God, I wish there was a photo of 6-year-old me in my Batman costume. I *LOVED* Batman – and dressing up – as a child. Born in the last hour of 1965, I spent my early life as a little girl on my Dad’s knee watching Batman and Star Trek and the Carol Burnett show. All of these early productions shaped who I am today. Justice. Science. Exploration. Humor.
What did Batman give me? A sense of integrity. Good must triumph evil. Help others and fight the Establishment. And 6-foot men with well-defined jaws like Adam West (may he rest in peace) are the superheros I am attracted to. My ideal man is a nice guy – tall, dark and handsome – with that edge. Don Adams as Maxwell Smart just didn’t do it for me … even at the tender age of six.
I rarely played with Barbies. I loved my Johnny Best of the West action figures and their horses, which I still have. Buckskin, Comanche, Flame, Pancho, Storm and Thunderbolt. I loved the Fisher Price Garage (why the hell would my parents NOT buy me a garage with cars … that I played with constantly at a friend’s house, but they bought me a pool for my Barbie?) And Lego. I cherished my Lego.
And the costumes … I clearly love to dress up! That whole story is documented in The Fox.
I lived a quiet, normal childhood of good grades and a serene homelife as a pseudo-only child – my brother and sister were born twenty years before me – in the suburbs of Montreal, Quebec. Ballet and tap dance lessons on Sunday mornings, horseback riding lessons on Thursday evenings. I tried skating and highland dancing, swimming and tennis. I cried ugly tears because I didn’t get to go to Greek or Hebrew school on the weekend like my friends.
There were art classes at home. My father was very artistic – and would probably be called a Graphic Designer today. Since this was the days before computerized art, he drew, painted, plotted and graphed all of the art that would be translated into the textile machines. He designed logos and designs for companies. Dad would have a twelve foot by ten foot sheet of graph paper down on our kitchen floor and I would help paint in the designs he had drawn up. He taught me calligraphy and doodling. My biggest regret in life is not having a beautiful sampler of my Dad’s cursive writing. It flowed so beautifully and perfectly, each letter formed to an exact height and slant. The world has lost the breathtaking art of penmanship. My son can barely read my cursive … and it is far from a doctor’s scribble.
I was a happy and popular kid. Long brunette hair that was almost to my bum. Its waves shaped into ringlettes at the ends. Big brown eyes. Tiny and slim. Perhaps a little self centred, which is the soup du jour for most kids that age, is it not? The world revolves around them and their needs. Today, in my fifties, I am a little taken aback at how tunneled the vision of a six year old is. They don’t see you coming through the door and try to squeeze through first. Or dance in front of you in the grocery aisle, oblivious to the other shoppers until their parent pulls them aside and admonishes “You are in other’s way.”
I was constantly in motion, so I am sure that I got in the way of many people.
There were at least three occasions where my dancing around and Dad’s inattentiveness made a perfect storm. Cigarette burns on my arms where he and I collided. Ouch! I hated those cigarettes. Especially around absent-minded Dad. There were burn marks on everthing we owned … including me. The kitchen table. The coffee table. The couch. The bed. I’m surprised we didn’t go up in smoke.
My parents were the typical 1970s adults, who threw some wild parties in their day. One night the police showed up at our house due to a complaint about the vast quantities of beer bottles being strewn around the front lawn. My Father’s response? Drag out the living room area rug to cover said bottles and carry on!
Inside the house, the glasses and ashtrays were filling up. The cigarette smoke hung thick and low in the air. There was no escaping it. I hated the smell … especially days after when the third hand smoke was stale. Especially when it rained. The dampness seeped into the uphostery and bled out years of black, tarry smoke. It penetrated everything. The walls, the furniture, the fabics, the carpet, my eyes. My God … my eyes burned up and sank to the back of my head some nights. Even closing my eyelids was painful because my eyeballs were smoked, dried and cooked in behind.
I used to poke pin holes in my parents cigarettes near the filter. They would suck and drag on their cigarette as if their life depended on it – lips pursed – and wonder why they weren’t getting a good puff. At the tender age of six, I had mastered the “Who? Me?” face. If caught, I flipped into “Resting Bitch Face” and scowled at them. Served them right for subjecting me to all that acrid smoke. I hated it. Especially when cooped up – windows up – in the car rides.
I have such fond, loving memories of my childhood, despite the smoke and booze. I was protected and loved in my village by all the adults who knew me. Our group of friends and family were an easy-going bunch, always ready to celebrate something. My parents either dragged me over to someone’s house for a weekend party, or had one at our place. There would be a pile of us kids stuffed into bedrooms, awaiting pickups by Dads who would carry us to the backseat of the car for the (drunk) ride home. Thankful that everyone survived those rides home …
After one such party at our place, I woke up earlier than my hung-over parents and decided to help my Mom by washing all the glasses and dishes for her. This was a job for Batman, so I got out my makeshift cape and began cleaning up.
I dragged a chair over to the sink and loaded the half empty glasses into the hot, sudsy water. Occasionally, I would take a swig of the warm, stale beer before putting the glass in the sink. I usually got a sip of my Dad’s Labatt’s 50, but that was all I wanted. This Sunday morning, I drank a little too much of the leftover beer and wine.
By the time my parents got up, 6-year-old Lisa was up on top of the kitchen counter, in a cape, using a soap brush as a mic, singing “Nananananananana! Batmannnnnnnnnn!” at the top of my slightly inebriated little lungs.
I giggled, swayed and swore at my parents in French when they attempted to safely remove me from the edge.
“Maudit Tabarnak!” “Câlice!” “Je veux rester ici!”
Roughly tranlsated … “Jesus effing Christ, I want to stay here!”
A call to poison control was made. They laughed and said, “Let her sleep it off.”
Can you imagine? In 2017, Children’s Aid would be beating down your door.
I don’t recall what happened after. I guess I slept it off. No harm done, because I was still allowed to have the first sip of beer. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I crawled home drunk as a skunk again. Dad held my hair as vomited. Mom handed me a beer for breakfast and made me drink it … I threw up right beside the kitchen table. I still remember the brown colored vomit splashing against the yellow speckled linoleum.
I let her clean it up.
I know better now!
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© Lisa Jobson 2017