Innocence and Cheerful Ignorance

Monday, October 26, 2020


When growing up, I viewed the world through such innocent and ignorant eyes. I was unaware of the immensity of skeletons I was constantly surrounded by and the struggles my parents and other adults around me faced. The world seemed bright and promising despite all the setbacks my parents were shrouded in. Looking back, I did not always realize I grew up in a poor home with struggling parents. I was unaware that my parents were barely making ends meet throwing newspapers, studying, and working other odd jobs they could find. I did not demand much and maybe it was easier where I lived because a lot of the people around me were new immigrant families. We lived in co-op housing for eight years until my father received his first job as a veterinarian after passing his licensing exams. 

    Despite all this, I felt I had it all. I didn't care about clothes, fashion, designer brands. I did pine over the new toys coming out that my parents couldn't always afford like the Tamagotchi or the massive dollhouses at Toys-R-Us but they tried their best to give us not only what we needed but wanted as well. The small space we were confined in did not bother me, it was as much space as I needed. It never occurred to me that we were living in cramped conditions or that we should have more than this. Every year, I would receive a new Barbie for my birthday and other random accessories to adorn her with. My father was always looking for the next magic box that would give us unlimited channels for a cheap price, so we watched a lot of movies and shows at home even if we couldn't afford to go to the movie theaters.

    My sister and I spent countless hours playing, making up imaginary worlds and stories that would transport us to far off and wondrous realms where we would reign as queens within our kingdoms. We would fight battles and raise horses. Even while we were cleaning, we would pretend we were princesses who had run away and were in hiding in someone's tiny home where we were working hard to earn a living. We would create a fort under the table and cover it with as many blankets we could find while using the chairs to expand our shack as much as possible to create little rooms for our teddy bears and barbies, our loyal followers who came with us. This was us imagining what hard times would feel like because, in reality, we did not have much to complain about. We would hide small ketchup packets and call them "liver bags" as if we were starving and that was all we had to eat in order to survive. Time and space held no boundaries within our minds and we could escape whenever we wanted, instantly. 

    Ammi is an amazing cook and although I pined over Burger King, McDonald's, and KFC, my mother never left us hungry. She would make cakes or cupcakes with chocolate cream and coconut shavings for birthdays and friend get-togethers. Whenever my friends came to visit, she would give us ice cream cones with rainbow sprinkles that would turn our tongues into all sorts of bold colours. During Eid or special occasions, she would make traditional Pakistani desserts such as “gajar ka halwa” (a dessert made from minced carrots, sugar, and cream) or “savaiyyan” (semolina noodles cooked in sugar and milk). She would wrap up plates and ask me to deliver them to all our friends and family who lived in the building. The aunties would accept the dishes, ask me to wait while they washed the dishes, and returned them with another treat inside to take back home. This would give me some precious quality time to say hello to my friends and chat with them until I needed to run back. Maybe I didn’t feel so contained because the entire building felt like an extension of my home with a built-in playground in the back. 

    During school days, the school became an extension of my life and I enjoyed going to class. It was the time I would socialize, laugh, play, and talk with all my friends while trying to learn a thing or two simultaneously. There would always be something keeping me occupied and active. Our school would take us on several field trips during the year to various fasincating places such as the Science Center, and Black Creek Village. These were the highlight of my school days. As I have mentioned before, I took part in religious classes in the evening and on weekends, so my schedule was always packed with things to do. In some ways, it was a blessing in disguise because my parents kept me busy from the troubles within my home. In the religious groups, I had many friends and we would enjoy our little adventures to parks and religious camps. I was learning so much about the world, life, and religion that I did not have the time or attention span to dwell on the imperfections shrouding me. Even religion felt so simple back then. There was right and wrong and I simply needed to follow what was right and I would be okay and if I didn't, there would be consequences. As a child, it seemed black and white. 

    My parents loved exploring and traveling, we would pack our Chrysler Voyager minivan and drive off on some mini road trip. We would visit Ottawa often because we had family there. I used to look forward to going there because my cousins had a Nintendo console. They were much older than me but they doted on me and my sister and would let me play Super Mario for hours. Also, since as far as I could remember, I used to enjoy sitting with the adults and listening to all the drama and gossip. There would be endless gossip for me to absorb, no matter where we went. And so whenever we went to someone's home where I did not have any friends, I would sit the aunties just taking in all the latest news. It would surprise the aunties at how attentively I would sit by my mother and just listen to them talk. They thought I was adorable and well behaved being able to sit there quietly for hours whereas I employed it as a survival technique that turned into entertainment. 

    Every year, my parents would buy the season family pass for Wonderland. I would be ecstatic even if I would ride most of the rides alone since my sister wasn't tall enough to go with me on the rollercoasters and my parents found the thrill rides insane. But some of my fondest memories are sitting with my mother on the Antique Carousel where she would stand beside me while I sat like a knight on the horse that would move up and down or wave at both my parents as they watched me, or fly high on the Swings of the Century, or the Pirate Ship. There was also another ride I enjoyed immensely, these smaller two-person boats that would go up and down in a circle and twist. They were situated near the old set of blue water slides that were there before they created Splash Works. Ammi would prepare small sandwiches and popcorn for snacks and a large cooler with fresh drinks. I also had a large Flintstone's soda cup that Ammi would fill with Coca Cola just for me. We were unable to afford the expensive amusement park food but sometimes in the evening before heading home, Ammi and I would indulge in their famous Funnel Cake near the waterfall. In the same fashion, we would visit Niagara Falls and the African Safari. Every few years, Ammi would bring out her credit card and purchase tickets for me and my siblings for a two-month trip to Pakistan. This meant, every year, we would have an adventure lined up in the summer that I would look forward to every year. I was living my best life. 

    It wasn't until I reached high school that I truly understood the difference in our lifestyles. By the time my younger siblings began school, we were living in a house in a wealthier neighbourhood. They would grow up wearing designer clothes and living far more lavishly than I could have ever dreamed as a child. My parents could now afford sending them for swimming classes, martial arts, soccer and whatever else they desired. My youngest sister shopped at La Senza whereas the fanciest clothing I ever bought as a child came from Zellers. They were also given more freedom in what they chose to do and were allowed to participate in extracurricular activities freely. Sometimes when I look back it upsets me that I was not given that opportunity but as I sift through my memories I realize that was still very lucky and was able to enjoy and live my life within my boundaries. I can look back at my childhood and smile at these precious moments despite it all. I learned to appreciate and value the cost of items and live without excess. This is why I am able to move around and live with fewer possessions and be okay about it. I don't need much to be happy. I also learned to value experiences and memories over items. I would rather travel and explore than put all my money into a large house or a fancy car. When I look back, I remember the memories and the moments surrounded by those I love, laughing, eating, talking. Laughter, health, and love is what true wealth is to me.

Until Next Time,

Photo by Eric Tompkins on Unsplash


  1. I loved reading your post about your childhood memories. Indeed those are the fondest memories we have. The time spent with family and friends and in good health. I can relate to your stories growing up as I had a similar childhood. Looking forward to hear more travels and stories from your side

    1. Thank you! I find it fascinating how we view the world as children and somewhat lose it as we grow older. I am glad you found the stories relatable.


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