Excerpt from Lazarus Heart

After moving in with Mary, Chris starts recovering the traumatic memories that he’s repressed for years. In this excerpt, Chris begins to look back on his life:         

 

"North Bay still haunts me. I was born there, and it’s the only place I remember being happy. I still wonder how my life would be right now if I never moved away, and none of the other things happened. I would have grown up around all my friends and relatives. I would probably have a job and a family, like everybody else. I would be normal.

My mom was from northern Ontario; her family had been farmers and miners in the area for over a hundred years. We all spoke French at home, except for my dad. My sister Janice and I had the kind of childhood you see in reruns of old TV shows: we lived in a neighborhood where we knew everybody, and we spent holidays with our relatives. Mom always wanted to have kids, so she stopped working so she could stay home and take care of us. I remember it as a really happy time.

Everybody loved my mom. She was really small, under five feet tall, but she had a big smile and a big heart. She was good to everybody, and she was always helping people. She was a good cook — she had been a dietician for twenty years — and she would bring meals over to neighbours when they were having hard times. 

I remember when my sister was little. I can still see her toddling over to me with her arms up for a hug, and the memory breaks my heart. I thought she was so beautiful; my mom took a picture of me in her crib putting cold cream on her face to make her pretty. I was cradling her face and she looked like a teeny circus clown. My mom took another photo of us making “toilet stew”: we would pour shampoo and things in the toilet and stir it with the scrubber brush, then we’d flush and watch the bubbles. 

Another time we burned out my mom’s new vacuum cleaner. I found out that we could feed it toilet paper and it would make the whole roll unravel and disappear. I showed Janice how, and we took turns. I think we fed it about six or seven rolls. My mom must have heard the vacuum running, because she called out, “Que’est-ce que tu fais?” (“What are you doing?”), and I called back “Rien!” (“Nothing!”) But then the motor on the vacuum started to smoke, and we both started screaming for Mom. She was pretty mad that time. She had to buy another vacuum cleaner.

The memories of my dad are the Dark Side of my childhood. I never thought of him as a father; he was always the Mean Man. I spent my childhood wishing he would die and leave us alone. "

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