Tuesday 25 August 2020

1967: A Coming of Age Story

Finished August 24
1967: A Coming of Age Story by Richard W. Doornink

I really enjoyed this memoir! It covers one year in Doornink's life, from September 1966 to August 1967 and begins just as his family is ending their vacation and his father is taking on a new job as a sales rep for Rexall based out of Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Previous to this, they'd lived in Winnipeg and his father had sold life insurance. Besides his parents, Ricky also has 2 younger sisters, known here as Red and Little Sister.
On their first day in their new home, an apartment, Ricky meets Mark who lives in the same building as him. Mark's father is also a sales rep, and the two are the same age and soon walk to school together in the mornings. Red is also old enough to go to school, and occasionally she is part of the group travelling together. That part certainly took me back to my own schooldays, walking to school on my own even in first grade.
Ricky is curious about everything he sees, but his father expects the behaviour of "seen, but not heard" from the kids most of the time. Their dinner table is quiet, except a bit of adult conversation, as are car trips, even the one where his father takes him to Regina to see a CFL game. It is definitely a more rigid upbringing than my own, where the dinner table had everyone sharing information about their day and discussions and questions were encouraged. Ricky's questions are in his head, and sometimes on his face. He is judicious in who he asks questions of, and what type of questions he asked. This aspect made me a bit sad that this love of learning was squelched down. I liked the inner conversations that went on in his head though, with his questions, and possible answers. One of the early ones was the encounter with the Welcome Wagon lady, where he looked around for her wagon, but didn't ask.
Ricky joins into the group of boys at school, getting his work done and engaging in as many activities as his parents allow. Money is tight and we see him going to get used hockey equipment for the school's hockey season. Later we see his calculations for choosing his first baseball glove: not too expensive, but not the cheapest one either.
While communication in his family is definitely on a need-to-know basis, his mother is not a pushover, and she insists on participating in community activities such as women's curling. They interact with Mark's family, and that was an education as well.
Ricky makes some mistakes in judgement, as young children do as they are learning how to get along in the world. He isn't a bad kid, but he does some things he knows are wrong and suffers the consequences. We see him dealing with moral issues such as theft, honesty, and responsibility for one's actions. He helps out for church activities, and learns about how his behaviour affects others, such as a neighbourhood kid who is picked on.
Ricky's world gets bigger here as he gains independence and increased knowledge of the wider world. I liked him, and empathized with him often.
A book that definitely rings true of its place and time.

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