In 1965, at age fifteen, I was emancipated with my father's blessing. This meant basically that I was able to live where I wanted and could not be arrested for truancy. Also, I could work full time as an adult. There may have been other implications but those were the three I cared about. I was not done learning but I was sure done with school.
Just before Christmas, I was staying with a gay gentleman, Hollywood, one of several friends who were looking out for me, protecting me from the riff-raff. If you knew my friends you might think they were riff-raff but I trusted them implicitly. Hollywood remained a dear friend until he died a few years ago, aged eighty.
Anyway, I had a minor infection as a result of an accident between a Corvair and my bicycle. You can't hear a Corvair sneaking up behind you. Hollywood took me to a doctor for treatment. Unbeknownst to the doctor or I, I am extremely allergic to an antibiotic, the very one that was prescribed to me. Take one, three times a day. After two I did nothing but vomit and sleep.
Hollywood recognised this as abnormal behaviour and carried me immediately to a nurse friend for advice. He put me down on the porch and rang the bell. A man answered, saw me and said, "Hang on. Candy!!!" I knew it was a man because of his well-polished black loafers and his voice. I was not raising my head to see above anyone's knees at this point. If I could stop the porch from spinning I might have given it a shot.
A woman in a nurse's uniform, presumably Candy, appeared, looked at me, and said, "You poor dear, what happened?" Hollywood told her about the pills and showed her the bottle. "Edward," she said, probably to the well-polished shoes, "Can you take this girl to the hospital? I have to be in the theatre in half an hour. Hollywood will look after the kids, won't you, dear?"
Now, I can't swear to the exact wording of this, I could barely hear it, but that was pretty much what transpired. Hollywood placed me in the back of a car which set off at a brisk pace to, if I remember rightly, University Hospital. I spent several days in the hospital, mostly because I couldn't give them an address I could go to.
The first friend I bumped into on leaving the hospital took me home with her and kept me for two weeks. One day she brought Hollywood back with her. He took one look at me and burst into tears.
"Oh, baby girl," he said, and hugged me. "I was so worried."
"I couldn't get back to your place, Joanne has been taking care of me. Thank you so much for what you did."
"Oh, I understand. I knew you would land on your feet. You always do. You are so welcome. But what else could I do? My reputation would have suffered if you had died in my spare room. Not because you had died, but because you are a girl. And here is your Christmas present." What a present it was; a boxed set of A.A. Milne, the first of many I've owned over the years. I always give them away to someone whose need is greater than mine.
Eight months later I got a very special birthday present, but that is another story.
In early September of 1966, I was enjoying a coffee and the Indian summer weather in the Village when a strange man walked up to me and said, "Hello Grace. You look much better today."
I looked up and said "Huh?" which of course is Latin for "what?" I don't have a good memory, never have had, but I was positive I had not seen that face before. The stranger, who looked to be ten years older than me, was six feet tall, with Beatle-cut sandy hair, blue eyes, an aquiline nose, and the most beautiful ears. He wore a pinstriped charcoal suit, pink shirt and a navy blue tie. When I looked down I saw well-polished black loafers. Edward.
Attached to Edward's hands were a five-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl. I was introduced to them as Harold and Mary.
The rest of the Village faded away, all I could see were Edward and his children. I mumbled something inane to my saviour, the most handsome man in the land. Then I just mumbled, no longer capable of forming even inanities.
I stood up and we started walking and talking.
I learned a lot during our walk. Edward was twenty-eight and a Capricorn, born and bred in Toronto. His wife had left him to pursue a career and had divorced him so he would be free to remarry. He was a copywriter for an ad agency. A tired Mary weighed more than a sack of potatoes. I helped him get the kids home and left to go to a gig, possibly The City Muffin Men.
A few days later I bumped into Candy at one of my favourite diners. I had met her at the house where I received my birthday present a while back. She and Brenda, the owner, were a couple, something I didn't know at that time. She asked me what I had done to Edward, said every time she saw him lately all he could talk about was me.
"Should I go see him?" I asked.
"No, come stay with Brenda and me, I'll arrange something. We need to have a party anyway."
Brenda's parties were not huge affairs, but an invite was an honour. I never got an invite, I never needed one, being 'family' and all. Not only were you honoured to be at one of Brenda's parties, you were stoned. There was enough grass burning in that house that you would need your own air tank to avoid it. Often, someone would bring plenty of acid and there might be other drugs. Never heroin; as far as I know, heroin was never allowed at Brenda's. There was always a little alcohol, but many of her friends did not drink.
On the day of the party Candy and Brenda and a couple of friends were cooking, cupcakes, cookies, candies, and other Alice B Toklas inspired goodies as well as healthy savoury snacks. I, of course, was never allowed in the kitchen during cooking, only to help serve or clean up. I had long since earned a reputation as the girl who could not cook.
My job was in the living room, rolling joints, a task I am superb at to this day. Every now and then I would take a couple of lit ones to the kitchen crew to ensure they mostly left the food and ingredients alone.
At this point my memory becomes blurred. I know that Edward was very tender, especially at taking my virginity, and that we woke up in the morning wrapped in each other's arms. We made love again. I was a little sore, but that did not detract from my pleasure.
In November we married, a family of four, attended by his wonderful parents, my father, and a few very close friends including, of course, Hollywood, Brenda, and Candy.
On New Year's day, 1967, I became pregnant. I know it was that day because I felt it happen. Nine months later I gave birth to a beautiful boy.
Edward and I were blissfully happy until one day in 1969 when his heart gave out. I may not remember some of the details, but I remember how beautiful Edward was and how much in love we were.
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