I’m going to Vancouver. It’s less than 2 hours by plane, direct flight. A pretty unremarkable trip. But it’s been 21 years coming.
In 1986, Vancouver hosted the World Exposition (known as Expo 86). The promotion for the event led us to believe the ENTIRE WORLD was coming to Vancouver. One morning in June, Mr. Patzer came into our Grade 6 classroom. It had to be a big deal, because Mr. Patzer was the principal, and he didn’t visit for nothing. If he was there, someone was dead, or in serious shit. He told us that the school district was putting together a student tour to Expo 86. 3 days on a bus. To BC. With other teenagers. And because they didn’t have enough kids, they were extending the opportunity to include the Grade 6ers. He started rattling off details. Dates, itinerary, what to bring. We all scribbled furiously on our hands. (This being the only way to ensure the note made it home.) Then he got to the end, and casually mentioned the cost. $300. I stopped for a second, and pretended to keep writing. But my pen didn’t touch my skin again. I knew, instantly and without conscious thought, that my family’s grocery bill was exactly $100 a week. I could either go off gallivanting, as my grandma would have called it, having fun with my friends, timidly flirting with boys, seeing THE WORLD, or my family could eat for 3 weeks. I knew I wouldn’t be telling my parents. They were horrible in these situations. They would initially reject any idea brought to them. Then they would wring their hands, trying to find a way to make it work. I would get my hopes up. Reality would set in, and they’d have to finally admit there was no way. And even if I did get disappointed, cry, carry on, in the end, I’d have to live with it. So I wouldn’t be telling them.
We had these calendars at home that came pre-marked with the important days (Xmas, Easter, etc). This year, they’d added the start and end dates of Expo 86. I went home, and quietly crossed those days out, the ballpoint pen ripping through the paper, I pressed so hard. That fall, when school was in again, there were so many stories. Stories from the bus trip, strangely few from Expo itself. I made the appropriate interested-sounding comments (“No way! He did WHAT? That’s so cool!). And by then I actually was a little interested, the bitterness having dissipated a little over the summer.
I am excited to be going now. I only wish I could go back, and take that 11 year old girl with me.