Erica. The Early Years

posted March 20th, 2009 by Janet Graham - 3 Comments

Erica was born in 1957, in Ottawa (which makes her 52 today). Her mother is Danish and immigrated to Canada from England. Her father is a Canadian whose family has been in Canada for generations.

Early InfluencesShe was the first grandchild on her mother’s side of the family. And she was a big deal! She was absolutely listened to and doted on completely by her English grandparents from the day she was born. They thought everything she said was incredibly cute and interesting. In her words: “They found me very amusing!!!” She believes their adoration had a big influence on her.

 

She thinks the fact that her parents had three kids in rapid succession was another big influence on her. She was the eldest of four children but her sister was only 16 months younger than her and then her brother was only 16 months younger than her sister, so they were always together, in a pack. They got up to mischief together and hardly ever got caught.

Her parents were very permissive. From her perspective, they were a very good looking couple, incredibly glamorous, her very own personal Barbie and Ken. They had lots of parties, in fact, there was always a lot going on at her house, parties and children and pets etc.

She describes her father as one of her heroes. He had a huge influence on her. In fact, she still thinks he is the greatest!! He is very philosophical and spent hours with her, talking about her ideas. She describes him as an extremely good looking, extroverted man who was very popular and always lots of fun to be with. He would take the children to the country where they had a cottage and out to the ‘fairy fields’ where he would encourage their imaginations to wander.

Her mom wasn’t so much fun; she thinks she was tired from having three children in rapid succession.

Early Dramas, Outstanding Events, Traumatic Experiences and Muddling ThroughShe describes her childhood as being a very innocent life. She and her siblings did whatever they wanted. Her first sort of awakening was when she was five and with some friends who made fun of her for getting changed in front of them. She had never had any previous sense that there was any problem with nudity and remembers wondering, ‘what the heck is going on?’ She believes today it was because she had lived in a kind of bubble.

 

She doesn’t think there was anything too traumatic in her early childhood.

Her father believed in exposing the children to everything, so if a relative was dying or there was a funeral or whatever the children would always go. He believed that was a way of learning about life. And she experienced the usual things, for example, their dog being hit by a car in front of them and other similar incidences.

She moved in Grade 5 and at her new school felt shy and out of place. And she had a series of relatives die when she was about fourteen and believes that was a loss of innocence phase. However, the most traumatic thing that ever happened to her in her eyes was getting braces in grade school. All in all not a “difficult childhood.”

At high school, she met a family that was very influential on her. The father was schizophrenic and from a wealthy family. At one point, he made a habit of playing guitar in the nude at work, which seemed quite interesting and scandalous to young Erica.

The parents were experimenting with smoking dope and made Erica swear secrecy. She was not to tell her parents and she felt like it was the first major thing she didn’t tell them and was completely freaked out by it.

It was in the 70s and there was a book out called The Greening of America and it included a list of the top 10 influential albums you had to own. The list included Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Cat Stevens. And her friend’s father gave his daughter the money and she and Erica went to the record store and got all ten records for him which was a huge deal in grade 9. In fact, Erica describes it as a peak experience.

The father was an artist and he would have nude models in the basement and other stuff like that which was not par for the course for the young Erica. She describes them as a “very great family.” The mother would talk to the girls like they were adults and spent a lot of time with them. She was a model for adulthood for Erica in terms of how to treat your kids and your kid’s friends. You just have to accept them. They were a lot of fun.

Despite being quite shy, she got involved with the local teen committee which marked the beginning of her formal involvement in organizing things. She organized a dance with a fellow from the neighbourhood who knew a band (and later in life became a music promoter.) She describes him as having a big outgoing personality. The band was to play at the dance and they charged a cover charge, a big deal for a local teen event. However, the band didn’t show and everyone was disappointed and asked for their money back. This did not phase Erica, she continued to be an organizer.

In fact, she had always been organizing. In grade school, she organized a whole little police force for policing the school yard. They would write down transgressions in a book and had a trial for a little girl who started to cry about 5 minutes into it and they gave it up.

She had never been in a fight and she wanted to see what it was like, so she and her girlfriends, when she was about 8 or 9, went to pick a fight with a group of boys. The boys argued with her that they couldn’t hit a girl and she encouraged them to do it, so one of them punched her and it really hurt and she started to cry. And one of her friends told the boys she didn’t really want to be in a fight which ended it and she left for home in tears. This is a story she always tells her kids and one can understand why!!

Going to university was very traumatic for her because she wasn’t prepared for it. She didn’t get a room in residence, so had to find a place to live. She ended up in this bohemian coop house which was crazy.

At the end of second year, Erica went to England for the summer. She had a boyfriend and they were moving in together in the fall and he was moving house while Erica was away. In England, her grandmother had a heart attack and Erica and her cousin found her and Erica went with her in the ambulance to the hospital while her cousin stayed back and made arrangements. She feels this was really the single most traumatic thing that happened to her in her early years.

Her grandmother died a week later and Erica remembers having crying jags for 6 to 8 months after she came home. It felt like the ideal family falling apart.

Upon returning home, this feeling was exacerbated when she phoned home to Ottawa, prior to a weekend visit, and her mom told her on the phone, her 20 year old unmarried sister, was pregnant. She says she “cried her head off.”

In any case, her little nephew came along and in the end it worked out fine but it was a very bad year for Erica and her family, particularly her mother who lost her father, her mother and had a daughter who became pregnant that year. From her current perspective, Erica says she cannot fathom how stressful that was for he mother.

She sees her grandparents and great aunt as being her most character forming influences. They doted on her. Her aunt had gone to Oxford and she had been quite academic and she passed on tons of books to Erica. Her aunt spent time in New York in the 1930s and she took Erica to stay at the Algonquin Hotel and introduced her to her friends, one of whom was the British correspondent for the New Yorker magazine during the war.

Another really big influence was the mother of a friend of hers who ran a book store. She used to throw books at Erica because she knew she was a big reader. Every time she saw her she would just give her more and more books. She says she really believe adults should take an interest in other peoples’ children because for her unrelated adults who had no vested interest in her future had a big influence on her.

The rest of her early years she describes as just muddling through. The usual highly emotional breakups and getting back together etc etc

The next chapter of Erica’s story will describe her career experiences. Stay tuned!

What Strikes Me?

The innocence and permissiveness of her childhood. Living in a bubble and being safe.

The early appearance of traits which would characterize her career and business experience, for example, organizing people and events.

The lessons her early childhood experiences taught her.

The words which reverberate in my head are innocence, friendships, mothers and fathers, heroes and heroines, absence of trauma, experiences, reading and books.

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Posted in relationships, women

3 Responses to “Erica. The Early Years”

Comment from Ted
Time March 21, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Hurry up with Part Two will you!

Comment from beatrice Seaman
Time March 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm

I find this story very intriguing. It’s interesting to read. The parts that you chose to include and what you choose to write about reflects your own history on ‘Bay Street’… I love that. I know you will give us a great story, Janet. -I am excited to see how Erica’s life unfolds!

Comment from Alex
Time March 22, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Janet, Keep moving forward this is very cool stuff. Will look forward to Part Two…

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