Christmas morning at the Cardy residence in the early 2000s could guarantee a couple of things.
There would be four stockings laying by the fireplace, each with a mandarin orange in the toe and filled with a mix of peanuts and M&Ms. There would be Mom’s Pantry croissants coming out of the oven, golden, crunchy, and ready to be eaten with runny strawberry jam.
And there would be a new doll under the tree, ready for me to bathe, babysit, and put to bed for the next 365 days, or until Sears released the next three-pound Wish Book and it was time to upgrade.
Every year for as long as I can remember, I wrote to Santa Claus, North Pole, H0H 0H0 asking for a baby. Please, make sure she can poop, pee, and puke. The more she cries, the better. A bottle, a soother, a crib, and even a bath. I wanted it all. All I wanted was to be a mom.
While my three brothers were falling out of bunk beds, I was on the phone with my kid’s teacher talking about the bullies at her school. While they constructed bike jumps out of dad’s scrap wood in the driveway, I waited tables in the kitchen just trying to make enough money to feed my starving kids.
As a child, nothing was more fun than being a busy mom with a coffee in her hand and a crying baby in the other. Our family’s brown Astro van with the bag of Spitz in the console might’ve appeared to be in park to the rest of the world, but to me, I was late for work and stuck in traffic. I strapped my babies into the backseats, buckled my seatbelt ran all kinds of errands around town.
Every good playdate was essentially an epic six-hour game of “House”. I’ll be the mom, you be the dad. They can be our twin daughters and he can be our family dog who gets pregnant with 13 puppies. This is the kitchen and that will be our bedroom. My name will be Bridget and I wear sunglasses on my head all the time.
My imagination had the power to change who I was, how I talked, where I lived, and how old I was. When mom said it was time to go home, I had to shake my head to remember I really wasn’t a 35-year-old pregnant woman. My baby was just a couch cushion under a stretched-out Gildan T-shirt and my boobs were just Hacky Sacks.
I was a child who couldn’t wait to be a mom. What could be more fun than baking muffins, folding laundry, and giving babies nighttime baths? I wanted my own leather purse and a set of jingly car keys. I wanted to make grocery lists and change diapers, put Band-Aids on boo-boos and host coffee parties.
Twenty years later and none of this has changed. I feel most content when I’m taking care of the people around me, keeping a cozy home, and staying on top of to-do lists.
I am and will always be a busy-body, strawberry blonde little girl playing one epic game of House.
When I was a boy, I was a lion.
Some toddlers have speech impediments when they communicate. They weally stwuggle to talk cowectly. That was never an issue for me. I could speak fine when I was a toddler. The only problem was I refused to do so. I growled like a lion instead.
Sans flowing mane, I lived my life as the majestic and mighty cat. The crawling, the clawing, the snaring, the snarking. It was a full schtick. Strangers wondered why the three-year-old in the frozen food section kept roaring at them for no reason. My parents wondered how permanent of phase this lion thing would be.
Nobody wants their kid to be the lion kid. But I was the lion kid.
Mom chalks it up to my love of The Lion King, which looking back was more of an addiction. I was just a chubby-cheeked brat enjoying his favourite movie. But the more and more I watched, the more the natural process of evolution modified my DNA strands and turned me into lion boy. I slowly became the beast, pacing back and forth in front of our dusty tube television, hissing at Scar and those god damn hyenas. I was consumed by my role as a lion. And my performance was brilliant.
The phase lasted a good chunk of 1997, peaking at Halloween. (Guess what I dressed up as). I’m not sure what clicked in my premature mind to make me stop, but looking back at it, lion boy was just an unhinged version of who I am today.
I am a bit of a lion man.
I’m still the loud, feral, attention-seeking fiend I was back then, only I’ve translated growling into real words. I think of lion boy as just one of my first characters. He jumpstarted a lifetime of mimicking and mocking and performing for people. Plus, every time my parents yelled at me, at least I could growl back. A normal kid would just cry or pout. I found a sense of confidence that only a lion boy can provide.
Unfortunately, lion boy is gone now. But once in a while, when I feel more like a precious pussycat than the king of the jungle, I’ll walk into the washroom, stare into the mirror, puff my chest out, and muster up one, vicious, timeless roar.
And yes, I still got it.