"You will be haunted," resumed the Ghost, "by Three Spirits."
A year ago, I contacted a childhood friend and pondered calling another. The person I'd called I'd been in touch with, sporadically, before and since. The other I've not seen since a Christmas somewhere in the 1990s. He'd crossed paths with my mother, at church, I think, and she told him I was in town for the holidays. He knocked on my door like when we were kids. Preschoolers, even. We went for a drink.
I don't even recall when we met. Both yards backed onto the bush, our term for a piece of farmer's field nature had started reclaiming in the 1950s when the neighbourhood went up. Ours were the two houses on that block without back fences. We could pass freely into our yards, in and out of the bush, which became our childhood playground. A couple times, on summer nights, windows open, I heard voices as older kids slipped through the yard for quick passage. Our fathers shared the same first name. Both were men of Italian descent who had married women who weren't, differing us slightly from the street norm. We each had three older siblings: my brother and one of my sisters, as children, had played with one of his brothers and his sister.
That brother landed in hospital after clowning around once on, if I recall correctly, a snowbank. By the end of the day, I'd heard a canonical list of injuries for which he had to be treated: broken arm, broken leg, some definite number of broken ribs, and a "ruptured spleen," whatever that was. In fact, he'd only broken his leg. It would be my introduction to rumour and folklore.
Or was it an arm?
The death of a classmate's namesake son nudged me to call. He'd been more connected to Nunzio than I'd ever been. If he didn't know, he'd want to.
He keeps a low profile online. However, we have no privacy anymore, and I found his home and work number and an address, less than three hours away. The home info would turn out to be correct, but I couldn't know that for certain. Work phone? I already knew he taught elementary school. He'd started out as a social worker, but an early supervisor called him and a female colleague into the office and told them, "I don't know if you know this, but the pair of you are teachers. I've prepare the applications for you. Let me send them. You can do what you want if you get accepted."
The Roman Catholic elementary school where he works even had a photo of him among its promotional material. I left a message with his voicemail. He called back the next evening.
"I didn't recognize your voice," he said. "I still hear our kid voices."
Seems fair. We hung out in early childhood, and a little less so as school went on. In high school we often walked to school with other guys from our street. I'd drive them when I had my dad's truck. But he and I didn't specifically socialize that much anymore.
No, he hadn't heard about Nunzio, Jr. He wasn't even sure he knew there'd been a Nunzio, Jr. He probably hadn't talked to the senior model since the 1980s.
"Funny you called though..." I'd sold some stories in the 1990s, clearly set in a fictional version of our neighbourhood. He'd recently reread them.
He repeated a story he shared that last time, over beer. During a teacher practicum, he'd had an odd encounter with a former principal of ours, a man who would later be implicated in possibly helping cover up matters related to the Ken Deluca affair. The principal himself would later be accused by a female colleague of sexual misconduct, though he was never convicted of anything. I won't repeat my friend's story about him and I cannot speak to the truth of allegations which were never proven in court, but the conversation brought an odd recollection to mind.
When that former principal died, I looked up his obituary online. Another teacher from our elementary/middle school days posted his condolences online, as one does. He accompanied these with an uploaded photograph of himself, wearing a robe, surrounded by an assortment of Asian artifacts, and holding a sword.
Who does this?
"There was something off about some of our teachers," my friend observed. "Really off."
The last time we spoke, he and his wife didn't have any children. Their son recently turned twenty-one.
He recalls the bush and the wooden swing my dad built in our backyard. "Sometimes it was a spaceship," he recalled. Just off the property line one could find the remnants of a woodpile surrounded by some large rocks unearthed during the building of our house. "It was," he proclaimed, "a world of wonders."
Someone from high school with whom I have retained contact, without whose friendship the character of Patti from The Con likely would not exist, found something that made her smile. She thought I might like to see it too. She'd been going through some old things and found a theatre program from 1980. On it I had written her a spontaneous teen poem. She of course subjected me to a photograph of it. Someone's grandmother still has an adolescent poem I wrote her more than four decades ago.
Words fail me.
Other people were born in the 1980s, and teens in the 90s. Take Kittie, the Canadian band who became famous before they could drive, had one gold record, several follow-ups, toured the world, and went through more bassists than Spinal Tap has drummers. When CBC brought back Degrassi in the new millennium (the version with li'l Drake), one of the characters sported a Kittie poster prominently on her bedroom wall. The band also has an amusing but very dated write-up here at e2, a fangirl thing from the site's (and the band's) early days.
Perhaps because they are local or possibly due to my having watched several documentaries about bands and pop music history over the last year, Amazon Prime's recommendations coughed up Kittie: Origins/Evolutions. I hadn't even heard of the doc, but I enjoyed watching it. I had a passing connection to the band's original line-up and I knew their first bass player. I last saw her, and them, for that matter, at a local music event, about four years ago. It included a tribute to Trish Doan, two-time Kittie bassist who'd recently died. We'd talked briefly after that show.
I completely missed the reunion concert, where the original line-up played.
Curious about the original bassist's current doings, I went to Google and found among the hits her Rocker Mom podcast. I listened to the most recent installment. She and another former Kittie reflected on their 1990s teenage years: hanging out, exploring the pre-social networking internet, holding impromptu dance parties while watching Electric Circus, and touring with major rock acts. The usual things. I posted a response and it led to a "what's new with you" sort of conversation. She still lives locally, and I suppose I'll run into her again some day.
It will be nice when the city's music events and summer festivals can resume.
At any age, we still need our worlds of wonders.