I really should be working my ass off, because there really is alot to do. But I found a picture on the internet early this morning that I really want to share. But before I share, some background, please.
I grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, in a little court whose name shall remain anonymous. But for now, let me tell you that it was a string of townhouses on one side, a large, orange brick apartment building on the other side, complete with an ominous (and sure to appear in a short story or a novel coming to you any century now) undergound parking garage and above ground pool. On the other side was a townhouse complex of a hundred or more homes, snaking in and around. On the other side was the only in and out street, then there were detached homes and other neighbourhoods. Going back there now in my head (I have not physically been there in years ; and my childhood memories are stronger than the ones of a few years ago, oddly enough) and running those images through my thirty six year old filter, it occurs to me that my parents were really not all that well off. Never figured that out until a little while ago. But anyway, this is where we lived.
I owned a Big Wheel and I owned a Green Machine. I loved the Green Machine. It was infinitely more dynamic, in my opinion, with the way that you were able to steer it with a gear shift instead of handlebars or a steering wheel. And the exercise was excellent. Though now, even if I could wedge my fat ass into that uncomfortable, black, molded plastic seat, I doubt I would last five minutes before wheezing so hard I would have to puke. The big wheel was fun, too. And just as much work. But too straightforward. I do remember a story about a Big Wheel, but it didn’t have to do with me, and I don’t remember it (and I have a pretty good memory for little things like this) but Mom tells me it true so that means that it is.
My youngest brother liked the Big Wheel in the house. He rode it outside, I understand, but he also rode it everywhere else. Our townhouse (I really don’t remember the square footage ; my child memory tells me it was huge, my thirty six year old memory, adjusting to scale, tells me it was about fifteen hundred square feet or so) was long and narrow. You went up some conrete steps to a very small concrete landing and porch, through the front door, up some more steps into the house. Turn to the right, and there was the kitchen. Turn to the left and there was the stairs going up. Go straight ahead and there was the dining room ahead of you and the living room on the right. Go through the living room to the sliding glass doors and you went into the backyard. Go back into the living room and you will see a door that takes you down a narrow set of stairs into the basement. At the bottom of the stairs is a landing, and you turn left and go down a couple more sets of stairs. Stand at the bottom of those stairs, on your right is the laundry room, ahead of you is a small bedroom with a window, which served as my basement bedroom when from the ages of eight to about eleven or twelve. To your left, down a low, narrow passage, that leads you to the recreation room, play-room, call it what you will. The room was lined with bookshelves. And I mean lined. There were thousands of them. And saying that is not an exaggeration. I have a pretty good book collection now, all of them packed away and probably disintegrating, waiting to be put onto shelves. My collection is about five hundred and fifty books. My collection is a quarter of what my parents had. I remember only a few of them. Most memorable were the Encyclopedia Brittanica, which I would read when I was bored and wanted to be excited by something. Others include the fantastic ‘Man and Woman’ collection, which is also something I would read when I was bored and wanted to be excited by something ; moreso as I got older and appreciated what those images and paragraphs were trying to tell me. I have to thank that book for showing me where the clitoris was. I wouldn’t have found it without a GPS or ones of those ultraviolet lights that Grissom uses on CSI.
Now that I am walking through with you to this place, more memories are coming to me that I am jotting down in my Moleskin notebook (with my Fisher Space Pen ; an excellent combo – better than the best PDA you will ever buy and marginally better than the hipster PDA that I sometimes use for work) so that I can refer to them later when I am out of ideas.
But this is where we lived and the kind of house we lived in and this was where my brother hauled the big wheel around in. Well, it happened one day that Mom left the front door open. In that time and place, in that neighborhood, that was not a problem. You were raised by your parents and cared for by the rest of the neighborhood. The kind of place where if you stepped out of line and your parents weren’t there, sure as anything someone else’s parents were there and they would not hesitate to give you what for. And complaining to your own parents was worthless, because your parents were certain that whatever you got you deserved. And it was probably hot that day – I don’t remember having air conditioning until we moved to Newmarket – so that door would have given us a nice breeze.
Mom was doing something. I imagine she was in the kitchen, making us lunch or something, while she smoked cigarettes and had a cup of tea. Mom and Dad smoked in the house until we were well into our teens. When we were younger and lived in that townhouse complex, it was nothing for one of the three of us to Hop The Wall (more on that later) and run to the variety store to buy a pack of smokes. Mom was Benson and Hedges Light 100s and I think Dad was DuMaurier Light King. And the store would sell it to us. I mean, sell packs of smokes, sometimes three and four at a time. To kids that were all under ten. And they had no worry that any of us would try to buy for ourselves. Somehow, I think we knew that if we were buying for ourselves, some kind of Big People Telepathy would tell them what we were trying to do and we would get nailed for it.
And while Mom was doing that something, my younger brother had brought the Big Wheel into the house. Again, no big deal. Then she hears a horrendous thump and bang and crash of plastic against linoleum, and then against concrete, and then the sound of plastic wheels turning and grinding furiously against pavement pebbles. Mom dashed out of the kitchen to the hall and looked out the open front door.
My younger brother had successfully ran the Big Wheel down the hall from the dining room, down the stairs in the house, down the concrete steps, and out onto the driveway and onto the street. Mom didn’t tell me what she did after. She tells the story to explain that she knew when my younger brother was very, very young, that he would grow up and do whatever it is that he wanted, no matter what the risk, if only to see that it worked.
So what that tells me, is that even though Mom never said what she did after she saw him do it, is that she went back to the kitchen, took another drag off her smoke, downed her cup of tea in one gulp, and started boiling water for another cup.
But the reason why all of this came to me is because of one picture I saw on the comments section of the excellent site Fark.com. It is a picture of a Big Boy’s Big Wheel. It is a picture of a machine that I know my youngest brother would look at and wonder how much it was worth and wonder if there were a set of stairs anywhere he could run it down and see if he could make it.
 This was never intended to be a picture of my neighbourhood where I grew up. Those pictures can be saved for later. This is a picture of a bad ass Big Wheel that I’m sure my youngest brother would love to take for a spin.