A memory: it is late at night for a child. Vancouver, B.C., end of summer. We are returning to the car after our annual family visit to the PNE: the Pacific National Exhibition. We have trekked around hangars full of agricultural produce, cornucopies of improbable tomatoes and hyperbolic squash, perfect carrots like the ones in my grandfather's garden only, if possible, better, glowing jars of jams and preserves, such as my mother would prepare every summer, sealing them with rounds of wax (the heft and texture still in my fingertips), adding labels with dates and names, and lining them up on papered shelves in a windowless cupboard down in the basement. Jams we will slowly consume during the long Canadian winters of my mother's Saskatchewan childhood. Somewhere in the back story are farms on Prince Edward Island and in Ontario, and dimly visible, subsistence farming in Scotland.
Store-bought jam? Unlikely. As unlikely as a store-bought cake. I had to live in France to discover that people bought pastries and that they were better than homemade ones, in France that is. And that it wasn't shameful to buy, rather than make, a dessert. Mind you, it's still better to make cakes from scratch in Canada and the US, because store-bought ones are dire, and this is a fact of life that no amount of positive thinking, even in upmarket Palo Alto with its sesame baguettes, has changed.
Meanwhile, back at the PNE...
we have had hotdogs and clouds of pink candy fluff ("barbe-à papa" in French). And we have been on the rides, best of all the shoot-the-chute. I haven't yet discovered that my father is scared of heights--that was much later on Coney Island when we made him take us on a parachute ride. Our feet are sore from walking through the fairground. I must be about 12. Am I cranky by now?
The car is far away, It's hard to find parking at the PNE. The people who live around the fairgrounds rent out their driveways and back yards. I see us trudging back to the car. I see a lot of fenders and shiny metal. And I hear mother tell me she thinks I am going to be the sort of person who needs a lot of sleep. An innocent remark...why has it stuck with me over all these years? It is this precise, singular remark that brings back all the generic fairground memories.
I can think about this till I'm blue in the face, but I'm never going to know.
There are a lot of things I'm never going to know, but I imagine I am stilll too young to realise this, too young to know this, increasingly, will be one of life's great sorrows.
It makes a good starting place for my sleeping problems.
(Next. How I ended up in "The Insomnia Group Treatment Program." There may be digressions, for example, into Riding the Paris Metro Covered With Electrodes. I may also discover I have better things to do than unpack my sleep problems.)