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A long winding road

Posted by PlayGroundology on August 1, 2008

Right then, where was I? Yes, that last night in Sorel with lots of sweetness, I’m talking mousse and shortcake, rosé, visitors and good cheer. It’s always great to see Daniele and family. They’ve been in love with Noah-David since he was born and the same is true for Nellie-Rose.

Daniele, Richard and daughter Liane live in the funkiest of country houses just on the edge of Sorel. Four big horses including King and Prince, the dogs, Doris and Sam, and birds, birds, birds round out the family. On winter weekends the big horses pull sleighfuls of revelers along country trails harness bells ringing as the big animals’ laboured breaths crystallize in the cold, crisp air.

Liane, the first to take Noah-David on a horse ride even before he could walk, competes in reining shows across the province. Chez Daniele horses are the thing. Her beautifully maintained grounds have also won multiple prizes and are a joy to stroll through. This time around I didn’t get a chance to visit their place but Mélanie and I have agreed that we won’t let that happen in subsequent visits.

One month seems like ample time for a visit but as the days streamed by – some laid back and lazy, others cranked and frenetic – we came to terms with our inability to see everyone, do everything and be everywhere. When we decided that we had to cut our trip short, there was that just out of reach feeling, the tantalizing almostness that became a soupçon of regret knowing that plans had to be changed. Our visits to Ottawa, Mercier and Montréal to see family and friends had to be scrapped and both Mélanie and I were saddened. We were also bummed to miss Stefie Shock’s Francofolies de Montréal show. Mélanie’s sis Stéphanie and Jasmin inherited the tickets for what turned out to be a spectacle débile. As they say in the Caribbean, “more times…..”

Keeping things in perspective, I can’t emphasize how excellent our time was with Raymond and Nicole. The family visiting just superb. The corner lot bungalow was transformed into a playzone for the kneehigh and smaller set. Les grandparents were much more easy-going about clutter and wall to wall toys underfoot than I could ever be. There were plenty of impromptu doses of entertaining fun with grand-papa and grand-maman. Summer sky days of high adventure, running, jumping, tickling and other simple pleasures cradled our babies and rocked them steady in a one heartbeat of love.

Grand-maman Nicole was working during part of our stay but she always found time to play with the kids. Watering the garden and folding clothes were happy Noah – grand-maman activites, Hide and seek was another favourite, a rollicking riot for all to watch. Some of the fundamental concepts of the game did not fully sink in for Noah. Sure, he did well with the counting – skipped a number here or there, or flipped their sequence. The closed eyes were mostly so – a little bit of peeping leakage through tiny splayed fingers. In the seeking department Noah was tenacious but not always successful . The ‘hider’ frequently used some form of vocalization – a cough, a calling of his name – to draw the lad to the spot. It was the hiding though that presented the greatest opportunity for mirthful laughter. Noah’s reckoning was that if he was absolutely still, immobile, frozen on any given spot he had it made. It didn’t matter much that he was in the direct line of vision of the seeker and perhaps only 10 or 15 feet distant. If he wasn’t hiding out in the open, he would often pick the hiding spot that his playing partner had just vacated. Certainly some work to do here before getting involved in any competitive hiding and seeking.

A freshly retired physical education teacher, Raymond dedicated himself to expanding Noah-David’s experience of play and began to instill an awareness of the basics of sportsmanship. Basketball, road hockey, cycling, soccer, climbing, sliding, swinging were all highly anticipated activities for our lad to adoringly embrace with grand-papa Raymond. There were 3 key venues for all of this fun – the backyard, the driveway and playgrounds.

Noah-David is a playground manaiac. In French we’d say he is accro – addicted. Any day that rain threatens, Noah looks out the window repeatedly to assess current conditions trying to determine whether a trip to a park is a possibility. He reports to all on grey sky, clouds with rain, blue sky and with his happiest and most excited voice he bears witness to the arrival of the sun. He has yet to visit a park he didn’t like. The swings are without exception his favourite though he is beginning to expand his repertoire. He swings like a pendulum back and forth, always wanting to go higher, for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Sometimes we have to pry him out of the seat to have him try another piece of equipment.

Since we’ve returned, we’ve continued our Sorel and Halifax tradition of visiting different playgrounds. This week we made time to hit 5 and try their wares. Each has something different to offer that sets it off – distance from home, age of equipment, water frontage, sandboxes, shade, number of kids, etc.

We were 15 hours on the road between Québec and Atlantic playground idylls. Five minutes out from Sorel, Noah-David asked – “rendu” – nearly there yet? Fortunately for all of us this didn’t become a fixation. We suffered some serious gas sucking aerodynamic drag because the front clasp on our roof cargo rack broke. The oncoming wind permanently lifted the top cover letting in whatever the elements had to offer. In Montmagny we bought some industrial strength expanding rubber straps to try and keep everything under wraps. It worked after a fashion – good enough, not great. This mishap pushed us on to complete the drive in one shot as we wanted to beat the rain and we managed to do just that.

In Edmunston around 22h30, Nellie-Rose was en vedette. She was a talking, singing, moving, dancing, clapping hands of a baby strutting her stuff in just every way she knew how. Tim’s wasn’t too busy at the time but all of the customers who were there took a moment to take in this one night only, one baby show. Lots of smiles from strangers and that warm feeling of being blessed with such wonderful kids.

Halifax hadn’t changed any in our absence – maybe a bit more road work but it’s the season. We had a bag full of mail from the neighbours across the street – 80% crap, 20% bills, bills, bills. You know you’re back when your bills come home to roost. There is no more passing go….

We like the road but it’s good to be back. We’re starting to settle in before our next grand adventure which we’re madly preparing for now. In the interim, we’re enjoying the days and the firsts that come our way – 2 new teeth and pre-crawl rocking for Nellie, parent-free trike riding and big swing swinging for Naoh.

And then there are the days of wonder. This week it was the jackpot of jackpots – presto, right out of nowhere it was like a migratory truck sanctuary – 2 urban garbage trucks, a couple of work horse dump trucks, an orange leviathan moving truck and for good measure a common yellow digger and miscellaneous cars – all at the same time, right in front of our house. The throaty rumble of their engines and their tops brushing against the vaulted canopy that shelters the street wonder wide-eyed our Noah-David. This was better than Bob the Builder, Mr. Rogers, Thomas and Theodore combined. This was up close road rolling and shaking action right on our doorstep. The trucks were aligned….


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