It's cool today, and rainy, but I opened the doors and
windows anyway, because it's the last day of summer vacation
and I want to get as much of that summer air in the house
as I can before we get back to the routine of walking here,
walking there, packing snacks, hurrying up and going. This
year I have got myself yet more taking and fetching to do
in the form of an eight-year-old boy I'm looking after
before and after school. He won't make much more work for
me (I think, unless he turns out to be horrible, which
I'm pretty sure he isn't) and he makes me quite a lot more
money, so I expect that will be a net win.
But that's what's happening next, and I wanted to post
about what we did this summer.
The first thing we did in summer vacation was a trip to
the ROM, on the very first day after school ended. Getting there
turned out to be quite an ordeal; the subway wasn't running,
so we tried in various ways to outsmart the crowded
shuttle buses; we took the number 11 back to Mount Pleasant,
tried to catch a Mount Pleasant bus (almost lost Cordelia),
then got back on another number 11 which magically turned
into a Yonge Street shuttle. (We missed the most
obvious workaround which is to take the normal 97 Yonge
St bus.) All
our fooling around killed enough time that they managed
to get the subway running again by the time we got to St
Clair, and we were back en route.
After all that we had a nice visit to the ROM, and saw both
the Darwin and Wedgewood exhibits. Because my mother is
from North Staffordshire of course we think we're related
to both Wedgewood and Darwin, so I particularly enjoyed
the exhibits. For that reason and also because both Staffordshire
pottery and evolution are particularly close to my heart.
And did you know ceramics and fossils have similar
chemical properties? It's all connected.
I mentioned we almost lost Cordelia, but what I should say
is that she almost lost us. We were all standing at the
corner waiting for the bus, and the girls were fooling around
on a little staircase, hanging on the banisters, walking down
the hill, the usual fidgety little kid stuff. Suddenly Cordelia
took off running in the opposite direction, crying and shouting.
I wondered if perhaps she had been bitten by something, or
seen a scary dog. I shouted her name but she didn't turn around,
so Blake took off after her. She was running full-tilt so she
got half a block before he caught up with her, and apparently
she had lost track of us and thought we had lost her. She was
petrified! She has a fear of being left behind or leaving
someone else behind — if I don't stop and wait for Delphine
while we're out walking she screams "Mummy 'top!" — and I
guess she panicked and forgot to, oh, look around a full 360°
before running for it.
Another adventure was a trip downtown to have lunch with Daddy.
I wasn't sure whether simply going downtown would be enough
excitement for two little kids, but Delphine kept saying "I love
downtown!" We went to Queen and stopped at The Bay for some
kid undergarments, and then walked along to John to Grange Park.
Delphine and I had already walked along Queen a few weeks earlier
when we went to the ballet, and I think she got a kick out of
seeing places again. "This is where they always have a ice
cream truck and a french fries truck!" We stopped for a snack
on the landscaped median of University, under the statue of
Adam Beck who apparently invented hydro-electricity. Apparently
it still isn't cheap enough, because the fountain at his feet
wasn't running. As we were sitting, Delphine looked up and
said "That building says 'Canada Life'." Which it does! She
reads everything now, signs and the writing on trucks and
labels, which I remember doing as a kid and apparently Blake
did too. Actually I still do it; if it's printed I have to
One of our goals for this summer was to go out on a boat,
so one fine Monday morning the girls and I went down to the
Harbourfront. We walked along the boardwalk admiring the
boats and ships, and looking for ducks, until I found someone
selling boat rides. I asked him which was the cheapest one, and he
said we could all go out on the Ste Marie for $11; it was
to be a 45 minute ride leaving at 11:15, so we signed on. We
turned out to be the only passengers on a tour around the
Toronto islands; we saw nature preserves and Centre Island,
swans and cygnets, and learned all about Ned Hanlan. Delphine
won herself and Cordelia a lollipop each in a one-question trivia
contest: "What lake are we on right now?" "Ontario Lake!" I
had told her that very morning.
Our biggest adventure this summer was a surprise trip to
Saskatchewan, surprise because I had intended to go at
Christmas until I realized it would be fully twice a much
money, to the tune of $4000 instead of $2000, to go at
Christmas instead of summer. So we decided to go in
August instead. I flew out there with the girls first,
and my mother's saintly friend Shirley picked
us up from the airport in Saskatoon. Blake came a few days
later, and picked up a rental car and drove to Big River
by himself, almost without incident!
Shirley also engineered
the high point of the visit, a fishing trip in her
motor boat. Delphine got to reel in a fish, and I also
fished for the very first time. Blake caught the biggest
fish of the day, but we released all of them in favour of
some already-clean fish from Shirley's freezer.
We managed to stay quite busy in Saskatchewan, going out
for lunch a couple of times, driving down to PA to see an
old school friend, going to the school playground, visiting
the farmer's market, shopping in Debden, or just going to
get the mail. The girls had a great time with my mum; she
let them watch as much TV as they wanted, eat cookies and
play with all her thousands of tchotchkes. Blake said
that between the cookies and fishing and Wheel of Fortune
and Jeopardy! it was just like his visits to his grandparents
in Winnipeg when he was a kid.
We also visited my Dad in the nursing home a couple of times.
Last year, when Cordelia and I were in Sask in September, my dad
had just moved into the nursing home and we visited every day.
We chatted with him and had a nice time. This year I literally
didn't recognize him at first: he was tucked up in a giant
bed-like wheelchair and he had lost a lot of weight. With his
teeth out he just looked like some generic old guy, skinny and
wrinkly and not like
my dad at all. It took a minute to recognize that nose and
those ears, things that don't change, and then I realized
that old guy was really my dad.
The first day we were there
he didn't open his eyes or acknowledge us at all, apart from
tapping his foot apparently in response to the songs that
the girls and I sang for him. I was so
shook up it took me a couple of days to gather the nerve to go
again, but when I did I was sorry I had waited, because Dad
opened his eyes and looked at me and the girls and smiled at us.
But the next time we visited, again he didn't open his eyes. All
I could do for him was ask the nurses to play music for him.
While we were in Sask the hospital called my mother to let her
know that they are discontinuing his diabetes medication because
he's not eating. I know my poor Dad is just trying to go, and
there's no legal way we can make it easier for him. Humanity my ass.
The girls took it all in their stride. They asked why Grandpa
doesn't talk or open his eyes, and I said he's really old and
sick and he needs to sleep all the time. I said he's too tired
to open his eyes or talk. They weren't upset about it at all,
because they are still young enough that they take it in their
stride, and because neither of them really knew him when he was
lucid. Dad got to meet Delphine when she was three, but I don't
know how much of that either of them remember.
My mother, on the other hand, is doing well by herself. She
has friends and neighbours who help her out with things like
mowing the lawn. The people in town — the pharmacist,
the postmaster, the plumber (just like in a Richard Scarry book)
— know her and look out for her.
And of course she has her cats to torment her and keep her
on her toes.
I remember when the children were younger the travel itself
was the big worry, but there was hardly anything to talk about
this time; I loaded up with activity books and little
plane-friendly toys — a magnetic dress-up doll, some brilliant
Micro Playmobil in its own little box, sticker books — and
plenty of snacks, and we managed the three hours on the plane
and two and a half hours in the car without much ado.
Since we got home from Sask we haven't had any grand adventures, although
we have had a steady stream of playdates and visits. School
starts next Wednesday and Delphine is looking forward to it.
She was scared that she wouldn't like her teacher, until she
received a welcome letter from said teacher in the mail and
now she's excited and happy. Cordelia's school starts the
following Monday — she's doing Monday, Wednesday and Friday
this year. I don't know how that's going to go; she has
been very clingy lately. I expect she will howl terribly,
I will leave and she'll be fine within five minutes. I
expect further that after a couple of weeks of school
she will no longer be so clingy. There's nothing like
confronting your fears, even when you're two and your mother
makes you do it.
I think this has been a great summer. At the beginning I
wondered if I should have enrolled my kids in a thousand
camps and programs, like everyone else does (nevermind that
we don't have the money). I decided I would rather not
spend my entire summer ferrying everyone around, and that
we would make our own fun, and so we did. There was a
little whining that there's nothing to do, that we never
go to the park, that our backyard is the worst in the world,
and that everyone else gets to go away on holiday, but for the
most part we got along with each other and found interesting
things to do both near and far.