One June morning in the 1970s, when I was on my way back from the park where I had gone to get some government sponsored soup, I spotted a familiar character walking towards me. I was glad that I noticed her first, because I was a little afraid of her. She walked around our neighbourhood almost every day, but it was much more fun to watch her from our kitchen window.
Every time Mom saw her, she let me know.
“Mrs. Sunshine’s out,” she’d yell, and I ran to the window to see what she was wearing that day.
Although, I wasn’t her clothes, really, that was the big deal. It was the fact that she was wearing so much makeup that it looked like she had painted two red balls on her cheeks. She also seemed to be wearing two wigs on top of each other. Anyway, seeing her made Mom happy so, in a way she was Mrs. Sunshine, even if the nickname probably wasn’t all praise to begin with.
I have to say the kid was good-looking. He looked goofy, sure, in his bleached jeans and a yellow ski jacket, and he looked a little confused, absolutely, but most of all he looked real nice. I had forgotten how good the kid looked, it’d been ages since I had last seen him. Well, decades, and three decades to be exact.
I recognized him right away. He just appeared in front of me as I was riding my bike to the mall the other day.
“Hey, kid,” I said. “Wait up.”
“Caps, T-shirts, and sneakers, that’s what we need,” Wife told me the other day. I was a little surprised because that’s basically the contents of my entire wardrobe, but happy, because if you ask me, everybody needs caps, T-shirts, and sneakers.
Turned out that she wasn’t looking to add more caps, T-shirts, and sneakers into my wardrobe, but to take some out of there so she could send them to the refugees on Lesbos, Greece. Her office works with an organization that delivers clothes and other items to Greece to help the people who have nothing.
Like so many others, we wanted to help, simply because we want to help. Also, I’d like to see our kids become better people than I am and I’d like to see them become human beings who feel empathy, and sympathy, and who act. No, I’m not a sociopath, of course I feel empathy, and sympathy. It’s the last part that’s my weakness, which is why Wife is my hero. She’s a doer.
Anyway, we wanted to show Son and Daughter that everybody can do something.
I became a self-taught shaver one summer’s day at the tender age of fifteen when I took a disposable yellow Bic razor and shaved the hair on my upper lip. It had grown to the point where it was no longer cool. Oddly enough, I don’t remember how often I actually shaved going through high school, but I do remember the cool summer breeze hitting my lip when I rode my bike downtown later that day.
I didn’t use any shaving cream, or foam, or gel – I’m fairly confident gel didn’t even exist then – or even soap, and neither did I use any aftershave.
Not even Dad’s Old Spice.
I’m a simple man with simple dreams. I don’t generally think the universe owes me much, and I have no demands to make. And because I think my wishes are small, there’s no need for them to not come true. I’m the kind of guy who’s happy to have just enough milk in the carton for his cappuccino, just enough sunshine to ride my bike into town (and then sit outside for a while), and a decent WiFi connection.
Oh, and the hand.
I do want to see the hand.
You know the hand, it’s the one you see in the car in front you when they’ve passed you on a highway, and the hand you see in your rearview mirror when you’ve passed another car on a highway. The hand that waves at you when you meet a car on a narrow dirt road in the bush, and you let the other car pass first.
He parked his small white car by the side of the road right outside the front door. Or at least as close to the door as it was possible, so close to the two old barrels that now were flowerbeds that he couldn’t have opened the passenger’s door of his small car. But he didn’t have to, because he was alone in the car, and was just going to make a quick stop at Grandma’s to say hello.
It was one of those perfect summer nights. You know the kind. It’s the time of the year when the nights are still warm and it’s the time of the day when you’re not sure if the sun has gone down yet, or if you can still sort of see it in the horizon.
Loyal readers like you will remember that Risto wasn’t my parents’ first choice for my name. Their first choice was Kalle to the point that even my godmother thought that I was going be one. I’m not sure when she heard the news that I was going to be Risto, but whenever it was, it was too late for her to get her gift spoon re-engraved.
That spoon, that had the time of my birth, my weight and height on the front, and then “Kalle” on the back, was my favorite spoon for decades, and I think I still have it, although, unfortunately, I may have lost it over the years as well, or I may have left it at Mom’s.
I am one of those people who like lyrics in songs. I listen to the text, and for me to like a song, the text has to make sense. Well, the exception that confirms the rules is “Scatman” but I’m not sure if that even counts.
I think it’s partly because my brain’s just wired to play with words and twist and shout them, and love the words, and partly because I wouldn’t want to get caught pushing a message I don’t understand. It hasn’t always been easy, especially since Mom used to play Harry Belafonte and Edith Piaf at home when I was a preschooler, and as much as I’d love to say I was fluent in French at the age of five, well, I just can’t.
And “Je ne regrette rien” may even have been be easier to understand than “Day-o, day-o, Daylight come and me wan’ go home, day, me say day, me say day, me say day”.
Imagine a teenage boy. Now imagine he’s a hockey player, then imagine he’s a pretty good one, and then, imagine him on the ice. Imagine it’s the 1980s, and imagine he’s playing a game in a fairly big rink. Imagine it’s the main rink of the town.
Despite it being the city’s biggest rink, and the only indoor arena, imagine only a handful of people watching the game. Imagine there are a few teenage girls, but mostly men of different ages. Imagine some of them in the stands, and some of the standing behind the plexiglass at ice level.
“Every time I jump like that, I feel like time slows down a little bit.”
– Son, today, after a hop over a puddle
On the back wall of my elementary school cafeteria, there was a big clock. White background, black hands, no numbers, just the short lines that indicate the five-minute (or second) intervals the hands have to make to travel around the face.
There was also something else I’ve never been able to forget in my school, and that was the rule that you had to finish your plate, because food was never to be wasted. That’s why I sometimes sat alone at a long table and stared at the clock, while trying to chew whatever food was given to me that day.
One time, when I was there alone, trying to make the food go down, I glanced at the clock, and waited for the seconds hand to move, as it did, second by second, not in one smooth motion – but it didn’t.