Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Addiction -- the gift that keeps on giving

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I was on my way back from an afternoon walk when I noticed blue smoke wafting around the block. As I got closer, I realized it was the party house a few doors down from my place.

My neighbours had a makeshift bonfire going. As I went by, I saw a guy I'd never seen before with no shirt on standing by the back fence. I think he was trying to get away from the smoke.

I'd been keeping my eye on my neighbours in that house since last summer. A teenage girl who lives there threw a brick at a little kid, hitting her head and cutting it open. It was mayhem. Kids were yelling everywhere and an ambulance came and took her away.

The girl recovered but since then it's been the "Hatfields and McCoys" between the two households.

I didn't think much of the backyard party -- at least they were keeping it quiet, and there didn't seem to be any kids around. You can't have a big drinking party and have your kids around. That's just wrong.

There have been times when the drinking at that house has turned into an all-out binge and people start screaming around in the middle of the night. It's not a nice thing to wake up to.

Maybe those partiers grew up in alcoholic homes and now they are teaching their own kids what they learned. That's the beauty of addiction; it is the gift that just keeps giving.

I hate to see people living like that.

I remember being awakened to the sound of laughter and beer bottles clinking and having a bunch of strange people in your home. The laughter eventually turns to anger or crying, and then there's the mess of the morning after.

Anyway, everything seemed OK.

I opened my kitchen window for some fresh air while I did the dishes. Then I heard some yelling and screaming outside.

I looked out and saw a big fight in the backyard of the party house. Some girls were attacking another girl. I couldn't see the girl being attacked. She tumbled to the ground.

The fight moved out onto the street. I went to my front door. A bunch of other neighbours were watching, too. I wondered if I should call the cops.

Then the fight was over. The girls separated -- all of them a tangle of messy hair, dishevelled clothes and flashing eyes. A couple of them walked away, swearing and yelling over their shoulders. Well, at least it was over.

I felt bad for the girls who were fighting. They should be doing something better than fighting over what I guessed from the swearing was a boy.

They could turn things around if they had some good people in their lives to teach them.

I don't think the girl down the street has been taught much in her young life. She acts tough, but I think it's more a survival mechanism.

Once the dust cleared, my son came inside and said the police had arrived, although not because of the fight.

Someone had called Child and Family Services. They showed up before the girl fight started.

And I was wrong -- the kids were home. Now they were being taken away.

The police car was parked behind the CFS van in case things got crazy. But it was like watching a silent movie. I couldn't believe what was going on in front of me.

The kids were already in the van with the social workers. The mom wasn't in the backyard partying anymore; she was beside the van calmly saying goodbye.

You could hear a pin drop on our street.

Like many of us watching, one CFS worker was aboriginal. After about 10 minutes, she closed the side door, got into the vehicle and it drove away.

The police officer got out of his car and talked to the mom for a while. She wasn't crying or making a scene. She seemed to be listening and the cop seemed to care. Then he left, too.

After that, the party ended.

Later on, I found out it's not the first time CFS had taken those kids.

I'm sure it hurts the mom all the same. But to me, it's even more disturbing -- it has become almost acceptable to lose her kids.

Maybe it sounds crazy, but I can't get that scene out of my mind. It replays every time I walk by that now-quiet, rundown house.

I hope the kids are taken care of, wherever they end up.


Colleen Simard is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2012 j11

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