My earliest memory was my second birthday, sitting in my highchair in the kitchen of our family home. It was before the kitchen was renovated to include a large picture window. Previously, there were two long old-fashioned storm windows on that wall, with a telephone sitting high in pride of place between them.

You may ask how anyone can have a memory when only two years old. My own family has questioned it. However, I do remember that birthday and that day, and the memories evoked are in my mind’s eye – almost like a film flickering along from the past. My birthday is on February 23rd and my paternal grandfather’s birthday was two days earlier, thus on that day in 1960 two birthdays were being celebrated. I particularly remember the scene because I was sitting near the end of the table beside my mother, whilst my grandfather was at the other end in his ever-present plaid shirt and suspenders. The day was particularly notable because my grandfather’s brothers and their wives were also present; in a matter of a few years my grandfather and two of his brothers would have departed this earth. I recall that my grandfather and his brothers looked so much alike, all balding with liver spots on the crown of their foreheads. Only the oldest brother, Uncle Will, was different in appearance: with a full head of white hair and a moustache (a few years later he would remind me of Colonel Sanders of KFC fame). 

Another early memory is of wandering away after supper. I barely remember it. I was a toddler and always wanting to roam (which was an early indication of my need to roam even further afield than the farm and head off across oceans to other lands). My mother had been cooking supper and my dad would have been in the barn; my older sisters were young too but no doubt playing in the house, the yard, or the barn. I was probably left in care of my sisters, and they may have lost track of me. In any case, I headed off back the laneway that led to the barn but extended past that known place into the more distant universe: back to the corn and wheat fields that stretched to the back of our farm and ended in a small forest of trees. However, just past the barn and to the left of the laneway that receded into the distance there was the swamp, and further yet a small creek that meandered through our farm from north to south and then to the east where it met up with the concession line on which we lived. 

When my mother went outside to check with my sisters as to my whereabouts, I was no longer on the back step playing. My mother was naturally very concerned: a farm is a place not only of discovery, but also of danger. As I was later told, due to the sun setting and the evening proceeding on its daily path, my parents and our next-door neighbours set out in all directions to find the missing toddler. I can only imagine what went through my mother’s mind that evening: had I tumbled into the crick, or wandered into the cow field and been trampled, or worse yet, had I been abducted from the front yard by a passing motorist with evil intentions? 

All families have their legends and their lores, their memories and myths. The episode of the wandering toddler who disappeared one evening around suppertime was one in my life and in my family. For a few hours it caused a sudden panic for my parents and great concern for our neighbours. However, it had a good ending, as we wish all such incidents did: it was my mother who found me late that evening in the middle of the swampland, sitting on a log, illuminated by a full moon, and singing happily as if I were ensconced in the safest place on earth. 

The roamer and wanderer that was a part and parcel of my nature as a child continued throughout my childhood. I was fascinated by travel documentaries, by the National Geographic, and by any information about travelling via airplane, boat, train or even car. My parents were never in an airplane, although my father had ridden in a helicopter. However, I would begin travelling by airplane when a young adult, and then after moving overseas as in international educator, I was always in the air. My thirst for knowledge about other lands, languages, cultures, and peoples has taken me to approximately fifty countries, and I have lived in five. 

During these travels and journeys – the physical as well as the metaphysical – I have borne witness to defining incidents that have been signposts on the journey of my life: more than one earthquake (Turkey and Indonesia), a political uprising (Indonesia), a tsunami (Bali, fortunately far from the epicentre), an aerial offensive (Israel), up to 50 degree heat (UAE), and found myself taking refuge in a church in the middle of a raging, white-out conditions snow storm (Canada). When I was born, I am certain that my parents had no idea where my life would take me; they would have thought it would take the natural course as theirs had done. It was assumed that I would take over the family farm, that I would settle down and have the same life and lifestyle as my parents, and my grandparents, and thus similar to each generation previously. That did not happen. Like the settlers and explorers of generations earlier, deep inside me was the need to uproot myself, to experience the unknown, to chart another course; in a fashion and manner similar, no doubt, to my forebearers who departed from the British Isles in the early 1800s, heading for new horizons ‘across the pond’.

Like them, seeking a new life, an ordinary life. 

Meet the Author!

John RC Potter is an international educator originally from Canada, but who is living in Istanbul.  When in high school John had the opportunity to interview the Nobel Prize winning author, Alice Munro, who resided in his hometown. It inspired John to begin creative writing. His poems and stories have been published in the following: Literary Yard, Down in the Dirt, Bosphorus Review of Books, The National Library of Poetry, Jabberwocky. His most recent publications are ‘Blood from a Stone’, an excerpt from a novel-in-progress (Bosphorus Review of Books, January 2023), and ‘All Roads Lead To Istanbul’ (The Write Launch, February 2023). An upcoming story will appear in an issue of Fiction on the Web (March 2023). He is currently a quarterfinalist in the ScreenCraft Short Story Competition with his entry, ‘She Got What She Deserved’.  2023 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Competition Quarterfinalists – ScreenCraft 


%d bloggers like this: