a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Aug, 2005

A memory from long ago

Posted by andrea in: Misc. life

I don’t remember too many details about Walter, a boy I dated when I was 16 (mentioned here). I remember going to Lime Rickey’s and accidentally wedging him in a revolving glass door. I remember sneaking out for late night dates. I remember urging him to try out for our school play (which was Grease) because he complained about my after school volleyball practices. He got the lead. I remember this eventually brought about the end of our relationship because, through the play, he was introduced to people who weren’t in my social circle. And I’m sure, in their eyes, I was über-geek. He eventually dated my best friend. But let’s not go there right now. ;)

I remember one memorable date we had. Memories of it stayed with me for years, but I wish that I had kept a journal and made note of the details. It would have been nice to remember it a little better. All that’s left now are bits and bobs with big gaps in the middle. I’m not even sure if I’m remembering this correctly.

It was around Christmas time. I’m not sure how it came about, but our plan was to go see the Nutcracker in Toronto and follow it up with dinner in the revolving restaurant in the C.N. Tower.

It was a pretty big deal.

I went shopping for a dress. I had odd taste in clothing. The one I chose was black, strapless, and poofed out on the bottom. The skirt actually had a crinoline under it, and it rustled when I moved. Describing it now it doesn’t seem that unusual, but looking back it was rather different and un-teenlike because most 16-year old girls wouldn’t wear something like that in 1988. It also came with a floral jacket that had immensely puffy sleeves and a bow in the middle front. It was expensive, and I had to convince my father to buy it for me. *

I don’t remember much about the Nutcracker. But I do remember the dinner afterwards.

We parked the car (a hatchback on loan from someone in his family) and took the elevator up. At one point we had to switch elevators or something. Regardless, there was a concierge who stopped to tell us, or to warn us, that dinner “up there” was pretty expensive. We laughed it off. Ha ha! The world was our oyster you loser! And anything is possible when you’re feeling that way.

It was a pretty good feeling.

But as the elevator raced up, a seed of doubt had been firmly planted in my mind. And when we entered the restaurant (fancier than any I had eaten at) I was taken aback by sheer fanciness. There were, like, ACTUAL GROWNUPS eating here. Adults, who were drinking age (and older!). And there we were, two teenagers on a date.

I felt dizzy. My head was spinning a little, but then I realized it was because it was a revolving restaurant, and that’s what revolving restaurants do. Duh, they spin, albeit pretty slowly. No wonder I had to steady myself.

We were seated next to a window. The view was beautiful – Toronto at night – and it took my breath away. Immediately below us was a major Toronto landmark. Honest Ed’s, a big box store that was a famous big box before all other big boxes. It was a place that sold goods on the cheap. Everyone in Toronto has been there at least once. Many more than once, like my mother, a new immigrant who shopped there regularly when we lived in High Park.

I should have known that our view of a discount department store was some kind of ill-omen. In literary circles this would be known as foreshadowing.

I scanned the menu. It was expensive, just like we had been warned. Worse, it was table d’hote, meaning that I couldn’t just order a salad and a coke. One had no choice but to pay a princely sum that would include soup, salad, main dish and a dessert.

I ordered the cheapest dish. It was chicken. Perhaps to save face Walter ordered the second cheapest. If we hadn’t spent anything at the Nutcracker we’d have been ok. Walter had bought me a program and some juice in a champagne flute. Now we weren’t exactly sure if we had enough money.

We had $60.00 between the two of us. I had images of being yelled at, humiliated and then relegated to the kitchen to wash dishes in my beautiful dress, or worse, having to call my parents … who would have had to drive about 45 minutes into the city to rescue us. Panicking, I took a scrap of paper, an eyeliner, and did the math.

If (and that was a pretty big IF) my math was reliable then we were safe. Ok, I was fairly sure, so we ate in peace and enjoyed the view.

Then came the bill. My gasp of horror was surely heard by the entire restaurant. It totaled $75.00. Walter thought I was kidding. I wished I was kidding. He snatched it from me and looked it over.

“We didn’t order steak,” he exclaimed. “Or drinks!” We were immensely relieved. I bet the waiters were having a chuckle. After some explanation we finally received the correct bill. It was $59.00. We left $60.00 and left. Yes, a dollar tip. It’s all we had. In fact, the paper dollar had just been taken out of circulation and we left a loonie. We scooted out of there, embarrassed and laughing, congratulating ourselves.

As we made our way to the car, our feeling of elation quickly fizzled. We still had to pay to get out of the parking lot. We scrounged around the back sat for loose change and managed to muster up exactly $4.00 in very small change. We lined up with the rest of the cars and waited.

Walter clutched the steering wheel. We saw the sign light up for the car ahead of us, indicating the amount they owed for the privilege of parking in Toronto: $13.00. We were sunk. Soon enough it was our turn. We pulled forward and gave the fellow our parking chit. Total cost for parking: $4.00. We drove away, victorious, having spent every single, last penny we had.

* on a whim I decided to dig my dress out of storage and try it on. And here it is.
Sorry for the lousy quality of the photo. Uggo floral jacket not included. :)

6 Responses to "A memory from long ago"

1 | Helene

August 19th, 2005 at 7:31 pm


wow— you actually fit into a dress that you wore at 16. I’m soooooooo jealous!

2 | Kristina

August 20th, 2005 at 7:56 am


That sounded like the perfect evening written in the stars.

Oh and that dress should be brought to the front of the closet – you look amazing in it!

3 | me

August 21st, 2005 at 8:07 am


Surprisingly, I didn’t even have to suck anything in. It fit everywhere except the chest. If I want to wear it again I will have to get it altered or stuff it with sweatsocks.

4 | Constance Bear

August 21st, 2005 at 8:49 am


What a lovely dress. I don’t have any memories before 8 years old and certainly not very many nice ones in my teens. Cherish what you do have even if you have to fill in the gaps. Your truth does not have to be someone else’s reality.

5 | renny

August 21st, 2005 at 5:38 pm


WOW! What fun (and horror!) for two 16 year olds!

6 | Very Mom

August 22nd, 2005 at 11:19 am


I can’t believe you can get it on. All the dresses I have from my 16th year would fit on my thigh and no further… and that’s even if I wasn’t preggers!

Fun memory ;)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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