Sunday, March 27, 2011

what this day began

Time passes so quickly, and nothing marks it like birthdays, especially those of one's own children. Today is a double one; two of my kids share this date, though not the same birth year. It wasn't from any planning on my(our) part. It was more of a remove-the-barriers-and-wait kind of thing, and each time, along came another child. It's just that the third one decided to pop out on his sister's second birthday.

I did go shopping in the morning of my last labour (the things you do). My son wasn't born till evening, so there was time to get quite a bit in. I remember making a stop at a toy store, lots of pauses to breathe through contractions, to get things for the second one's birthday party, which was of course postponed. I must already have got her birthday present, that I don't remember. But I do remember the urgency (oh yeah) to make sure I was ready for her day, too, before I was swamped by the new member of our family. I was going to get to spend a couple days with him all to myself, but I knew full well, I wouldn't be straight back to normal when I got home. Fortunately, she didn't know the significance, so having her birthday party a week late was perfectly fine with her. Last time we fooled her about anything, too.

as they once were
There were a few years there when I think the two of them were really quite irritated by the coincidence of their birthdays being the same (and their older sister worked hard to tolerate all the attention they got on this date too) but they all mellowed out about it and celebrate the day quite well now. (It's not like they're a bunch of kids anymore.) I know the two b-dayers have a contest to see who gets in the first happy birthday call. In recent years my daughter wins, but she has time zones working for her. It's not a fair contest.

My middle child is in another city, so a card in the mail and a phone call have to do for now, though I'm going to go visit (pester?) her soon. We had the official family dinner with the youngest several days ago (I was supposed to be away this weekend, but hey, got a cold instead). It seemed right to me, to leave him room to celebrate with friends on the weekend. Because this day isn't about me, not anymore anyway, not since those first ones, but I sure do remember when we met. Eventful days, I must say. And I am so glad they are here (this is what is known as understatement).

I joke about it sometimes, about the decisions that led to having three children, that it wasn't rational, that I didn't know what I was doing. And actually that's true, I didn't. But for some reason my whole being wanted them, completely. Biology? Soul? Does it matter? Once here, what could I do but love them. I've never wanted to give them back. The cat maybe. Not the kids.

So, nothing rational about it, and isn't that just fine? I love my children to pieces, and now sit admiringly at their sidelines seeing what they'll do next.

Monday, March 7, 2011

just rubber-necking

At first we started out to go for a walk, a time-honoured kind of activity for a Saturday. I think we both wanted to go somewhere different; the paths around here are too familiar. It isn't easy to do that, when you've lived in a city forever, to find somewhere different to go walking, without actually leaving town, which is what we did. The terrain is limited here this time of year, as there's still an awful lot of winter sitting close by, in the mountains, so flat land is the choice we made.

it's always about stuff
When I was a kid my father used to bundle all of us kids into the car on Sundays, and take us wandering. He would let the car "follow it's nose." We wound up in all kinds of interesting spots, although most every road ends either in the mountains or up against the US border. We crossed over often enough, and so also explored Pt. Roberts, and northern Washington.

I used to do this with my own kids once in a while, but they're of a different era, and were somehow less interested when we stumbled on surprises in the woods (you can find yourself in the woods pretty quickly, even though we're quite the metropolis now). They mock me for a fish ladder we ended up at once, though the place filled me with wonder (we did have a good trip once to an outlet mall across the border -- no, no, I jest; they all like hiking, don't just sit around texting). But I blame the Simpson's actually, for making them all too cynical too early. Or just the fact that TV and internet had already opened the world up too wide. Not much is left to surprise anyone now.

Except us, because we're old school (or old). We ruled out a trip to Bellingham, not carrying passports. Some things about the 'old days' can stay in the past, but I miss the days when our border was friendly and welcoming, both ways. These days it's not so much fun to head south across the border, because you have to give up so many hours to sitting in a lineup waiting. It's boring, annoying, and unnerving at the same time. Such a shame too, because there's a great bookstore in Fairhaven, in Bellingham. If you chance to be flying by on the I5 one day, or better, have the sense to take the Chuckanut Drive into Bellingham, do stop in there. I'll go there again one day, but on a longer trip; it's no longer worth the aggravation just for a day trip. Too bad.

aliens have landed...
My partner and I settled on going out to Ladner, which isn't quite as exciting as crossing borders, but it's a pretty much unexplored part of the Fraser River delta (for us) so fit the bill. We pulled into a park in Ladner Harbour, but it was a very small park. Short walk. We also instantly got cold. (I know, not very hardy for Canadians, but this is the west coast after all. We expect warmth, if not sunshine, sigh; it's got to be the reason why it's so ridiculously expensive to live here, the climate.)

So we hopped back in the car and it became a driving day instead of a walking day. I was rooting for letting the car take us across to Boundary Bay (though again careful not to get into the lineup at Pt. Roberts). When I was young, you hardly needed to slow your car down to cross the border there; just a friendly wave after you declared your citizenship. No proof required. Not any more. Result? I haven't bothered to go there in years and years. Borderland Security has been effective in keeping my dangerous self out. It's one of the myriad little cuts to "our way of life" that the bad guys weren't supposed to be able to affect. Hope y'all are feeling safer.

Cutting through soggy fields, we got stuck at a crossing waiting for a train that had stopped moving, and so decided to take the road into Roberts Bank (coal terminal and container dock) instead of just sitting watching a stationary train. I could see from my map (haven't gone GPS yet) that there was an overpass which would put us on the other side of the train. But then we just kept driving in, to see what we could see, which is proper behaviour for rubber-necking.

...out at Robert's Bank
I've looked across at Roberts Bank, where it sticks out into the Strait of Georgia (the Salish Sea!) parallel to the ferry terminal many times. It's one of those sights visible to everyone racing for the ferry. No one goes there, except the worker bees. It's another world, a little microcosm of what keeps our world ticking. There's a lot of stuff. Literally, though hidden in multi-coloured containers, being moved around by all kinds of interesting machinery. It's not the only container dock in the area: there's of course the huge one in Vancouver, and more of those great cranes up the river in Surrey. But I know, most of us never think about them.

We drove in between two lines of railroad tracks. One brings in/takes out containers and the other brings in coal and chugs back empty. The coal train is completely dark and dusty, except for the brilliantly polished silver shine just where the wheels meet the track.

It's a strange juxtaposition, illustrative of the whole structure of our human world I guess. A grand expanse of agricultural land, the river and the sea, beautiful landscape, and then an eruption of industry. Looking the other way, there's the fine stretch of mountains forming a backdrop to the north, and an eruption of tall buildings (as shows in the picture in my masthead). Definitely separate worlds.

I'm not sure that any of this is particularly profound. It's just that on Saturday, I noticed.

on the way home - I love the Alex Fraser Bridge