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October 12, 2003

  • October Memory
  • imageThanksgiving weekend, 1981. Warm weather and golden skies. Summer and autumn hold hands together for one final caress. The flags on the Parade Square flap to the tune of a warm breeze from somewhere up the Niagara Peninsula.

    In a few short hours I will see my father after the longest month in the history of my life. I am a month shy of my twelfth birthday. A week before, I passed my basic training and became a full-fledged Cadet at Robert Land Academy, then the only military school in Canada.

    Stop for a moment. I can still picture that Friday morning with Kodachrome clarity. The morning spent somewhere in the sloping meadows that make up the outer perimeter of the property, free from my Math and Industrial Arts classes, acting as a marshal for a Cross-Country meet, left to my own devices and my own anticipation. Walking back up the ridge that led to the Dining Hall, I think soon; I will be home. Soon.

    One month. The haircut; the exercise (the three mile runs!); the discipline: push-ups (down for twenty; thank you for exercising my slack and feeble body, sir), laps, and worse than that; the mornings spent polishing boots for inspection; the afternoons eating Nature Valley granola bars for snack; the Saturdays spent cleaning barracks to music of The Boomtown Rats; the Sundays spent writing Mom and Dad saying how much I missed them; Seconds for dinner if inspection scores made 15 (out of 25) for the entire week; tea if it made 20 (I was often somewhere around 13); history classes learning the names of Native tribes (Algonquin, Huron, Iroquois…); science classes learning the composition of the local weir; gym classes learning to rappel off the top of the math portable; drill on the Parade Square at 0800; lights out at 2030 hours.

    There was a three-day hike across 72 miles. Everyone thought I wouldn’t keep up; I led the way. There were runaways the first week of school. There were no phone calls home until you became a Cadet, but letters from Mom with a 17-cent stamp most nights. There was an English teacher—a grizzled, middle-aged man who obviously hadn’t made his mark as a writer—who left after three weeks of assigning us work from a text well above the Seventh Grade level.

    Today, we would march in Parade, and then I would see my father. I would say Hello, sir (because I was told that was the correct way of saying such things). We would get into our brown Caprice Classic, and he would drive me from Wellandport to Oakville.


    Home to see my mother at her new job and watch her get all weepy on seeing me in my Dress Blues. Home to the Y&H Food Mart on Marlborough Court to buy the latest issue of Adventure Comics featuring Dial “H” For Hero (#488) and the latest issue of World’s Finest for good measure. Home to my excited baby sister, my nonchalant middle sister and my imperturbable dog.

    Home to my jeans, though I was now a size smaller. Home to dinner at Mother’s Pizza and then to stay up watching Fun With Dick and Jane on City TV channel 79 till 10 o’clock. Home to see the new Saturday morning cartoons for the first time. Home to a special, just-for-Graeme, GO-train trip to Toronto, first to the Silver Snail where I bought the first issue of Shazam! from 1973 for $3, and the latest issue of All-Star Squadron (#4) for 60 cents, and then onto my Dad’s office on Murray Street where I would read my purchases in the security of one of my favourite places.

    Home to be taught how to tie a tie. Home to a thanksgiving dinner with the best stuffing ever.

    All that will be soon. Now I am looking out to the Parade Square, to the barracks, to the distant classrooms and rappel tower, feeling a warm autumn breath on my face. Now I am eleven and eleven-twelfths and I am waiting for the most-hoped-for moment in my short life. And I am thanking my god, and thanking my angels, that I have made it to this time.

    Thankful that I will be, however briefly, going home.

    Soon; I will be home. Soon.


    Posted by graeme | (0) Comments | Permalink

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