I spent a good portion the early 70s on the floor of the family car eastbound on the TransCanada, enduring the mind-numbing 9 hour drive to visit our Saskatchewan relatives.

Why the floor? As the “baby” of the family,  I was assigned the middle spot in the back, justified by the fact that my legs were shorter and therefore less affected by the “hump” on the floor.  It was fine with me, actually I felt rather lucky to have a special place in the car and the family.  Within an hour or two us kids would have re-arranged our pillows and blankets – each older sister leaned against a door, while I would set up a little camp on the floor of the car using the axle hump as my headrest or draping my little pre-school body over it in various contortions of the bored variety.  My sisters thought it was sweet of me to relocate down there, but I was partly motivated by the fact that it was easier to hide my thumb-sucking  from my mom.

“Are you sucking your thumb?” my mom would ask from the front, craning her neck. I’d bury farther under my blanket. She’d redirect to my sisters, “Girls, is she sucking her thumb?” “No,” my oldest sister would lie. She used to tell me they shouldn’t try to make me quit because it was cute, so I kept sucking and she kept covering for me. Now I see that as all kinds of passive aggressive on my sister’s part, but at the time I was thankful.

(Sidebar: has anyone done a study on how many thumb-suckers grow up to be addicts? It seems to me I’ve always has some self-comforting habit whether it be my thumb, cigarettes, booze….)

Back to the floor of the family car circa 1971.

One of my favourite ways to pass the hours on those long drives was to watch the wires dance for me. At that time, every road was lined with poles and wires that delivered phone service and electricity.  I knew that if I was too bored, I could look at the lines as our car drove by them and eventually they would feel sorry for me and start to dance by moving up and down, crossing over each other, waving a gentle lazy pattern for me to help pass the time.  I had tried asking the wires to dance while I laid on the grass in our farm yard but those wires never moved. They only did it while I was in the car and only if I was very bored and sleepy. It was so nice of them.

Of course, they weren’t moving at all.  It was just an optical illusion created by the changing perspective as we whizzed by.  It look me years to realize; it dawned on me slowly.  First, I came to understand that the telephone polls weren’t capable of pity, but still felt I was seeing something unique.  Then, perhaps around age 7, my mind began to unwind how this magic occurred and most alarmingly, that it wasn’t only me who could see it.  I wasn’t special and this wasn’t real.

I tell you all this because it parallels my understanding and self-awareness about drinking.  I had allowed my brain to perceive an untrue reality because of the way things looked and felt.  Now I am starting to see it all clearly and realize that I was following a very human pattern into a behaviour.  At first it made me angry, then embarrassed, and now it makes me hopeful, because if I “patterned” my way in I can “pattern” my way out.

I admit it – when it came to drinking I thought I was justified and that my situation was unique and special. Now I know better.

In the mid-70s, when the lines came down and the poles were carried away, ditches were scattered with the beautiful glass transformers which insulated the lines atop the poles.  They were thick clear glass in the shape of a thimble, either clear or blue, and about the size of a fist.  We would comb the ditches for them and bring them home as treasures, lining them on the window sills. All are now useless except to serve as a reminder of another time.

For me, from now on, they will always remind me of my own transformation.