Monday, March 31, 2014

THE PLATE




In April of 1988, after a long hard winter, I moved to the city of Corner Brook, Newfoundland, to look for work.  I had been laid-off work just before the winter and had decided to spend the season with my mother who lived alone in the small community of St. Teresa’s, just two hours from Corner Brook.  It had taken me a few weeks to find a room in a boarding house that  was affordable and close to the town center but once I did it didn't take me long to get my affairs in order and make arrangements for transportation.  My mother was sad to see me go but knew that I had to move on to find work.  

Eddy’s Bus Service was operating on Saturdays so I took the evening bus.  I was a little excited, a little nervous, but mostly, I was hung over.  I slept all the way into Corner Brook and was awakened by the bus driver when we got there.  I searched my jacket pockets and found the paper with the directions for the boarding house.  The bus driver pointed me in the right direction and I started walking.  It was a very cold day; my breath clouded the air in front of my face and the snow cracked with every step I took.  All I could think about was snuggling in some warm blankets and going to sleep.

After what seemed like hours I finally reached the house.  It had blue vinyl siding, was three stories high, steep front steps, that had been generously salted, and a well maintained front yard.  I liked it immediately.  I ran up the stairs and knocked. 

 Footsteps came toward the door and a young lady let me in.  “No need to knock, this is the main entrance.  You must be Lisa. Please come in.”

“Yes, thank you,” I replied and shut the door behind me.  I was no longer cold.  I followed her into her apartment and we exchanged pleasantries, house rules, and details of my rental agreement after which she showed me the upstairs apartment where there were three other girls living.  A bathroom and kitchen were shared.  It was clean and tidy and my bedroom was warm and cozy.  I signed the rental agreement and gave her the first month’s rent.  She told me that if I had any problems to just knock on her door.  I smiled at her and noticing her belly asked, “So when are you due?”

“In a few months,” she said. The doctor told me the middle of June.”  There was so much excitement in her voice that it made me excited.  I congratulated her then she left me to unpack and get settled in.  I didn't unpack.  I tore off my jacket, got under the blankets, and went to sleep.

The next day I awoke refreshed.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  I wondered if anyone was up yet then I heard water running; someone was in the kitchen.  I dragged myself out of bed and rummaged through my luggage to find soap and such.  I was going to take a shower if it was free and sure enough, when I opened my room door I saw that it was empty.  After a quick shower, I got dressed then introduced myself to one of the girls.  We chatted for a while and I got the scoop on the other girls, the lowdown on the town, where to eat, where to grocery shop, and the best place for take-out.  She also suggested I go to a few of the restaurants in town to see if they were doing any hiring.  We talked for a while longer then she left to meet her boyfriend.  I decided that a walk around town would do me some good and a bite to eat would fix my stomach so I went out and walked about. 

 When I came back I met the other girls.  We talked and laughed at the kitchen table, drinking tea, as was the custom, and by the time I was ready for bed I knew a little about every one of them.  As I searched for pjs I wondered just how much money I was left with so I went through my bags and found forty dollars plus change.  “Tomorrow is going to be a busy day,” I said to myself, then changed into my pjs, snuggled in my blankets, and went to sleep.

I got a job within a couple of days at a take-out place called Mary Brown’s Fried Chicken.  I worked hard and was hired permanent full time.   My paycheque came around just in time as I was down to my last dollar. I paid my rent, bought some groceries, and continued to work as many hours as I could.  Summer was in the air and I needed some new clothes.  The weeks flew by, the weather was getting warmer, and the landlady had had a new baby boy.

One evening the girls and I were visiting with the landlady and cooing at the new baby.  The topic of conversation came around to weight management and I, being the thinnest, was appointed the designated babysitter while the others went for a quick walk. 

 “Don’t worry,” the new mom said, “I’ll put him to sleep before we leave and he should be good for an hour.”  

So, the baby went to sleep and they went for a walk.  I sat on the sofa reading a magazine and checked on the baby periodically.  The girls came back within the hour and the baby was still sleeping.  Anthony’s mom was so grateful to be able to get out of the house for a while that she gave me a token of her gratitude:  a small plate with blue trim and blue flowers in the center.  It was the first time in my life that anyone had ever given me something so thoughtful for such a small favor. 26 years later it remains a special part of my life that I will never forget.