I guess nowadays you’d say we lived in the suburbs, but everyone just called it out-of-town. It was a half hour car ride into downtown, but it was nothing like living in the city. Even now, Saanich isn’t like what I imagine when I think of the ‘burbs. We had a quarter acre of our own and the down-the-road neighbours had a small dairy farm. The neighbourhood smelled like trees and horses.
Growing up in Saanich was kind of weird. It wasn’t the country — I mean it was less than an hour on the bus to anywhere in Victoria, and the bus ran everyday. Once I got older it seemed like I spent more hours on the bus than anywhere else. That bus was like a second home until I moved into the city after university.
But we lived a lot like country people do, I imagine. The neighbourhood kids all ran around feral in the summers. When my folks would kick me out of the house to “get some fresh air instead of spending all your time with your nose in a book,” I’d spend the entire day in the woods with Johnny Frazier, Blair McKirk and Angela Hoeffer. We’d leave our houses first thing in the morning and tear around on our bikes until six or seven at night.
I can’t remember us ever doing anything particularly interesting, but we somehow managed to entertain ourselves in those days. I guess it’s not really that hard to amuse a bunch of ten-year-olds. The big excitement one summer was this abandoned construction project on the other side of the highway. Crossing the highway was a big deal because we weren’t supposed to do it. There weren’t really that many rules, but of course we had to break the ones that there were. So crossing the highway without getting caught was the major goal of almost every excursion. And once we found the lot, we were in kid heaven.
I don’t know what we found so exciting about the place. I guess the construction people cleared away anything of value before they took off. There were no dead bodies, buried treasure or working heavy machinery to be found. But at the time we all thought it was the best place ever. Angela found it first, and she never stopped reminding us it was thanks to her that we had the coolest hangout around.
I was sitting on The Mound, this hill of dirt we claimed as the main meeting spot. It was my turn to bring the food, and I had a bunch of peanut butter and honey sandwiches in my backpack. I handed one to Johnny, who started wolfing it down before I’d even managed to give out the rest of them. Typical.