Today, my youngest started a junior disability program at Queen Victoria public school at Dufferin and King streets in downtown Toronto. I met him at the schoolbus drop off point to support him as he starts at a new school, unfamiliar teachers, and new kids to get to know, befriend, be wary of.
If you don’t know the area, it’s hardcore Parkdale.
It’s houses with men clustered outside, smoking, mumbling to themselves, whole conversations with the ghosts in their heads.
It’s scooters and electric wheelchairs, the occupants smoking weed and unabashedly drinking liquor to numb whatever ailment is peaking that morning, be it the spectral itch on a missing limb that can never be scratched, or the stiff aching spine from having rolled out of bed with great grunting efforts.
There’s the elderly women opening Dollarama tins of fruit cocktail, demurely crossing their legs, tall backed, and daintily eating the contents with an overused plastic spoon, because some aspects of their former lives never goes away, and that’s the way they were taught to eat, neatly, demurely.
Then there’s the support house for young women, four of them, punk rock moms in purple mohawks and black boots, their young toddlers loved and looked after by those young girls, trying to do right by their kids.
And the kids I met amaze me, happy, positive, optimistic, like they’re the richest kids in the world and want for little.
There won’t be more than a dozen kids in B’s class, currently only six registered, what a great ratio, feel lucky to have that.
B was neutral, but at least he didn’t appear anxious or frightened, his teacher laying down the rules in a firm yet gentle respectful manner.
In front of the class, one of B’s classmates wanted to announce he was happy to start the new school year, because he’s going to meet new friends that he’ll know forever till they’re old men.
Had to put my head down at that one, keeping it together in front of the children.
B’s older brother is at the old school, familiar, his challenge is just the usual new school year start, he’s good.
So for lunch today I’m going to get little B a submarine sandwich, his favourite, some iced tea, sit with him on a bench outside the school grounds, just so he knows I’m not that far, focus on the new stuff happening, which will become the old stuff he’ll remember, forever, when he’s an old man.