Sunday, 29 April 2012
It's a Spring Thing
Winter on the Canadian Prairies is like a bad houseguest who says he is leaving in April, but decides to use your place as a bed & breakfast for "a couple more days". You think he's gone, so you wash the sheets and re-claim the spare bedroom, but then you come home from work one day, and he's laying shirtless on your couch, eating Nutella straight from the jar.
I was not blessed with the best memory, but I swear that spring was different when I was a kid. Suddenly, it was warm and it stayed warm! As I recall it, one day the sun came out, the arena closed, all the snow melted, and it smelled like spring. That smell meant it was time for two things: Your rubber boots and your bike.
When we were kids, rubber boots were rubber boots. They were all the same. No pretty pink hearts or checkered prints with buckles, no...they were black with a strange peachy/orange coloured trim. All of them. If you had green ones, you were either pushing the envelope or you were a foreigner. Everyone took a black marker, and wrote their name in their standard issue black rubber boots. Sometimes your cousin’s name was already in the boots, so you had to cross it out and write your own name. You then wore them to school and put them on the shelf in the Boot Room. The Boot Room had a terribly unpleasant aroma because all the kids had gone out the night before and gotten a “bootful” and this, coupled with the fact that every kid had the exact same pair of boots, should have been considered permission for teachers to carry a hip flask.
Rubber boots were tested in the first mud puddles of the season. That's right, tested. Why? Rubber boots ended up with holes in them. How did that happen? I have no idea...I can't think of a more industrial grade material than rubber boots, but you knew as soon as you stepped into that puddle and felt the cold water seep into your sock, you knew. You knew that tomorrow your mom would make you go to school with the dreaded BREAD BAGS lining your boots. Shameful.
Bikes were also standard issue. Oh sure, the odd banana bike or 10 speed would make an appearance in our town, but any old bike represented freedom to us. When my daughter was about 11, we went to a fancy bike store just because it was nearby. The guy asked us what we wanted in terms of gears, and tire width, etc. What? My bike at that age had pedals and handle bars. What it did not have was a chain guard, consequently almost ruining my best pair of fortrel bell bottoms when they became hopelessly stuck in the chain. Did I complain? No. My mother simply gave me a rubber sealer ring to tame the flaring fabric and off I went. Kids have not had to worry about their pants getting caught in a bike chain for 25 years now. Instead they are so confused by what gear to select that they park their bike in the garage, and return to the basement to play video games.
Even the biking accidents weren't so bad in hindsight. Most weren't terribly memorable, but one fine spring evening, I was riding my bike on the sidewalk across from my house. Back in the day, some people fenced their front yards, as was the case with our neighbour, who had a LUNATIC for a dog. So I'm riding along the fence, minding my own beeswax when Flash appears out of nowhere barking his evil face off and matching my pace from behind the fence. I go all wobbly, my handlebar with the cool plastic streamer gets caught between two of the pickets and I am launched unceremoniously, ass over teakettle, into the ditch. Thank goodness for the Avon lady, who was driving by. She stopped and picked me up and helped me limp over to my mother, who helped me retrieve several pebbles out of my knee. They tell me I was one of the lucky ones, as I was not even wearing a BIKE HELMET!!
So enough of this gloomy windy rain already. I am ready for sunny spring evenings. Who's up for a game of Anti-I-Over?? If you know what that means, leave me a comment!