Logically it was in June of 1969 when moved into our second Vancouver home.
Logically because my memories of Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon are located there. And we had arrived in Vancouver on July 1st of 1968. And I’m fairly certain that our first home was already waiting for us, thus already rented. Guessing that we probably had one year lease on that house means that logically the most likely date for our first Canadian move was on June 1st of 1969.
Seeing as our second home was also a one year affair, I can place in time my memories from there. It was the year we started riding the city’s buses.
I remember spending the summer going to a large neighbourhood park with a community centre that organized all sorts of activities. It was the only time in my childhood when we didn’t live next to a park. The playground at the school across the street was a poor substitute so we would make our mother take us to our favourite park. Our trips were excursions with my mother packing a picnic, blankets, towels, swimsuits and three children onto a bus.
The park was large enough to have a swimming pool deep enough to swim in. It was there I learned how to to float and how to swim which I did mostly underwater because I could not figure out how to breathe without swallowing water and if I was holding my breath I might as well have an excuse.
I also remember the afternoon when drawing horses was the art activity of the day and somehow there were live horses to sketch. Having read (heard?) somewhere that artists do multiple quick sketches when capturing objects in motion, I started going through sheets of paper with one sketch after another. The monitor came over and convinced me to try to draw more slowly, to fill in the details. I liked my sketches a lot more than the drawing I attempted so I went back to the earlier sketches and started filling the details (grass, fencing, trees) until the art activity was finished.
Other than our excursions to the park, almost all of our bus trips would start in front of McGavin’s Bakeries, home to the white bread we craved but rarely had. Our mother disapproved of industrial bread and we ate roof-of-the-mouth shredding homemade bread. She did agree that, despite all their chemicals, the smell of baking bread was still mouth-wateringly good. It is still one of my favourite smells and it is usually followed, while it is still warm enough to melt butter, by a few slices.
Riding the buses became our Sunday activity. We would get the Sunday Holiday pass (the ampersand remained silent) take the bus west to a transfer stop, change bus, and ride the line to its terminus. If the line didn’t end at a concrete island in the middle of nowhere, we would get off, explore the area before doubling back. Otherwise, we would sit, reading the Buzzer, memorizing the jokes, and wait for the bus to start its ride back. Some of the lines took two transfers to get to.
At some point during that year, probably near the end of our stay in our second Canadian home, my Mother started using the buses as her babysitting service. We would choose the line to ride and I would be given the emergency coin purse with our home phone and address, dimes (for the phone booth), and a few dollars. She would purchase our day passes, ask the bus driver to keep an eye on us, and remind me of my role as the eldest son.
I know it must have been that year because I was also taking the bus alone that year and this I know because I remember scaring the shit out of my mother by showing up later than expected because, to earn myself a little extra pocket money, I walked the two miles from Jewish school. What I cannot remember is what I had planned to do with the money saved — a coke? candy bar? hockey cards?