My mom got a job as a maid in Switzerland, but she decided she did not like the social structure of the country, being looked down upon with despise by her hosts. Besides, her entire life she always dreamed about moving to Vancouver, Canada, so to that country we set sail, my aunt heading to England with my cousin, our uncle off to the U.S.
The second memory I remember, brought back to me in a dream later in life, was my first day in elementary school when an older male student bending over with marvel, proclaiming about me, “Oh, what a cute little boy.” I burst out crying because I did not understand him, although in the dream I obviously did.
My dad found a job working for Bell Canada in Ottawa, so it would take more than a decade for my mother to fulfill her dreams of Vancouver. I remember a childhood of mischief, forming a so-called gang with which we’d terrorise the security guard at the local shopping mall. We’d divide up into two groups and approach each other with the guard halfway between us. Once we clashed we’d pretend to break out into a big fight, and once the guard broke out, “Hey boys, stop that fighting!”, reaching out to stop us, we already had our planned destinations where we’d sprint to and hide, mine being into one of the rolled up carpets in the Eaten’s department store.
Other times I volunteered myself as the gang’s thief, walking into the mall’s supermarket, walking confidently and matter-of-factly out the entrance with a big package of chocolate bars. Once I convinced one of my friends to come with me, stating that as long as he looked casual no one even notices us. But he was obviously petrified of us getting caught, when one woman customer entering the supermarket stopped us, demanding, “Now where do you boys plan to go with that bag of chocolate bars?” Forced to come up with an instant response, I noticed a stall selling candy in the mall and pointed to that, “Isn’t that where I pay for it?” She sneered, well aware that I was feinting her challenge. “No, you pay over there!”, pointing to the regular lineup of cashiers.
That was the last time I stole from that supermarket, but we turned our attention to a smaller shop, filling up my gloves and winter coat pockets, but at some point a couple of girls our age confronted us, proclaiming that they were aware of our misdemeanors, and unless we gave them a cut of 20% of our candy, they would tattle-tale on us.
For other pastimes we’d hitch a ride off the back bumper of the public buses. There was a local mound called beacon hill in the neighbourhood’s main park. It looked like it was fabricated from left over construction material and soil excavated for the basements of all the apartment buildings, but during the winter it produced great icesheets along three of the slopes. I begged my mother to get me a crucial ingredient, which was plastic cowboy boots. With these the treads of the souls would eventually flatten out, and after clambering slowly up the hill along the less slippery parts, we’d join in the droves, sliding down one of the slopes while standing up in our slippery cowboys boots, screaming in a current of youngsters. These boots proved equally useful for sliding on the slushy roads as we were dragged by the public bus around town.
However, the best venue for venting mischievous inclinations was the summer or weekend cottage. Our parents being Czech, it was a must to have such a place to escape to from dreary city life. It was there that i met the best friend of my childhood, Robert, a compatriot Czech. We’d build secret forts in the forest, explore boundless nature in the country, feed bullfrogs and snakes to the monstrous snapping turtles, to the point where I felt like I was Tom Sawyer and he Huckleberry Finn.