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Published: November 16th 2010
In the summer of 1971, I packed up a pair of bellbottom jeans, a necklace of those ubiquitous love beads, a couple of peasant blouses that were less substantial than kleenex that had been through the wash cycle, and left home for the first and last time. I had rented a small studio apartment for seventy-five dollars a month, which seemed like a grown-up sum of money. My dad offered to drive me over and, as we pulled up in front of my new place, he looked troubled. Perhaps he was wondering how a man who waltzed his daughters around the kitchen after dinner could have turned so hopelessly bourgeois overnight. Or perhaps he was sensing, quite rightly, that I was about to turn his family home into my personal laundromat. ¨Ah well,¨ he said, sighing heavily. ¨Let’s just call it a bedroom on the other side of town.¨ It was a sentimental side of him, not often shown.
The discovery of this place was a real event for me, and I loved my little apartment with the intensity of a child making a fort out of couch cushions and a blanket. The main room was no bigger than a
walk-in closet and the kitchen was formerly a back landing. I shared a bathroom with two home economics students, both named Judy, who helped stock my cupboards with small boxes of raisins and packets of soy sauce from Chinese take-away. On the third floor lived a girl whose cousin, Margaret, was engaged to be married to Pierre Trudeau. He told this girl that she had a beautiful smile, so we all practiced smiling like the cousin of Margaret Trudeau. It was a summer of love beads and laughter, with lots of teeth showing.
Even though I intended to begin my life over from this point, anyone could see that I made a terrible hippie. Somehow, I just couldn't get the hang of complaining about the system by day then sleeping in oversized rollers by night. To sum up: it might have been fun but I just couldn’t run with it. Yet, to this day, this has never stopped me from indulging myself in harmless reinvention. Presently, I am fallen Spanish nobility, passing through a cigar-coloured living room. Amber light gushes in through a half-shuttered window from a backyard garden of pomegranate, quince and orange trees. Ripe fruit sags from
the branches. A couple of sinewy cats weave figure-eights around my ankles. The lagoon at our doorstep is as blue and tranquil as a painted plate and I picture myself living forever in this stately country home, serviced by maids and coachmen. In the distance, the sueded hills...
Well, you get the picture. In real life, the chimney smokes, the pillows are astonishingly lumpy, and I’ve taken to walking around in a sack-like burnoose (and if that’s not a look, I don’t know what is). Ron, for his part, wears blue suspenders and a red ball cap, and refuses to get a haircut. Tufts of hair poke out at wild angles from underneath his hat band and the rest, the fuzz, travels down the back of his neck. He’s holding out for a barber in Seville and, somewhere in the middle of my aggravation, I can’t help thinking how much my dad would have appreciated that. Really, he would have laughed out loud. For in my collection of quintessential Sid-isms, there are a few stand-out favourites. To give you an example, after the evening meal and before the waltzing, he would always push away from the table and say,
“So, what’s for dinner?” Or, while waiting at a stoplight with my mother at the wheel, he’d always say, “Marcie, it’s green. And it’s not getting greener.” But the most applicable one in the present situation applies to haircuts. “Five bucks to cut it. Five bucks to find it.” It was his standard line.
So, when Ron gets his ten euro haircut in Seville, I will be thinking of Dad. They share the same hairline, the same sense of humour. And when later, in the plaza, we come across a couple in dreadlocks and ventilated blue jeans, making a living out of a flamenco guitar and a set of tambourines, I’ll smile, not sadly, but with a whole lot of fondness. And I’ll toss a little money in their opened guitar case, in homage to our former selves, now two weary travellers, with a full sack of laundry, heading home.
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