Last weekend, I spend part of Labour Day down in the Harbourfront, coming to terms with the idea that summer really is leaving us. Where I live we can usually count on some pretty gorgeous, warm, sunshiny weather in September, but this year’s Labour Day didn’t show any of that stuff.
Ultimately I don’t care about the weather; I put on a sweater over top of my skirt and sandals and go out to get close and personal with the thousands of others who don’t care either.
After watching tourists take pictures and browsing for bargains amongst the craft vendors in their tents, I buy a piece of roasted corn from the One Love Corn Soup guy.
Corn is still full on here. Roasted from the One Love guy, it’s substantial gorgeousness in your hand; rich and mellow. Like September. I’ve been thinking about that lunch all morning.
I sit down to eat the corn by a little canoeing pond to watch the paddlers. The artifiicial pond is designed mostly for kids and families who want to noodle around in a non-threatening place. Usually you see a bigger kid or a grownup accompanying one or more tots. It’s cute – the little ones dip their paddles in clumsily and don’t notice their grandmas at the edge trying to get them to look up for a photo.
Not long after I sit down I notice a little guy in a canoe all by himself. He’s no more than four, and his parents are standing at the edge waving at him. He heads straight for the edge of the pond near me and is stuck there for ten minutes or so. Every now and then a stranger comes by and encourages him to row on the OTHER side of the canoe, and gives the vessel a little push to help. But the kid keeps drifting back into the wall.
I’m thinking, how's he going to get back to the starting point? How long are they going to leave him out here? What if the canoe rental time runs out?
Eventually the little boy makes his way back toward the centre of the pond. Straight for the fountain. Then I’m thinking it’s a cool day for a tiny body like that to get doused. Still his parents, relaxed, holding backpacks and a small cooler bag, are waving at him from over on the others side. The smiling kid somehow averts the fountain and glides straight for the other edge of the pond, where his canoe clings again. Now and then he paddles furiously, on the OUTSIDE of the canoe, which only secures its place against the other wall, where now and then a stranger comes along on the walk outside the pond and gives his vessel a push.
After awhile his parents start waving him back in. Either his canoe rental has expired or they’re bored. They’re waving him in and the kid, paddling in circles, grins a lot at people around him.
I’m at the point where I just want to go grab the front of his boat and pull him around the edge to the other side where his parents are waving him in. Then I start wondering about my tendency to want to protect him.
Recently I'd been talking about my favourite sorts of books when I was a kid, “My Side of the Mountain” and Enid Blyton’s “Adventure” series – all about self-sufficient kids working out problems, big and small. Without grownups guiding them around to nicely wrapped peanut butter sandwiches on the safe side. THOSE kids in THOSE stories didn’t need anybody pulling them around in any boat. THOSE kids went on grand adventures that lasted weeks, even months, and outsmarted the elements and even criminals.
So I think if that kid is ever going to be up for his own great adventures, he isn't going to find it if anyone drags him around the edge of the pond back to a place of comfort. I start to feel pleased for him. He could BE Philip or Jack or Sam, my early literary heros.
I imagine me watching some grandkid one day; paddling in circles on the other side of a pond and finding pleasure in her or his adventure. And maybe some stranger might be on the other side, disapproving of my leaving the kid out there drifting into the wall.
But me and the kid; we’re only thinking of the adventure around the corner. That adventure is beautiful thing number sixty-two.
As I think about that I look up and there's the canoe virtually sailing across and right up to his folks on the other side. He gets himself off the canoe and the dad musses his hair and they walk off.