Bob and Mary gave me some of my best childhood memories. I only knew them for a few years and last saw them when I was about 4 years old. That’s when my brother was born and we moved to a bigger apartment.
But until then Bob and Mary were a big part of my life. They were an older couple, living upstairs in the apartment building my parents lived in when I was born. It was an “adults-only” building – something that’s illegal now – but nobody complained about my being there.
In fact, my presence seemed to fill up the building a bit, from what I’m told. I wasn’t a particularly noisy kid, but I wasn’t shy. And a kid gives adults something to focus on.
I remember Trudy – she was a bit of a health nut and made her own carrot juice. I thought she was very glamorous and exotic with her Swedish accent. She used Nivea crème and to this day every time I smell it I remember her.
There was a family called the Domettes, if I remember the name correctly. They ran a barber shop up the street. They had some older daughters who made a bikini for me.
On my first Hallowe’en, or at least the first I remember, when I was about 3, my parents dressed me up as a witch and took me to the apartments of the people I knew. Since there were no other kids in the building, they all went out and bought treats specially for me. I got full-sized chocolate bars and lots of oohs and aahs.
And then there was Bob and Mary. I don’t know whether they had any kids or grandchildren of their own. Maybe they did and were very generous people. Or maybe I was a surrogate.
Either way, one of my first memories was of looking out the balcony window and seeing an orange floating in the air. Pure magic. We lived on the ground floor; they lived a few floors above us. I don’t know how they did it, but somehow they attached the orange to a string and dangled it over the edge. Fishing for a reaction and a small child’s laughter. I bit – and squealed with delight. One of my parents took me out to the balcony and untied the orange. They waved up their thanks – and the string was hauled up and disappeared.
Other days they’d attach a banana. Or a little red, plastic lunchbox filled with lollipops. A small box of animal crackers.
I’ll never forget the sheer delight and anticipation of looking out the window, wondering what I’d see. I don’t think we kept in touch with Bob and Mary – from what I understand they moved back to Nova Scotia in their declining years, to be with family.
But while they were in Toronto, in those few short years I knew them, they left this little girl with a sense of feeling very special.
Thanks, Bob and Mary, wherever you are.