I am placed in the nun’s class for Grade seven. She is very strict but she teaches us well. She encourages my writing when I am her student, but she holds me in during recess to rewrite a story I had created. She requires that I make all of the necessary corrections and I hate missing my recess for any reason. She also strong-arms a number of us into the church choir. Lina and I sing in that choir for two years afraid to refuse Sister’s request that we do so.
Sister Maureen makes us sing a hymn in the morning before we get down to work. In the afternoon she makes us learn grammar. We have to underline all the parts of speech with different coloured pens and using a varied amount of lines. “A noun is to be underlined with a blue pencil crayon, a verb gets two green underlines,” she tells us repeatedly. I can never keep the markings straight. I know the parts of speech but can never recall the proper colour or marking of each one. We all hate grammar and we hate her too. Sister flies through the door of our portable in the morning and after lunch, and while standing at the front of the room she immediately combs her short red hair and applies a light shade of lipstick, which I think terribly vain behavior for a nun.
She and I collide often. I am President of the Student Body and I push for trips and dances that Sister always squashes.
“I am not putting a bunch of adolescents into a hotel/motel situation,” she says.
I have no idea what she is talking about.
I continued to excel academically that year and win the class academic again. In the summer I go to visit my mother’s cousin, Maeve, and her family in Peterborough, Ontario. Auntie Maeve lives there with her husband, Will, and their three children. Their oldest child is already out of the house so we hang out with their daughter, Cathy, and their second son, wee Willy. Peterborough is in northern Ontario’s Lake District and there are beautiful beaches to explore each day. My cousins also have a swimming pool that we play in all day and we go swimming in at night too. I become fearful of swimming in the pool at night after we go to see Jaws at the downtown theatre in Peterborough, Ontario. Wee Willy always grabs our ankles as though he is a shark. I am never able to swim peacefully at night again, even in a swimming pool. My Auntie Maeve and Uncle Willy have a camper in the driveway that we are allowed to sleep in. My cousin, Cathy, tells us ghost stories to scare us and wee red-headed Willy torments all of us with shadows, screams and sudden movements.
I am beginning to outgrow my tomboy phase and develop a love of boys. I chase after the boys my father coached on his Caledonia Thistle team. They are thirteen years of age, the same as I and as I flirt back with them I seem to lose my father’s love. My father doesn’t know how to cope with me transforming physically to a lovely young woman boys want to date.
I know a kiss with Dirk Black is imminent that summer in Peterborough. I don’t know how to kiss. I practice on my arms at night as I try to sleep. I am too excited to sleep knowing that my first kiss is just around the corner. I practice on the glass shower doors in my Auntie Maeve’s toilet when I am alone in there for any period of time. I watch my face grow in size as it approaches the mirror and think how funny I look that close up. That must be why people close their eyes when they kiss. Dirk Black lives up the road from my auntie’s house and he daily comes to call on me. He is tall, has light brown hair that is longer and always messy, and he has a nice build for a boy of fourteen. He wears jeans and rolls his cigarette pack in the left sleeve of the black t-shirts he always wears. He comes with us to the drive-in movies one night and he kisses me softly as we sit in the backseat of my big cousin’s car, his arm around me. He tastes of cigarettes. After he kisses me in my cousin’s backseat, I avoid Dirk. I am afraid of what else might happen between us. I come home to London after the summer and boast to my friends that I had been kissed in Peterborough by an older boy who smoked.