Glancing Back – Living Forward

On a cool autumn morning, mommy and me are at the VIA Rail Station in Kitchener waiting for the train to Toronto.

The annual “Word on the Street, Toronto Book & Magazine Festival” is on today at Queen’s Park Circle. We are eager to stroll through the many tents lining the walk-ways; to hear award-winning authors read from their latest bestsellers; to glean knowledge and information from writing educators, editors, publishers; to sit in on writer’s workshops and to sample mouth-watering offerings from the various food sellers: corn-on-the-cob, roasted yams, green and red curries, authentic poutine and more.

We could have driven into the city about an hour and half from where we live; I drive, mommy tells me when there is a stop ahead, she forgets my vision is fine. Not going by car, cost wise, we probably broke even, with gas being over $1.30 a litre (I know!) and parking for the day in downtown Toronto running around $25. That aside, it was important to both of us to take the train.

The last time we took a train ride together from Kitchener to Toronto was (I’m sharing my age here if you choose to do the math) in 1967, I was 4 years old at the time. Mommy’s, foggy, plan was for us to go on to Vancouver from there and then up the coast to Ocean Falls. We only made it as far as Winnipeg where we were told, by authorities, we had to get off the train–not optional! What happened on that train ride and what followed would have life altering consequences and lessons for both of us.

In the book we are writing together “Love Ya Mommy” (I still call her Mommy, unless I feel like bugging her than I call her Ma—that gets her going real good!) we are compiling stories of our many adventures; from just before I was born until I was nine, that she battled mental illness. One of our stories is of that fateful train trip in 1967.

Although today’s train ride has no reason to be filled with anything but good memories waiting to be stored for later smiles; we brought a lot of baggage with us—pun intended.

It was quite surreal actually! Trying to pretend it was no big deal, when in reality, it was a really big deal! It was far easier for me, recalling a childhood adventure, other than, getting tired of eating nothing but peanut butter on crackers for two days. Which, I rectified by “looking cute” (something all four-year-old’s are good at) for handouts of potato chips, ham sandwiches, and cash.

The true test of endurance and letting go of the past was handled quite eloquently by my mommy. As we rode the train to a fun-filled day in Toronto, she admitted to feeling nauseous, shaky, the glance back to 1967 when she was in the grips of mental illness, vulnerable and brutalized, difficult to do.

When the announcement came over the loud-speaker, “Toronto, next stop Toronto!” mommy was first in line to get off the train. From there we went on to enjoy the Festival. Ignoring our apprehension about the return trip. Knowing the past is over, and we made it through, having learned: the way to negate a painful glance back is to create a new life forward.

After a great day at the Festival, we boarded the train again to return to Kitchener. We had fun taking pictures of ourselves with my Iphone—even of my freezing cold feet—yes I’m still wearing flip-flops although the temperature dictates I should be wearing (fuzzy lined) boots. As we giggled, being completely silly fools–and enjoying every minute of it, I said, “We better settle down or we’ll get kicked off this train too, like we did in 1967.” That only inspired more laughing!

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