It was the summer of 1979. We had moved to Souris, PEI, at the beginning of July, and all of us kids were getting used to small town living. Pop worked at MacDonald Pharmacy in town – one of those stores that was much more than a drug store. In hindsight, it reminded me of my Grampa’s store – Murphy’s Drug Store, back in Winnipeg – with the same homey collection of sundries and necessities. The kind of place that would have a Notions Counter. Where everyone knows everyone.
For my 12th birthday that summer, my sister (she would have been 7 at the time) wanted to pick something for me from among the curios and figurines at the pharmacy. Perhaps she had her own money, or maybe she’d just seen something she liked or thought I’d like. And so, the stork figurine was my gift.
At the time, I understood the stork’s message, and the circumstance it was supposed to be for. Which made me laugh. Hysterically. Other than thinking it was funny, I probably wasn’t too keen on it at the time. I was, after all, 12, and so likely not especially kind about her naiveté. But my sister’s earnestness about the gift – that she got because she thought I’d like the bird, that she picked it for me – and the multi-layered joke of it has had me keep it.
In addition to the memories associated with it, I find it an interesting item on its own. Who in the world would use this thing to deliver such a message? Would a young wife purchase this and leave it under her husband’s pillow? And would she buy it in advance, and secret it away until the day it is needed? Or be wandering the pharmacy having just come from the doctor’s office, and while musing about telling her partner later, spot this item and say, “Perfect!”?
It also reminds me of that whole time in PEI, that hot summer with my sister and brother. Wandering the dusty roads of Souris. Day trips to Bothwell Beach and evening trips to the drive-in. Rainbow Valley and weekend trips to Moncton. Lobster suppers and ice cream. Marvelling at the fact that every second person was a MacDonald or a Peters. The epic cross-country journeys there and back.
That summer was a turning point for me, not because of any one colossal event but a shift in my perceptions about family and responsibility that would become a part of who I am. It was from that time that my role as older sister was expanded to include carer, and my identity, with its sense of commitment and responsibility, began. Childhood came to an end, not with any ceremony or event, just gradually over that period as I took on more and thus more became expected. And so perhaps it is that recognition of expectation that adds some additional meaning to the stork’s raised eyebrow and half-funny question. Guess what? Time to start being a grown up.