When I was 13 my Grandma Stouffer gave up her house and my mom inherited a handsome 125-year-old, 6-drawer bonnet chest. It was refinished and given a prominent spot in my parent’s bedroom, replacing a cheap 1950s maple veneer dresser that, ironically, would be worth more today than the fine example of true Canadiana. But, I digress.
The task of cleaning out the old dresser was a monumental one that took my mom an entire Saturday afternoon. She had used the top two drawers while the third drawer was my dad’s and the bottom drawer was where they would stash things they wanted to keep but didn’t actually use. We had more than a few of those drawers in a house that was never in the running for a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
If I were to empty that bottom drawer today, I’d easily land a spot on a HGTV show — I’m just not sure if it would be Antiques Roadshow or Hoarders. That one drawer yielded a roll of 1967 ‘Centennial’ quarters; a high-pitched child’s whistle that had been hidden years earlier to preserve my parent’s sanity; my first Timex watch; a collection of matchbooks from every Howard Johnson’s and Ramada Inn between Toronto and Florida; a 1849 Daguerreotype (photo on glass) of my great grandmother, Jane Macklem; a 2-inch tall porcelain Kewpie doll, my parents’ old passports, my dad’s registration card from WWII, a 1950s View-Master and a collection of reels with titles such as “Niagara Falls”, “Cheese-Making in Switzerland”, and “The Story of “Little Black Sambo”, and numerous other items of indeterminate value. I’m sure it was a result of my parents having been teenagers during the dirty 30s, but they both tended to “save” things that might come in handy some day. But who am I to criticize? I still have most of those items and a few boxes of my own, plus some art and a few pieces of furniture that I have stored in a 5’ x 5’ locker in Toronto.
But let’s get back to 1975 and the task of cleaning out the bottom drawer. Under all that “stuff” was a large manila envelope with “Michael” marked on the outside in my mom’s handwriting. Inside was a 1962 calendar that had been distributed at Christmas by Stouffville Sand & Gravel Ltd. Each month featured a touristy photo from a different foreign country. I vividly recall that Saturday afternoon when mom called me into her bedroom to present me with a calendar from the year in which I was born. I remember it because the impromptu presentation caused me to miss The Sheik taking on Abdullah The Butcher (with special guest referee Haystack Calhoun) on Maple Leaf Wrestling.
My mom explained that someday I would appreciate it. The calendar, that is. And oh, how wrong she was. I immediately appreciated a souvenir from 1962. In fact I tacked it on the back of my bedroom door and looked at it nightly. Yeah, I know, Farah Fawcett and her red bathing suit graced the bedroom doors of millions of teenage boys in the mid 70s while I gazed longingly at shots of Angkor Wat and Lake Titicaca. A snarky editor, if I had one, would insert “what was your parent’s first clue?” here.
For a while I even turned the pages on the calendar at the end of each month. I would have been 13 years old when I vowed that someday I would visit each of the calendar’s 12 exotic locations:
January San Juan, Puerto Rico
February Istanbul, Turkey
March Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
April London, England
May Estoril, Portugal
June The Dolomites, Italy
July Angkor Wat, Cambodia
August Hallstatt, Austria
September Carcassonne, France
October Mindanao, Philippine Islands
November Patagonia, Argentina
December Toledo, Spain
Forty years later and I’ve only managed to hit San Juan (6 hours while on a cruise in 2008) and London (3 or 4 days in the late 90s).
Looks like I have some work to do.