Thursday, 22 December 2016

A Child's Christmases in Toronto 4: The Dancing Snowflake

When I was fourteen, the world revolved around me. If you were fourteen at the time, and you thought the world revolved around you, you were wrong. Sorry. I have the textual evidence in my own handwriting before me that I was of primary interest to the globe, thanks to my charmingly eccentric personality. I recognized the supremacy of God and that Our Lady was the best woman ever, but after that--me, me, me.

I must have been difficult to live with, but enough about other people. That Christmas was about me.

The fuse of my youth was lit on September 4 when I first stepped through the ersatz Tudor doors of my high school, and it exploded on October 19 when I went to my first high school dance. If I had considered my brother Nulli, whose school it was, I might have been more circumspect. But according to my fourteen year old self, happily recollecting my October debut in December, "I danced my wildest and flirted like crazy. [My friends] were in shock. [H] met [P], [R] met [L], and I met every guy there, forgot their names and danced with them." Oh dear. It gets worse. "Met [J] and [fatally--ed. JK] Slow dance with [JK] through [Cory Hart's] "Never Surrender". Nice fellow buys me a [carbonated] drink. I forget his name."  


These were teenage boys kept from girls for at least 7 hours a day, so I didn't do half-badly, which is to say I generally won an admirer at each dance I went to during my first term. It helped, of course, that although girls from my school were welcome at all the boys' school dances, boys were banned from any boys' school dance not their own. Thus, I could have surreptitiously dated a chap from every Catholic boys' school unless girls from my school found out and blabbed, which they certainly would have done. It was fortunate, perhaps, that although I enjoyed talking to my admirers at dances and on the telephone, I was less enthusiastic at the prospect of actual dates. I was allowed to date, but I was too young to date, and although my mother didn't know this, I did. Although it is good for girls to be wary of male teenage sexuality, I was inordinately terrified.

Suddenly Nulli's school Christmas Concert, which took place annually at Massey Hall, was no longer mostly dull but an exciting opportunity to see new male acquaintances, especially [JK], the one to whom I had sent a "candygram". (The exchange of messages and candy between local boys-only and girls-only Catholic schools was a time-honoured tradition.) I was not particularly enamoured of this Favourite at the time, and indeed I sent two other candygrams to a rival school. However, I was so beglamoured by [JK's] comic performances during his school's rendition of "Jingle Bells", that when my father whisked me away from under my Favourite's nose right after the concert, I wrote the latter a congratulatory letter.

Naturally I sent it by way of the Nulli Express. It would be years before I learned that one way men get at each other is through their sisters or by mocking their sisters' reputations. Fortunately for Nulli, only older boys were allowed to attend their own school dances, and these older boys tended to be fond of him. Thus, I may be forgiven that when my my friend R (now dating L) found out from my Favourite's friend (probably L) about this imprudent missive, I thought solely of myself.

R milked the situation of all possible Drama, so the way she broke that bad news was to claim, "My source says that [JK] was running all over the school with [the letter] and half the school read it. What did it say?"

This turned out not to be strictly true, but it should have taught me never to write boys letters. Sadly, it didn't. Don't be like me, girls. Learn from my mistakes: they are legion. The conclusions I actually drew from the modified story were that JK must really like me a lot, which meant I had two, if not three, admirers that month. To paraphrase Olivia Dukakis in Moonstruck, what I did not know about boys was a lot.

My diary entry for Christmas Day was characteristically self-absorbed. I see, however, that it was "mega-amazing". I ate too much, forswore one of my crush objects, received a phone call from the most eager admirer and spent part of the day having an intimate conversation with a chum. My godfather dropped by my house and gave me a $50 gift certificate from my favourite clothing store. One of my grandmothers had given me $30, so I plotted a Boxing Day shopping spree with this enormous $80 sum.

Meanwhile, I had found in my Christmas stocking that morning a tangerine, an apple, chocolates, "gold" clip earrings, blank cassette tapes, batteries, pens and elephant earmuffs. Santa also gave me a waste paper basket for my room.

My parents gave me a tape recorder and white lace tights,  and my grandmother Gladys gave me pyjamas (which I needed) and fancy lingerie (which I didn't). My sister Tertia, who was only 10, gave me a heart-topped pen and a grape-scented eraser. Nulli gave me a 45-record adaptor and two "singles" or "45s", as we called two-sided, physical MP3s back then: "Small Town" by John Cougar Mellencamp and "Rock Me Amadeus" by our beloved Falco. My best girlfriends gave me a makeup bag with a brown eyeliner, two shades of brown eyeliner and a lip-gloss. Unusually, my father's cousins sent me a china angel.

My diary passes over the rest of the holidays in silence. On January 6th I minutely recorded the excitement around the candygrams my school had received from the boys' schools. I got three--two from bona fide admirers, and one from my gossiping Favourite. My admirers signed their candygrams with "affectionately yours" or "love", whereas my Favourite merely signed his with his name. I took this as a bad omen, but derived solace from the friendly little exclamation mark after his message. Fourteen years later he stood me up at 1 AM in the Gare de Lyon in Paris.

Let that be a lesson to you all.

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