When I was a tyke growing up in Scarborough, then a bedroom community of Toronto, our neighbour Mrs. Painter used to babysit me while my mom and dad spent the day at work. I think this was before I attended kindergarten so I must have been 4 years old. Now times were different in the mid 50s. Kids had the run of the neighbourhood and weren't overly chaperoned. Parents and guardians trusted the kids they looked after and there was a high sense of safety and security in the neighbourhood. All kids had to worry about was being home by the time the streetlights came on. In hindsight this was a little odd since most of the adults were kind of freaking out at the height of the cold war.
Kids spent a lot of time out of doors and our games of choice were hide-and-seek and Cowboys and Indians. Me and my pals spent most of our time engaging in these games, sneaking through neighbour's yards, climbing fences and hiding behind trees and shrubs.
One day Mrs. Painter told me she was going to make hamburgers for lunch. Ah, one of my favourites, with ketchup, mustard and relish. And Mrs. Painter's devilled eggs were legendary and they were on the menu too. But Mrs. Painter was out of hamburger buns. So, she gave me a quarter and sent me off to the "corner" store to get some, about a five minute walk away.
Now at the corner of our street sat a house with a nicely trimmed little hedge abutting the sidewalk protected by a series of silver lead pipes with a wire strung through them. I'd passed by these pipes every day without a thought. But that day, with a shiny quarter in my hot little hand I paused for some reason. I looked at the hallow pipe and back at the quarter in my hand. It's odd how a four-year old processes things. I felt on the edge of a huge discovery not unlike Alexander Graham Bell or Albert Einstein. I slowly raised my hand until it hovered over the pipe, the quarter clinched tightly between my thumb and forefinger. And then I let go. Son of a gun. It fit! Alas, the result of my successful experiment was that the quarter was lost forever.
Mrs. Painter thought it was funny when I told her how I'd lost the quarter...the first time. You see little Einstein repeated his experiment...two more times. Guess what? Those quarters turned out to be the same size as the first! And those hamburger buns were the most expensive buns Mrs. Painter had ever bought.