Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Blonds have more stun (a final Google Map stroll through my Edmontonian childhood)

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The last time I did NaBloPoMo, it was August and I took the suggestion from John Reid's family-history-themed blog Anglo-Celtic Connections to do a "Google walk" through a childhood neighbourhood. I was pleased to get five posts out of this: my house, the route to the downtown bus, the way to church, the trip to the candy store and ice rink, and the journey to the playground. I didn't get around to the most important pilgrimage of all: the daily trek to school. However, it was August and I was pushing school from my mind. Deep in November, so deep it's almost December, it's time to brace myself and remember my first years of formal education.

When I wait with younger daughter for the first of the three buses that will eventually get us home, children scuff by in their snow-gear, en route from the local neighbourhood school. There's a pair of little girls who stroll by us every day, one with dark hair, the other with white-blond hair spilling perfectly brushed over her shoulders, even at the end of a school day. I shudder inwardly. This little blond girl might be a perfectly pleasant person, but she's a dead ringer for Bianca Richardson.

Every class had a Bianca Richardson. I'm sure yours did too. She was the little girl whom substitute teachers and class visitors always called on, because she was very pretty and very blond. (The regular class teachers seemed a wee bit less enchanted, but in my experience, seasoned teachers are not as easy to con.) Bianca was also, as I recall, unusually articulate for an eight-year-old, with a withering command of the situation if lesser mortals dared express an opinion. Not unusually bright, at least not in the academic sense, but alas, that has never been high on the list for social success.

In those days, I still hadn't quite learned that I had none of the attributes of a popular kid, and was blissfully unaware of just how far down the food chain I was. I only knew that I rather disliked Bianca Richardson. I think most of the girls felt the same way. She was not a very kind person, although she had a very high sense of moral indignation when crossed. The boys, of course, adored her.

Westglen School, the beginning of my downward social spiral, was a bit of an anomaly. It was called Westglen Junior High, yet went from Grades One to Nine. (Ages 6 to 15.) The Grade Nines looked down upon us pipsqueaks with great contempt -- when they bothered to look down at all. I have a brief but dazzling memory fragment of catching a tantalizing glimpse of an after-school dance from a side hall before being shooed away.

We weren't allowed to cross the busy street at the corner closest to my house even though it was cater-corner to the school and would have saved about five minutes' walking time. Instead, we made our way down the sidewalk across the street from the school, usually playing "Step on the crack and break the devil's back". If someone changed the back in question from the devil's to your mother's mid-step, you had to catch your foot in time. We crossed the street at the far corner, where older students were the crossing guards.

If there was time, we'd play in the field at the end where the high metal goal net, which wasn't rusty when I was a girl, doubled as my spider's web. I was the spider at every recess, capturing screaming playmates and hauling them back to my lair. (My mum made me a remarkable spider costume for Hallowe'en in Grade Two, but I was sick and had to be content showing it --at a safe distance -- to the trick-or-treaters who came to our door.)

However, if I arrived later, it was a heady rush for the locker room when the bell rang. For some reason, I had a terror of "The Bell", which was in fact a buzzer, even when I arrived in plenty of time. It seemed paramount to get inside once it rang.
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School ended with those of us in Grade One being escorted in two assigned groups across 127 Street, supervised by monitors. We lived in dread of getting Miranda, an officious Grade Six with pierced ears, who insisted on her charges walking in pairs. We always got stuck with her, of course, while the other lucky group cheered and dashed across the field in an unruly mass around the other more lenient monitor.

My humiliation was shortlived, though. Miranda's route took her west up 109 Avenue and being a resident of 109A Avenue,I was free from her jurisdiction once we were safely across. If it was winter, I'd pick my way home up 127 Street along the top of the block-long wall of snow left by the snowploughs which grew steadily during the long Edmontonian winter. By January, there would be a brown worn path left by many small boots. It seemed very high up above the sidewalk on one side and the busy street on the other. But I was a lot smaller then.

I moved from Edmonton, Alberta to Nanaimo, BC, during the last quarter of Grade Three. I never saw Bianca Richardson again and didn't particularly mourn over this fact. In a sense, I meet her daily, one of those ambitious mums from Oak Bay in Victoria, or Sandy Hill in Ottawa, working for the government, fund-raising for the school, and ferrying her pretty blond insufferable children to music lessons and soccer practice in the minivan.

I've now NaBloPoMo-ed five different months. Seven to go. December? Not two months in a row! January? I'm taking another online course and I've learned the hard way that genealogy assignments and NaBloPoMo don't mix. I've done February and March, so, barring some unforeseen circumstance, I'll plan to NaBloPoMo April. In the meantime, I hope I'll have the discipline to blog more than once a month. On the other hand, is that Christmas coming at me like a freight train?


JoeinVegas said...

Coming like a herd of reindeer.

And yes, all the boys adored Bianca. Even though she was unreachable (as we all eventually learned) except by Hef.

Persephone said...

"Bianca Richardson" is, of course, not my bĂȘte noire's real name. (Please, please tell me there isn't a Playmate named Bianca Richardson. And if there is, don't tell me how you know...)