A mere 14 months after my arrival, my mother left me in the care of my grandparents to go off and disappear somewhere for a week. Those psychologists among you can verify it was not the best thing to do, timing-wise. I was quite simply traumatized by her absence and spent the rest of my childhood dreading another sudden disappearance. (It didn’t help, of course, that she had a tendency to threaten to walk out on us, whenever my sister and I gave her provocation, but let me not get too far ahead of myself).
During this particular hiatus, I recall sitting on the landing in the hallway at my Bubi’s, talking to my mother on the telephone. She tried, unsuccessfully, to reassure me that she was all right and that she would soon be returning home with a very special surprise for me. Being all of fourteen months, I was not impressed. This opinion didn’t change much when she arrived, a few days later, with my new sister. Even though, much later in life, I grew to regard this individual as my better half, at the time, I was not so appreciative. I had been the first grandchild, the focus of a large, over-extended European family, who enjoyed the enthusiastic attention of all my relatives, crammed, as they were, into a downtown ‘semi’ in the heart of the immigrant district of Toronto, (where homes now ‘go’ for hundreds of thousands of dollars – my Zaida must be spinning in his grave with astonishment).
Suddenly, there was a division of doting and I was expected to be thrilled and proud and to instantly shape up as a role model. Not only that, but I had to share my room with this baby, who developed quickly into a finger-sucking, fussy child with huge blue eyes and golden curls and a very strong mind of her own.
It also didn’t help much that she would henceforth always be labeled, “The Pretty One”.