The many years that followed saw the family of 5 travelling from Ontario to Montreal to Vancouver and back to Ontario. Yes, I said ‘5’! My Baba was a constant in my life from my birth until her death. She moved everywhere with us, although she most always had her own place, she was a constant guiding life force.
My time in Vancouver, brings with it special memories. It was just Baba and us.
Our family unit was small, but strong. When it came to my brother, I could be the protective second mother.
Mom would always say, ‘You look after your brother, we are lucky he is here with us’. I always wondered, was that where I began to feel ‘guilt’? Between the ‘catholic’ and ‘Ukrainian’ training, it’s a wonder that I ever walked out of the door each day.
But as each year passed, I had to admit, as an older sibling that sometimes I saw my brother as a nuisance. I was beginning to have my own friends and he always wanted to hang out with us. I was so embarrassed to have my little brother tagging along or at least trying to. On the other hand, I loved playing ‘school’ with him. I would teach him how to spell, add, subtract, and grade him on it, years before he entered kindergarten. I liked to think I contributed to his high intelligence, if that were only the case.
Unfortunately, like me, my brother had a certain characteristic; both of us could be distracted easily. Maybe it was the daydreaming bug that caught us at a young age, or maybe it was the beginnings of ADD, or just maybe, it was because we were kids. Riding our bikes was always our outdoor activity. We would ride whenever we had the chance. It was the adventure, wind through our hair, and independence that we always craved. Mom was very much the over protective mother and I was always the ‘guinea pig’ when it came to both parents. Once my brother began to ride, Mom always said he had to accompany me. Ugh.
So here it was, a beautiful Vancouver afternoon. Sun was shining and not a cloud in the sky. Really, it could have happened, and it did. We mounted our bikes and off we went. I was always in the lead as my brother followed. Every now and then I would look back to make sure he was still behind me. We travelled through the subdivision streets, turned and swiftly rode a 15-minute loop, and then we would begin again until we would see Mom in the doorway calling us for dinner. This particular day I felt exhilarated as we pedaled the curves of the streets. As on most streets, there were many cars parked by the curb. I loved navigating my way through parked cars. I learned how to quickly make last minute decisions by swinging around them. As I turned left onto our street I was in my own little world. I was Nancy Drew pedaling quickly after a suspect. And then it happened. I looked around to check on my brother and saw he was on the ground bleeding behind a car. Oh no! All I could think was, I am in so much trouble. I stopped, dropped my bike and ran to him.
‘What happened?’ I said, even knowing that it was his fault, I would be the one responsible and in trouble from Mom.
‘I don’t know?’ he said bleeding from the nose and sniffling.
‘I was just riding and looking at how fast the ground was advancing under me and…’ he began to cry.
Crap, crap, crap, I thought. How stupid can you be? Now I’m going to be in trouble, as Mom will think it was my fault.
‘Get up’, I said as I took his hand. ‘Leave the bike here, let’s go!’
I dragged him by the hand and ran with him. My mind was racing, how was I going to tell Mom about this? As we reached the end of our driveway… Eureka!
I told my brother ‘just tell Mom you fell off the bike, don’t say anything about rear-ending a parked car’.
He agreed, even at his young age, he knew that Mom would not allow him out on a bike for a very long time if she learned the entire story.