9:50 a.m. - 2004-12-17
Back in January of 1973 my Dad decided to make a huge career change. Which resulted in us moving from the large town that he’d been born in, as well as my siblings and myself. A town that, at 10 years old, felt like it would be my only home ever.
I was wrong. Uprooting us, my Dad, Mom and I moved to a very small town in Ontario. Smack dab in the middle of the tobacco belt above Lake Erie. This town was so small it didn’t even have a stoplight. I would guess that the towns population was less than 500, but the school system served much of the surrounding farmland. I did not adjust well to my new community, even after three years of living here, never once did I ever feel accepted. Tough age.
Within a very short period of time living there I was quick to realize that out of my class of 25 some odd kids, I and one other girl were the only ones to be “townies”. Everyone else came in by school bus. Beth was slow to become friends with me, but I’m glad to say that to this day we are still keep in touch by correspondence.
Along the early path of my adjusting I took to going door-to-door looking for new friends. As is often found in Ontario, wherever there is a Public school – directly across the street is almost always found a Catholic School. General rule of them was the Public School kids didn’t mix with Catholic School kids. But when you’re choices are limited . . . you make friends where you may.
At one of the above-mentioned doors, about four houses down from where I resided, lived two Catholic schoolgirls by the name of Suzie and Monica. My age was in the middle of theirs, and we became fast friends. They were the youngest children of seven and the only girls. Needless to say, they were dearly loved and cherished by their family. The three of us were inseparable for the short time we had together.
This is where my story takes a sad and mournful turn. My oldest brother and his wife had come out from Alberta to celebrate Christmas with us. We had all jumped into the car to travel to the old hometown to visit with friends and family. Upon arriving back from this several day visit, a neighbour sidled up to the fence to whisper something to my mom. I being the curious kid that I was I walked over to hear what was being said.
To my unbelieving ears I hear the news that my two young friends had been killed the day before in a very serious car accident. They had been travelling with a sister-in-law, when the car had gone over a railroad crossing, hitting some black ice spun out of control and was T-boned by a truck. The girls never had a chance, and probably never knew what hit them.
I was devastated, and begged my mom to allow me to go to the ‘viewing’ on Christmas Eve. This was one of those situations when open caskets shouldn’t have been allowed. The reports had come back to us that the girls had been so badly bashed up and broken that they were almost unrecognizable. The hairstylist and cosmetician had worked wonders. Although Suzie and Monica barely resembled the thriving, joyous youths that I had known mere days before, I was able to say my good-byes. Even now I think of this, and as I write, tears of grief and sadness fill my eyes.
I was not allowed to attend the funeral, and this is where I don’t understand the actions of adults. I do not know why, to this day, my parents wouldn’t let me attend the funeral services on December 26th. Nor have they ever given me their reasons. My heart was broken and at lose, very little consoled me. I was, however, able to sneek out of the house after the funeral service had taken place, and go to the cemetery to visit their graves. I still remember weeping openly and bitterly, until a caretaker came by and encouraged me to go home.
I was well versed by the age of 11 with funerals. I had attended many exequies of relatives, distant aunts and uncles, but they had never been people that had directly affected my life. Why were these two young ladies deaths so different from other services we had attended?
There hasn’t been a Christmas since 1973 that I haven’t thought about these girls and their untimely, unfortunate, awful departure. I have never failed to think of the family, and wonder ‘what if’. I will never understand why I was not allowed to give proper farewells, or come along side Suzie and Monica’s family to give support the only way an 11 year old could.
When I was 11 I didn’t understand the actions of adults. Here I am and 42 and I’m still confused.