Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Molly and Tiger

When I was a child, my parents rented out the basement apartment in our bungalow.

We only ever had one tenant, Molly and her dog Tiger.

I remember it so vividly the evening she arrived. I was in my pajamas dunking chocolate chip cookies in my milk when a knock at the door followed by a bark summoned the whole family to the door. I hid behind my mom to assess the stranger and the dog. Her laughter, loudness and excitable dog quickly drew me out to the front of the group. With cookies still in hand, I tossed a couple to the dog. He gobbled them up and wagged his tail happily. The entire family led her down to her apartment grabbing bags along the way.

Molly and Tiger wouldn't be just tenants. They became family.

I knew because Mom started sending me down to bring Molly a plate of pasta or whatever we had on the menu that night. Molly LOVED Italian food and in a short time, us. We loved her and Tiger back. She rarely kept her door locked, and even when she did, that didn't stop us (the kids that is). The windows were held shut with a single latch that we were able to slide open. We easily slid into the room and made ourselves at home. Why? We loved to hang out with Molly and Tiger.

She would take us for walks to the park,we played for hours, stopping at the Dairy Queen for an ice cream. She took us skating and shopping. She shared her world with us and we did the same. On our birthdays she always gave us $1. That $1 meant more than you can imagine. One year she splurged and bought us each a huge pillow. We kept it in her apartment to sit on when we hung out there.

Molly became a part of every celebration. Communions, school concerts, birthdays, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. She even helped out with the sauce making. I remember her telling people who visited her that we were 'her kids.' :)

Then the dreaded day arrived, Dad had to ask Molly to leave because we had outgrown the space upstairs. I remember her pleading with dad that she would be happy with even one room; but they both knew it wasn't realistic.

We were heartbroken. My parents were able to find her an apartment with another family member only a few blocks away; but it wasn't the same. We still visited often. Molly would make us Kraft macaroni and cheese which would be quickly intercepted by my grandmother and made into a real Italian meal.

School, jobs and life started to fill our days and before we knew it, Tiger had passed on and Molly moved to another place, further away. We kept in touch by letters, cards and the occasional phone call.

Then the cards stopped. Our letters went unanswered and her phone had been disconnected.

We went to great lengths to find her only to discover that Molly died of cancer. She never told us she had been diagnosed. We all died a little that day.

When I think back, I don't know who needed who more. We were the family Molly didn't have. Molly and Tiger were the family we didn't have. My parents were immigrants still learning the Canadian culture. Molly infused many lessons without us really knowing it. We embraced her as she embraced us.

I still remember that day when I stood at the top of the stairs, chocolate chip cookies in hand...

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