Paula Hartley Artist

Childhood Memories

Jan. 14th. 2009

There are many thing that happen in our lives.  Some of us look into the eyes of a stranger and wonder where they have been.

I was born in Montreal. Quebec. Both of my Parents were Alcoholics. We were very poor, Pasta or Potatoes were the regular meal, it meant food in my stomach, that I was not hungary. I had very few dresses, the ones I had were hand me downs, and between my 2 brothers I wore little boys clothes.

I would eat spoonfuls of soil or sand, if I found a spoon and was not being watched. My mother said this was a frequent habit of mine, from the time when I was first outside, she was not too fond of my taste in munchies.   I attribute this in part to my affection of the earth, to have tasted her body at such a young age.

We as children had very little supervision over us , part because my mother did not feel it necessary , that we could find out about life the hard way, and she had to work to support the family. My father had a great deal of difficulty keeping a job, he had been educated as a Stock Broker and somehow the company he had worked for performed some illegal transactions that ruined his reputation and took away his license. He was not home very much , and often brought home by the police , being drunk somewhere , he often spent the night in jail.  My Grandmother took care of us during the day, (My Grandmother will have a Page of her own on web site) .  My parents fought bitterly and violently, trying to kill each other, many times I would run upstair to the neighbors begging them to call the police to stop them , I would bang and bang on the door begging them , they were reluctant , not wanting to get involved. I remember screaming utterly devastated, till eventually they opened the door and let me in. Their daughter was a play mate of mine. One night, my was father was trying to kill my grandmother in the bedroom which I shared with grandmother , he was trying to choke her , she could barely breath I tried to pull his hands away from her throat, but could not. That was another time the police came and took my father away to jail..

When I was about 4, I was touching a bush and discovered I could feel a life in it, as if it was speaking to me. I looked around to see if anyone was near, but no one was . There were voices.

My childhood in Montreal South was a long time ago, It has changed immensely since then . Recently I viewed a map of the area I lived in as a child, the streets are still there , the train tracks are still there, judging from the map I would guess the wet land I was fond of , is gone.,,,,,,,   At this very early age between 4 and 7, I would go to an area of wet land it had lots of rocks and wild flowers growing there. The water was clear unless you disturbed it's bottom, I used like watching the Tadpoles of course trying to catch one, my father's nick name for me was "Paulywog". the wetland was my favorite place to play, stepping from rock to rock not to fall in the water. My mother had forbade me to play in this undeveloped small wetland, that it was dangerous, but any opportunity I had, I would head to this quiet haven of wonderful flowers and birds. There is something about Nature that invites small children , in wonder and awe, before living in this area of St. Laurent, we had lived in Dorval, my younger brother and I had disturbed a huge nest of black hornets, I was probably 3 or 4 , they came after us, even following us in the apt where we lived, I remember my grandmother picking them off me still stuck to me. That  event left me traumatized for about a week Since then , I have been afraid, to the point of being terrified of bugs that sting. ,,,,,,     

One day in the swamp, I was generally very careful of where and how I stepped from stone to stone , Perhaps it was a bee too close to me, that I moved away and slipped cutting my arm badly on the sharp edge of a rock, not afraid of the blood , I don't even remember it hurting , except for the fear I had of my mother who showed very little love if at all for me , but that she would be Very angry with me, having been in the wet land, she called it a swam.. I went to the neighbor who cleaned it up and bandaged my arm , then came home with me to explain to my mother I was afraid she would be angry. This neighbor subdued any anger my mother may have had , I was not punished.

There were many Iroquois Mohawk in the area before the white man came, that they would know a young child alone meant no harm, that in the waters, the flowers, the rocks, they were there with me. I asked cautiously , if they had been there, but my mother denied it, as I grew older I learned her knowledge was quite limited on some things, including even the past of my grandmother.

Comfort and warmth as a child were memories of the sun , warm on the back of my neck, the color of the flowers , tall grasses, the sparkle of light in the water, of the Wet Land.



Accused , as a Child of being a Crimminal

Wearing an old long dress of my mothers and my playmate, we were in the undeveloped grass field by the apartment building that we lived in. I may have been 5 or 6 . We saw smoke , we were old enough to know smoke meant fire, that it was Not a good thing , we ventured over to the area and tried to put the fire out, Looking back , speculate it may have started by a careless smoker passing thru , discarding his cigarette butt without extenguishing it as there was a path that went by there.   The Police came and grabbed us , shoved us in the back of cruiser. I remember they spoke very poor english and were french. They were cross examing us, Accusing us of starting the fire , insisting we had started it . the siren had been going , there were people around the cruiser looking in the windows , pointing fingers at us, like we were criminals. The two officers constantly yelling at us, Insisting we had started the fire.     One of those people must have went to tell my mother, as she did come and told the officers they were wrong, How could they accuse such small children , we did not play with matches and if they thought we did , they should find proof, she had told me this later in life as at the time I was devasted and horrified, crying and so was my friend. Although we did not start the fire, and were trying to do the right thing to put it out , were in the wrong place , at the wrong time. Yes this was dangerous, and children should not be allowed to wander off on their own , things have changed. Children can be cruel, we were viewed by the other children in the area as being criminals, that these police officers had been right in their attempt to arrest us.   Only when I was 7 and we moved , did I escape the accusations. 

This Experience , did not make me bitter to authorities , but It Did Place Doubt  in my Mind of All those who are Accused and Labelled. Not to place Judgement on Any One.  


Question, ,,,,,,,