Remember when life was simple and easy? Being a kid was a kaleidoscope of bright, shiny colours drenched in happy faces. Each day was more exquisite than the last … and years lasted FOREVER. Everything was as unspoiled as a newly minted as a penny. And you thought you were the brightest one.
Life was an endless buffet of fresh, new experiences. At least for me. I have vivid memories of my early childhood. My Mom would come in my room, open up my curtains to the sunlight and pick me up out of my crib. She would laugh and smile and chatter with me, while I squealed and giggled back. I remember learning to spell my name in that house … running around barefoot in a diaper screaming “L I S A! Lisa!” Both of my parents told me I was a smart little cookie.
I was loved, cherished, safe and happy. With a few quirks.
I fell down our wooden staircase when I was about two years old. I don’t recall falling but I did have a lifelong fear of stairs. Going up is no problem, but I feel unbalanced running down stairs and grip the handrail. Elevators were just as ferocious. The sensation of going up was fine, but man … coming down made my head swim. Around the time I started school, a young girl got stuck in an elevator for hours, and the story left me horrified and terrified. I refused to get on elevators, escalators or stairwells.
Which made visiting my Dad in the top floors of an office tower in downtown Montreal pretty tough.
Instead we shopped in Place Ville Marie and I once got a toy … alligator. He was plastic with a big, wide mouth and he terrorized my Barbie for years.
I always loved animals. Cats, dogs, horses, alligators, monkeys and guinea pigs. My Mom wouldn’t let me watch Lassie because I’d ugly cry every single episode. I had Barbie dolls and all of her assets … Barbie pool, Barbie car, Barbie’s dream house, and a Barbie suitcase for all of her clothes and shoes. But I preferred to play with my Johnny Best of the West horses. The humans would sit silently by the corral while the horses took on larger than life personalities. They had social structure and families. They went on epic journeys and vacations. They may have neighed, but those sounds had meaning … language … sentences. I talked to those horses for hours each day, and still have them.
I used to talk to my pet canary the same way … I’d chirp my words, figuring if I focused on the intent in my mind, he’s understand my language.
Apparently, as a child, I disliked small talk with real human strangers. My Mom said that I perfected my “Who the fuck are you?” look by the age of six months. If anyone dared to coochy coochy coo me, I’d glare at them like they were the infant. I did NOT like strangers talking to me. I am not sure when that changed, but suspect the timing coincided with noticing boys, especially if they were cute and new on the scene.
My cousin drove me nuts taking smack, so I made him inhale a pea up his nostril … we had to go to emergency to have it extracted. My Aunt was less than impressed.
I still like peas. Not sure about him.
Summer mornings were glorious. I would wake up, race out the door with a pop tart in my hand, and scream goodbye to my Mother. She didn’t have to tell me the rules. Be home for lunch. Be home for dinner. Come in when the street lights came on.
Weekend mornings were even grander. We’d head for our country place the second my father got home on Friday nights … the two hour drive to Barton, Vermont, a quaint little village nestled in the lush, green mountainside. I’d wake up in my bunk the next sunrise fully refreshed and rarin’ to explore the creeks, trails, and paths I knew so well. I never once whined for a television or radio. And nobody knew what a cell phone was.
I don’t know who told me that cows lie down when a storm is approaching … but we would scare the bull in the field below us if he dared to lie down on a weekend summer’s day. Did you know bulls recognize many colours other than red ???
I can still hear the perfect silence of a rural evening … no big city sounds, no traffic, just crickets, bullfrogs and laughter. I can still taste the cookouts and pot lucks, family barbeques, the tiny ice cream shop’s extra large frappes and the Country Club’s butterflied shrimp. Once the camp fires started, the adults would drink beer and we kids would pop Jiffy Pop popcorn or make S’mores. Sticky fingers would reach out for – “More, please!” – as many toasted marshmallows as you could sneak by Mom. How many you could stuff into your mouth was the biggest childhood worry. At 10pm each Saturday night, a satellite would cross the sky. I’d wait, in wonder, to catch the first glimpse of its orbit in the southern sky. That travelling night light was my weekend signal to go to bed.
I can still smell the mountain fresh air, the sap from the pine trees and curling smoke from a dozen campfires. I can still see the beautiful glacial lake nestled in between mountains, the statue of Jesus mounted on top of the rock cliffs to the eastern side. The view was magnificent in the autumn. The red, orange, and yellow leaves outshining the pale greens and pines. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the excitement I felt as someone’s parents dropped us off at the old movie house on Main St. I received my first real kiss in those wooden seats. And I still remember the “it’s over” feeling in the pit of my stomach on Sunday evenings as we packed up to go home.
If only I could relive some of those wondrous moments within a bubble of time.
If only I knew what gave me cancer. The smoke? The charred, burned bits of BBQ’d meat? The alcohol? The acid rain? The pollution? The sun? The additives? The plastics?
If only toasted marshmallows in S’mores were still just favourite treats.
Today – back in the present surreal time – is Day 12 of my 20 Radiation Treatments. I have 8 to go … the last four are “boosts” or direct shots to the site of my tumour. I wish twenty days didn’t stretch out so long.
My right nipple looks and feels like a toasted marshmallow. Puffy. Slightly browned with burned bits. Or they might be scabs. The entire breast and underarm is angry red.
I once skewered my 12-year-old breasts with a fork while toasting marshmallows. My chair collapsed and drove the fork into my chest, piercing my nipple.
It feels like it has been skewered and barbequed.
Each person’s journey through cancer and treatment is different. Some sail through radiation with slightly pinkish skin. Others brown to a crisp like a marshmallow that has caught fire and burned. Considering that I am just over the halfway mark, I am worried that my S’more will be torched. When I look at the delicious campfire treat, I see mammogram graham crackers slamming down on a radiation burned marshmallow breast … and chocolate.
Thank God for chocolate. I can’t have a bad memory of that.
One in Eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. I hope I took that “one” for many friends.
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