Now that I’m not a child anymore, although my wife’s opinion would likely differ on that…. I remember spending my whole childhood wishing I was older. Why? What was it about being older that appealed to me so much?
I do remember some milestones along the way and in writing some of them down, I’ve noticed a common thread….
Without question, the first time I remember wanting to be older was when I was about 4 years old. I lived in the Mount Pleasant area in southwest Edmonton on a broad street with big lots and big trees. My two older brothers both had dirt bikes – the goofy-looking ones with the huge balloon tires – remember those? Well, that summer, every afternoon when I was put to bed to have a nap, my brothers would rip up and down the street on their bikes – much to the delight of the neighbors, I’m sure. And how much sleep do you think I got during those nap times? Somewhere between nada and zero. I clearly remember waiting until my mom would leave the room and close the door, and then I’d jump up on my headboard, which was under the street-side window and stand at the window, watching my older brothers on their bikes. My mom said I’d stand there for hours, making motorcycle noises and just watching. And I remember thinking, if only I were older I wouldn’t have to take these stupid naps and I’d have my own bike and I could hang out with my brothers.
The next memory I have of wishing to be older is when I was 9, in the spring of 1983. We had just moved to an acreage late 1982 – 50 acres of ravine, creek and fields – the perfect playground. My dad built his dream house out there, and part of making it a dream house was putting in a fish pond. This was no ordinary fish pond, my friends, this was one big enough to house Leviathan. It was approximately 2 acres in area and 30 feet deep. Well these kinds of ponds don’t dig themselves, and so when the ground thawed, my dad hired an excavation company to dig this beast. I remember sitting at the edge of the pond, watching the massive backhoes digging themselves deeper and deeper into the ground, and a cat moving all that dirt and clay to make a massive hill where I would later toboggan with my friends. And I remember wishing desperately to be older, to be able to drive one of those backhoes. My daddy must have seen that in my eyes, because he asked one of the excavator men to allow me to get up there with him. I couldn’t believe it – I had only dreamed of it, but here I was, climbing up the massive ladder and getting into the seat, and this gentleman actually let me work the controls and drive this monster about 50 feet or so, and also move the shovel. I was beside myself!
I also remember the next few years – and my wanting to be older was a result of not being able to drive what I wanted at my age. First I wanted a go-kart. So my dad and brother built me a go-kart – 5 horsepower Honda engine, CVT transmission, racing seat and steering wheel, disc brakes, diamond plate panels, great tires – it was a custom kart from heaven! But 5 horsepower only lasts so long and I soon yearned to go faster. My motorized locomotion fantasy evolved to include quads, and my dad was kind enough to spoil me with a Suzuki Quadracer 230. It was a very fast machine compared to the go-kart, and I was so happy. For about 6 months. My dad had bought himself a Suzuki 350, and I felt that I was ready, n0 NEEDED a bigger quad – at least what my dad had, if not more! If only I was older, I could get something bigger and faster. At that age, the fact that someone had to, you know, pay for these things was a bit beyond me and responsibility played no major role in my life. Thankfully, my dad did make me wait until I truly was older – a few years and many wipe-outs and roll-overs later, my dad took me quad shopping one Saturday morning, and I remember being able to pick out my baby – a Suzuki 500 – the quadzilla! That quad made me smile until I realized that I couldn’t actually take it into the city to visit friends. I needed a car!
Being 12 and realizing you need a car isn’t always the easiest thing to cope with. Mainly because the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow is YEARS away. My dad did let me drive the truck down the driveway, and down to the creek on occasion. But essentially these were controlled experiments, and not very fulfilling. Virtually without exception, every day I would come home from school, throw my school stuff in the back entrance, grab my dog and hop on the quad. EVERY day. My friends will vouch for me – my quads had 1000s of kilometres put on them – I would ride for hours and far. My parents were world-travellers and as usual, when they were away on one of their many trips, I was staying at home with a live-in nanny. And so it was on that fateful day that I started driving, and unwittingly fulfilled my wish of being older by proxy.
I was on my quad, about 4 kilometres from home when I ran out of gas. No cell phones in those days, so I started trudging back home. On my way home, I formed a plan – my parents weren’t home, so my dad wouldn’t be able to drive me back with gas. The nanny…. well, never mind. I was comfortable driving the truck, and it was just down a country road. No problem, right? I finally got home and as fate would see fit, there was no gas. Somehow, I decided it would be OK to get into the truck, drive the 4 kilometres to Ellerslie Road, then the 8 kilometres to Calgary Trail, fill up the jerry cans at Mr. John’s gas station (remember that place?) and head home. And so I did. I believe I got older on that day, because I passed two police cars on the way and I almost died each time – how neither of them picked up the fact that there was a 12 year-old kid driving that truck is beyond me. But from that day forth, I drove – whenever my parents were gone.
One of the last memories I have of wanting to be older was going to Germany. We went to Germany (and other parts of Europe) every second year, each time for most of the summer. So we would spend about 5-6 weeks there, and my obsession with vehicles had only grown. My dad would always rent a spectacular car or two while we were in Europe – that was his treat to himself. I don’t remember all of them, but here are a few that struck a chord or that I could find pictures of: a BMW 750iL (which my dad ended up buying), an Audi V8, and on our final trip before my dad passed away, we rented a Ferrari 456 – because it had 4 seats. Spending a week or two at a time with these cars was always the thing I looked forward to most, and I’d always do homework in Canada – looking up which cars were current there and advising my dad what he should rent. If only I was older – maybe my dad would let me drive one of those cars!
During the last few visits, it became obvious to me that I needed to spend some quality time with these cars – and not as a passenger. My dad sensed this, and told me that if I put in the effort to get my international driver’s licence in Germany, he would rent me a car. And so I did.
My dad brought the rented car for me to my uncle’s place in Wolfsburg. My obsession with Audi had already begun years earlier, and I knew what it was the second he turned onto the street. It was a Tornado Red 1993 Audi S2 Avant – at the time, my dream car. I was ecstatic, and my dad had rented it for me for one week. Imagine driving around Germany as an 18 year-old kid in your dream car? It was all that I had dreamed of, and more. My cousin and I took it to Berlin on a two-day road trip, and I spent time on the Autobahn, flying down country roads, through villages, trying the quattro on gravel back-country roads beside the canal….. I can’t describe how amazing this experience was, but I’m grateful to my dad for giving it to me. It was hard to let that car go after my week in heaven.
So this brings me to my conclusion. As I spent some time reflecting on my childhood, and how I often dreamed about being older, I realize now that virtually all the memories of wanting to be older revolved around motorized vehicles and not being able to access them because of my age. I’m not sure what this means or if it really tells me anything new about myself – it’s no secret that I’m obsessed with cars and speed and always have been since my earliest memories. I suppose I just wanted to be older to be able to access these dreams and those dreams evolved as time went by.
A boy is never happy with his toys – he always wants bigger, badder and faster ones.
I’m working on a blog post regarding what times in my childhood and youth I’d like to go back to and why – I’ve had some interesting discussions on Twitter about this – stay tuned and thanks for reading!