I was less than ten older than 5. We were at our semi regular family trip destination in Northern Ontario. You know, Northern Ontario where the mosquitoes outnumber humans 400,000 to 1 and watching black bears crawl through trash at the local dump is considered entertainment. What possible reason could we as a family have for driving all the way up into no man's land you ask? To see my grandfather of course!. My mother had the good sense to move toward somewhere resembling civilization at an early age but my grandfather remained up north and so on an annual/biannual basis we would make the pilgrimage up to see him.
Don't get me wrong, my brother and I loved the place when we were kids. It is just as an adult looking back it lacked a few (read: all) of the creature comforts I have come to know and love. My grandfather was of Polish descent and when I say Polish I mean off the boat Polish. He spoke English certainly but from what I recall it was more a cheap imitation than an actual fluent understanding of the language. Just imagine the cliche Russian spy in any action movie, he sounded just like those guys. Why am I giving you all of this background on my grandfather? Well, his old world ways filtered down to how he lived his life in civilized Canukville (Canada)
In his backyard he had an old rusty bathtub whose exclusive purpose it was to collect rainwater so that he could later dump it into his garden and grow vegetables. I'm not certain if his house had running water but what I do recall is that the toilets inside did not work and never would work. Instead, he fixed that problem by erecting an outhouse in the backyard and lined it with a GLAD garbage bag. What he did with the bag when it got full I'll never know AND I don't want to know.
TO THE POINT ALREADY!!! My grandfather raised rabbits in his backyard and sold them for money (I know it sounds like 1920 but it was 1989). He had two families of different rabbits who lived in two different pens. He let my brother and I play with the rabbits under the explicit instructions that we do not allow the two opposing families of rabbits to mingle whom I've dubbed the Montagues and Capulets. I don't think it was a star crossed lover situation so much as it was territorial but the two families hated each other. Outside of their pen the rabbits were relegated to a larger caged area measuring about 25x5 feet where they would happily much upon grass while my brother and I annoyed the crap out of them.
On one such occasion (I know that you can see it coming) I either forgot to put all the Montagues away before I released the Capulets or in child like wonder (as I referenced in an earlier remembery) perhaps I just wanted to see what would happen if I put an end to the segregated society. To this day it might have been my brother who made the mistake of letting the two families co-mingle. However, since I am the younger brother, it was destined to be my fault regardless if I actually did it or not. All that I remember is that we left the rabbits outside of their pen to run around and went to play with something else.
An hour or so later an angered grandfather and annoyed mother called our names in the way that denotes trouble, not candy and ice cream. What we came upon was a grisly site. One of the larger rabbits a female I believe had one of her ears split down the middle. Little Juliet stared at us with her scary red eyeballs while she sat perched in my grandfather's hand. What followed next was 20 hostile questions that tried to determine which of us was the one who let both families out of the pen at the same time. Somehow we were able to dodge full blame because neither of us legitimately knew who did it. Well, that and the fact that I got my 8 year old cry on which as you know is a very manly thing to do when an adult talks to you sternly. In a huff my grandfather left us filled with rage at the fact that he would have to sell the rabbit off for half price.
Fast forward fifteen years, I'm sitting in some nondescript place with my mother having a nondescript conversation. We talked of my grandfather's house and all the good times we had there. I asked her if she remembered the time that we accidentally injured one of grandpa's rabbits. "Sure" she said. "I remember it quite vividly" she said. "Really? I said?" "Yes" she said. "I remember how you kids let the rabbits out of the pens and got one injured. I also, remember, that we told you that the rabbit we ate that night was chicken."