They were beautiful. Two long rows of them, running all the way down the sides of the room, in dazzling patterns and colours, all sizes and shapes. Some were huge, bigger than I was, but so tantalizingly out of reach. I wanted them. I wanted to touch them.
It was 1966. I was three years old.
We were living in Cornwall, Ontario. Four blocks away, across a field of tall grass and a busy highway, they waited.
I had to see them again. I watched patiently for an opportunity. Finally one afternoon mom got distracted for a moment. It was all I needed.
Out the door, across the street and into the field. I would go, see them, and be back before mom even knew I was gone.
But I hadn't counted on the grass. It was tall, higher than my head. Four blocks is a long way when you are three years old and can't see where you're going, but I was determined.
It paid off. I came through the grass and there it was, just across the highway. K-Mart.
K-Mart had huge stuffed animals on high shelves running the length of the store on either side. It was amazing. And I was so close.
I was so close, except for the highway. The tall grass was bad, but not scary. This was different. Big trucks were howling past. I was hypnotized by the speeding wheels. They were bigger than me. I felt my first pang of doubt.
But I wanted those stuffed animals. I was almost there. All I needed was a break in traffic.
I was pondering my options when a police car pulled up. What an interesting day! A large policeman got out of the car.
"Hello there. Where are you going?"
"I'm going to K-Mart to see the stuffed animals."
"Oh, I see."
I believed that he did.
"How would you like to come for a ride in a police car?" The policeman opened the back door.
A ride in a police car? I was three years old. I didn't know what life as a Native man in Canada would be like. When would I get to ride in the back of a police car again? The stuffed animals were amazing, but they would still be there tomorrow. A ride in a police car! I went quietly for the last time.
The policeman behind the wheel asked if I knew where I lived. Was he kidding? I was the kid who walked through the tall grass! You'd think I was lost or something. Pointing, I said, "I live in that red house over there. What does that do? Can you turn on the siren? Can you turn on the lights?" And they did!
This was, by far, the best thing that had ever happened to me. Wait 'til mom sees me!
Sure enough, mom was so excited by my appearance in the police car that she was crying and laughing. She must have felt very proud.
A year later we moved to Morrisburg. I never did figure out how to get across that highway.