Not just another stroll in the park

Susan
Susan Flanagan
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Minutes seem like hours when you lose sight of your child

— Illustration

Surprise Baby loves stories. He has about a hundred favourite books, from books my mother read to me in the ’60s to modern children’s classics like “The Red Ripe Strawberry” and “The Big Hungry Bear.”

But even more than books, Declan loves a good old-fashioned yarn. In fact, he will not go to sleep without one.

Sometimes, as I’m making up a story, he stops me mid-sentence and says: “That’s not what happened.” It’s bit disconcerting to hear that the story which is taking shape as I speak is incorrect. But sure enough, Declan will rearrange details of the narrative to fit his own ideals.

Some stories, though, he knows not to mess with, because they are not off-the-cuff. In fact, they are pure truth.

One of his non-fiction favourites is his father’s retelling of the time No. 2 got lost in the Avalon Mall. Or should I say the time Dad lost No. 2 in the mall.

“How many years old were they Daddy?” he always asks. Then Daddy will explain how he left the two-year-old in charge of the one-year-old, or maybe they were three and two, it doesn’t really matter. All I know for certain is that No. 2 wasn’t talking yet and the older, more responsible one was 15 months older than No. 2.

Declan never asks why one was left in charge of the other. Instead, he wonders why one toddler couldn’t effectively keep an eye on the other. Yes, he’s at that magical age when parents are infallible.

But more on that later.

I heard my husband tell this story to three wide-eyed children just last week. Whew, I thought, thank God we’ve learned our lesson and won’t make that mistake again and misplace Surprise Baby.

I thought too soon.

Last Sunday, we loaded up the van with five children (not all ours) and headed to Salmonier Nature Park — still, by far, the best deal for a family outing. It’s not only free, with friendly, knowledgeable interpreters, it’s wheelchair and stroller-friendly. A 2 1/2-kilometre loop is long enough so you don’t feel the crowd, even when the parking lot is full beyond capacity. Two-and-a-half klicks is just long enough to tire out the toddlers and not too long to bore the teenagers.

Ah yes, the teenagers were on their way to Burry Heights, a five-day camp with cool counsellors, youth bonding and sleep deprivation, which the kids have raved about for years. Declan was excited to hang with the big kids and check out some wild animals at the same time.

The weather was absolutely perfect, as it has been for some time, of course. We actually took off our shoes and walked barefoot past the snowy owl, moose, mink and a rather large arctic fox that was consuming a rather dead local rodent. If you want to really feel like you are on vacation, take your shoes and socks off and walk barefoot for a while. It really works. It must release some vacation pheromones that have been dormant in humans since the day shoes were invented.

After the 2.5-km circle on the boardwalk, we stopped for a pre-camp snack of hotdogs (the teenage boys didn’t think they’d get enough of them at camp), and while Daddy was pointing out a rabbit (technically a hare) to Declan, yours truly ran to the washroom located in the basement of the interpretation centre. When I got back, the bunny was still there. The Daddy was still there. But there was no fifth child.

“Where’s Declan?” I asked.

“He said he was going to find you,” answered my husband. He was sitting on a bench enjoying the sun.

“You’re joking, right?” I said, remembering the mall story recounted just a few days before.

He wasn’t joking. At some point while I was enjoying a pee in private, my husband decided it would be OK for our four-year-old to come find me.

I’m not sure how many minutes he was out of sight, but after a frantic dash through all rooms of the visitor centre (there are three floors), I began to inhale deeply. I was just about to alert the guides when I caught sight of him. He was not in the interpretation centre. He was heading towards me through the trees from the start of the 2.5-km trail where he must have thought I’d gone. The tears were just welling up in his eyes.

Daddy was sheepish. I was relieved. Not that I thought someone would take him, but that he may have gone a lot farther before turning back. And that the welling tears might have become a torrent.

The disappearance at the mall 15 years earlier also happened while Daddy was lining up to get a snack. He swears he could see the boys the whole time sitting in those coin-operated cars or spaceships, but when he turned for a second to pay or get a drink or something, No. 2 had disappeared. Poof! Into thin air.

Lost boy was found within three minutes, happily sitting on the counter with a friendly store clerk, who gave him a toy snake. But it was a very long three minutes for Daddy.

And last Sunday at Salmonier was a long three minutes for me. From now on, we’ll both keep a vigilant eye when in unfamiliar places. After all, we’ve only been parents for 19 years. We still have a lot to learn.  

Susan and her husband and Surprise Baby saw three moose grazing on their way home from Salmonier. She can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca

Tely 10 feedback

Linda writes: “I have completed the Tely 3 times. My goal is to beat my time from last year. I having been running 7 kms 3-4 times a week. Yesterday I ran 16 kms in preparation for Sunday. My question is, I am wondering if I should run 16 kms one more time in getting ready as I normally only run 7 kms. I was disappointed in my time yesterday but it was at 1 p.m. and really hot.”

Susan’s note: Absolutely not. The week before the Tely is time to rest up, drink lots of fluids and do a few shorter runs to keep the legs loose.

Mad Rocks feedback

NewfieChick writes: “Your next visit should be to the area of Grates Cove. Be careful you don’t fall off a cliff though. We newfs is tuff stuff. lol.”

Northwest Passage feedback

Ellen near Gridley, Calif., (about 60 miles north of Sacramento) writes: “Your article in the Life … section of The Telegram really hit a nerve with me. … I’ve been following all things Newfoundland ever since (2003 when a friend sent me an iceberg image). (Today) the temperature here in the California inland valley rose to 102 F. And, I can now say that is between 38 and 34 C, which I hope you don’t see up there in NL soon or ever.

“I write to ask if there is any way to follow the progress of the Philos. I could not find any Google references except your excellent article, which popped right up! Can anyone on board use Facebook or Twitter to reach the world here below? I’d love to follow the voyage that way. Your friends Roger and Gerry must be seeing some really interesting landscapes by now, with lots of icebergs. What an adventure!

“Best wishes to you and your family. I truly look forward to your reply. Enjoy that cool, misty weather. I spent a part of a summer on Cape Breton some years ago and never forgot the sharp clean air.”

Susan’s note: Philos is not equipped with a tracking system, but Roger does maintain a website http://www.ocean-expeditions.com

He has a second boat in Antarctica called Australis.

Organizations: Google

Geographic location: California, Salmonier Nature Park, Burry Heights Grates Cove Gridley Sacramento Newfoundland NL Cape Breton Antarctica

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