I remember a time when it was just my mother, my brother, and I; driving with the windows rolled down, and 90's music spilling out into the streets we drove on. We wore whatever we found on our bedroom floors, things that weren't too wrinkled or too old, and we would get in the car and drive. Lunch would be held wherever we chose, a park or a fast food restaurant - anywhere and anytime. And we could go anywhere we wanted to, as long as we were home for supper; when my father would set us all down for pork chops and broccoli and applesauce with popcorn and a movie for dessert. Maybe we were too young to watch R rated movies at the age of eleven and twelve, but maybe my father had other things on his mind, like buying old cars that he never intended to fix up.
My mother was bold and demure all at the same time. She would pack us all up like little objects she had forgotten to put away, and she would take us to every place we ever wanted to go. But then she was Cinderella, and when the clock struck 4:30pm, she would turn to herself, slowly unpacking us into our house, into our rooms, into the R rated movies we weren't really allowed to be watching on our satellite t.v.
My father never amounted to much in my memories. He existed, he was there, and that was all I really remember. Oh, and he liked Turtles; chocolate Turtles were his favourite, and we would buy him a giant package for Christmas and for his birthday, because he liked them, and because we didn't know what else he liked. He built us a fort this one year, it took forever, but when it was done it was amazing. There was a ladder and a slide and a roof and a desk and a back deck and a front deck and we had sleep overs there all summer. He yelled at me this one time, too, because I forget to tell him where I was. That's all I remember.
What I do remember, is when we finally left and it was just us all the time. My mother packed us up into a new lifestyle, and she left us like that, and we ate Subway every Friday night for supper and we rented movies from That's Entertainment because we had a membership and because it always had the best movies. There was so much freedom it became tangible; like we could cut it up and serve it to the rest of our friends. We ate freedom every day for breakfast, lunch, and supper and then we ate it at night in our dreams.
My father became someone who had existed, but didn't really exist anymore. I knew he was there, but at the same time, I sometimes forgot that he was there. My mother was the one who picked up the phone when he called. My mother was the one who went back and forth between our old, white bungalow and our new duplex downtown. My brother and I sat on the sidelines, breathing in freedom like when we would breath it in during those car rides to anywhere, the windows rolled down, music blasting.
That was my favourite part about my mother; how she had these significant moments about her. We would be driving, and then out of nowhere she would say something that she must have been mulling over for a while. Or maybe she hadn't been mulling anything over, and she had just said the first thing she thought of to break the silence of freedom. "This is my favourite song," she would say. She said that one a lot, and it made me wonder if every song was her favourite. She also used to make comments when trains would pass our old, white bungalow. "Oh, there goes another one" or "let's run out and count the cars."
This one time, we had been driving back from Niagara Falls towards home, towards St. Catharines, and it was late out, so late out. If I could see the stars, I'd bet they were twinkling at me, but the smog and the city had blown all the stars away. My father was yelling obscenities out the window, honking his horn and driving too fast, alcohol rushing through his system. My brother was sleeping beside my in the back seat, sucking on his thumb, just the opposite of the nine-year-old he was. And my mother, she was demure as always, pretending like my father wasn't drunk or that she didn't have two children in the back seat or that we weren't driving on the highway to St. Catharines much too late. Then, just when I had begun doubting her, she turned to me and smiled, and she said, "you see those lights? That's St. Catharines, that's home." And I looked, and there it was, sparkling in the distance, barely ten minutes away.
After the freedom wore off, my mother stopped with her memorable comments. She never pointed out my home anymore and she never asked me to count train cars with her. I used to wonder why she wasn't the same anymore, but then I realized that maybe it was me. Maybe, she figured she didn't have to point out home to her teenage daughter. Or maybe she didn't count train cars with me because we had moved; and we had moved somewhere that didn't boast any train cars to count.
But somewhere, deep in the back of my mind, I thought that maybe she hadn't been mulling anything over. Maybe that's just who she was. And maybe my father was just the man to yell obscenities out the window on dark nights. And maybe my brother was just the boy who still sucked on his thumb some years later, and pretended along with the rest of us that everything was okay.
And maybe I was always the one to notice all of this.