Last night, I was reading one of the blogs I follow, and the blogger asked “What did you do this weekend?”. The usual, I thought, market and laundry. Now I always visit the farmer’s market on Saturdays but it just so happens I haven’t been well the past few. I follow a routine when I arrive, I buy a newspaper, then a herb & garlic croissant to have with the latte I buy next. I always purchase my croissant from the same vendor each week, making sure I say hello, how are you, but to be honest, I really didn’t think he noticed I was there every Saturday morning. Much to my surprise though, the first thing he said to me as I asked for my croissant, was he hadn’t seen me in a few weeks. My first morning smile. Next I went to my usual coffee place and had my usual latte, gosh I’m boring while I sat and chatted with the staff. Again, the one staff member noted I had not been there in a few weeks. My second smile of the day.
Now I’m sure I did have a few, if not many more smiles this past weekend, but it was still quiet for me, especially since my husband worked nights again. Middle child, her dog Bear, and the teenage boy are hundreds of kilometres away at university, and the eldest was off visiting her boyfriend. It was the dog and I. Besides the odd woof, he is very quiet. When the kids are young, parents dream of these days, no one pulling at your pant leg, asking the same question over and over again, but when the solitude does arrive, you wish for the noise again.
After Christmas has passed, January and February are very difficult months to get through. The bills start to come in, the weather is dark and gloomy, and most of us wish to be on that white sandy beach. Ironically, today is referred to as Blue Monday. If you have kids that are still young or in higher education, the white sandy beach is just a dream for most of us. Hubby and I made a choice years ago, we had three kids, thus the vacations are few and far between. A few years ago, when the kids were old enough to stay home by themselves, hubby and I started taking three or four day back-country camping trips in the spring. It was our time and still is our time to have fun together, but I still dream of going away to that white sandy beach especially since we have only been once. In 2009, five years ago, we went to Cuba, it was my husband’s first trip out of the country.
So what do I do this weekend? Well besides the usual, I browsed travel web sites, in hopes that I can find a trip to that white sandy beach we can afford, and that I can convince hubby the bathroom renovation that has been going on forever can wait a few more months.
Our eldest, who lives an hour away, while attending college, was able to come home for dinner last week. The other two, who attend university in another province weren’t, so we did the next best thing – we used Skype. Though when our son found out we were having steak, he was not impressed since it is his favourite meal, middle child was not particularly happy with our meal either, her favourite being the roasted potatoes. Mom was happy, everyone was together.
The other day, while my husband was cleaning up the kids rooms, he came across an essay written by middle child, when she was in high school. We used to save all of the kids stuff when they were in grade school, but it just became overwhelming. Thus when they entered high school, we would read whatever they gave us, but most of the time, it was tossed in the recycling bin. So I always find it fascinating to find something written/drawn years ago. With her permission, I am reprinting it here, because I loved reading her perspective of a school trip.
On Friday, September 26th, my outdoor education class went on a camping trip to Algonquin Provincial Park. I had woken up at 5:30 a.m. to eat my breakfast and left at 6:00 a.m. I got out of my mother’s car after saying my goodbyes and slowly walked to the freezing and tired looking group of teenagers. We waited and waited for Mr. B. and the yellow bus to start us on our great adventure to the bush. A couple of minutes later the mustard yellow school bus drove into the parking lot, we loaded our gear and headed for the seats. We were finally on the road, life is a highway played in the background as we sat and watched the cars beside us drive past. Mr. B. called out everyone’s names, making sure we were actually on the bus.
The bus ride was long and dreadful but I held on, I could hear the laughter and cheers of the other girls and boys clapping, singing and dancing to their favourite songs. I just wanted to close my eyes and drift away in total silence. An hour into the trip we were all awakened by Mr. B. saying “it’s time” and then he handed out papers to us. “We are playing wink murder; wink at the person on your sheet but let no one see you do it.” Luckily for me, the person I had to kill was sitting right next to me. I turned my face and said Stuart, he looked straight at me and I opened and closed my left eye “ON NO” he yelled, you’re a liar. I showed him my sheet and just like looking at me he was dead, in 30 seconds I had killed the first person on my list.
We were about five minutes to our lunch stop when all of a sudden we heard a big bang! The noise was dreadful, big thumps and bangs rattled the school bus. We thought we had killed an animal, some said it sound like a deer, snake or giant octopus. In the end we agreed that the giant octopus popped our tire. We pulled into McDonald’s with our popped tire and waited two long excruciating hours. I walked into the McDonald’s and ordered a giant Oreo Mcflurry, it was so tasty it just ate all my feelings away. I ate and ate, every 15 minutes because when you’re stuck at McDonald’s for two hours all you do is make ‘sugar mountains’ and eat. The mustard cheese bus was finally ready and we still had two hours left to travel. I slept most of the way so I cannot tell you what occurred in those 120 minutes.
When we arrived at Smoke Lake we loaded our canoes and headed off in the deep freezing cold water. We paddled and paddled until I wanted to kill everyone around me. When we came to our first portage I decided to impress all of the guys by carrying the canoe uphill through the woods. I did this for the next four portages; I paddled and carried, paddled and carried like every other student. We got to our campsite, set up a tent, and had some nasty chicken dogs and Pop Tarts then fell asleep.
The next morning we decided to eat Pop Tarts, pre-cooked bacon and eggs. They were the crappiest tasting eggs I have ever eaten. For the rest of the day, we paddled and portaged, paddled and portaged, through forests, through rocks and marshes and finally paddled some more. I believe by this time my canoe was last, I pretty much didn’t care because my arms hurt and nothing would get me to go any faster.
We pitched our tents all in a row then headed to the camp fire. We played games until our stomachs ached from laughing and we played hide and seek until you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I was exhausted and freezing but what was even more hilarious was when the rain came down splashing in our tent, “a hole! Our tent is leaking” I screamed at the top of my lungs, we decided that we’d have to switch tents. I ended up moving into a one-person tent that I would have to share with three other people, we were squashed but we were warm. In the middle of the night our tent ripped, soaking our sleeping bags and making me almost catch pneumonia. I knocked on our teacher’s tent and asked if I could bunk with them, they agreed and I fell asleep in wet clothes. The next morning the other girls and I couldn’t feel our feet and hands because we were so cold from last night’s rain and then realized we had to paddle home. We were super tired and paddling with numb hands sucks.
We were almost at our goal; home was so close yet so far. I could see the dock from afar, and dreamed of the long warm bus ride ahead. When we finally arrived at the docks, the group and I carried our equipment to the bus. The bus was warm as anticipated, our adventure was almost over; we were almost home. We sang and danced to our favourite songs during the bus ride. I slept and dreamed. I dreamed about how it doesn’t matter what sex, race or who you hang out with, it (the trip) can bring any group of people together. I learned so much more about myself, and how to overcome my fears, I hold this experience close to my heart and wish that this opportunity comes again.
By middle child
Note: For the camping trip, students are divided into groups and are responsible for putting together the gear they need plus the food they will eat, thus the nasty eggs, pop tarts, and pre-cooked bacon.
Note 2: For years we have been taking our children into the backcountry of Algonquin because of the beauty and my love of canoeing. They have learned to canoe for hours, portage when they were exhausted from canoeing in the hot sun or the downpour of rain. They have seen amazing wildlife, everything from extremely large snapping turtles, to red-tailed deer and moose.
A family portrait June 16 2005 taken at Ragged Lake