floor, and Clay and Carrie were wandering around pulling things off the coffee table and crawling and stumbling all around our place.

They were actually okay little kids, just young and bored, and I felt sorry for them that they had the mother that they did. It felt to me like these two kids might have been a little neglected by Carla, but I really knew nothing about her or her kids.

After fruitlessly trying to play with Clay, I realized that little kids don’t listen or pay attention very well. After a little while, it was getting close to the time when we were supposed to put these two guys to bed, so I tried using a gentle “let’s do this together” kind of voice with Clay, in an attempt to get him to help clean up all the Lego blocks, which by this time were all over the kitchen floor. To my surprise, little Clay seemed to respond to this and began being a helpful little guy picking up blocks one or two at a time, and dropping them into the bag. I told him he was doing it very good, and I felt some sense of accomplishment and happiness. I had learned that I could control some situations and turn some unruly behaviour and minor chaos into a moment of cooperation.


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The memoir and family history of E. John Love