Monday 4 July 2011

Canada Day on the Hill! (sort of)

What a beautiful day to reconnect with all that I love about Ottawa!

We woke up with Vaughn babbling about Happy Birthday Canada and cake. Now, to be fair, the Medicine Hat festivities include giant cakes (last year’s were a big bear and a trainset/mountain – gorgeous and delicious), but possibly it comes from the birthday/cake connection, too.

Vaughn’s kept his little flag from last year at Kin Coulee in our car, and every so often, he waves it around and says, “Happy Canada!” In fact, he brought it in to the community centre when we voted at the last federal election – SUPER tacky, but incredibly adorable, too.

I digress.

We got the kidlets all dressed up in red and white, and caught the bus down to Rideau Street. We stayed on as long as we could, then joined the trickle of people as they drifted towards the massive throng on the Hill.

On the way, we stopped to listen to the West Indian band (the one with the pan flute) – it’s down to two members, but it still had Vaughn bopping along. We also saw a Captain Canada…and then four or five more.

We tried to get up to the lawn of Parliament Hill, to see the Changing of the Guard, but there were too many people, and with the heightened security for the Royal Visit, we were also on the wrong side of a traffic barricade. So, off we headed towards Major’s Hill Park. Some nice lady gave Vaughn a helium balloon, and we went along happily until… oh noooooo!…. Chris made a valiant effort to catch it, but it was gone, up… up… up... Vaughn, of course, was heartbroken (his last encounter with a balloon gone wrong was assuaged by handing him the remains and calling it a worm, which he found funny), even with references to Curious George. Poor fellow.

We stopped on the way to watch a busker (Byron from England! Hurray!) perform some fancy fire-juggling, but V was still out of sorts, so we left before the grand finale, which apparently involved a straightjacket, 75 feet of chain, and 6 years of Byron’s life.

In the park, however, things turned around for everyone: free samples (cheese curds! Ice cream! Dr. Pepper!), a ride on a miniature choo-choo train, milking a pretend cow, and two fly-bys by CF-18s and the Snowbirds. We even saw the Cowguys while we waited in line. What could be better than that?*

We danced a bit to Samba Ottawa, ate some chicken, then went back home for a nice afternoon of backyard kiddie-pooling and sprinklering, maybe a cider for Mom and a beer for Dad, and a barbecue feast on the deck.

At nine, we woke the kids up. Being either the World’s Best Parents or the World’s Worst Parents,** we had decided to take them down to watch the fireworks. When out for his run that afternoon, I had tasked Chris with a recon mission for the best spot to watch without being surrounded by the crush of humanity (maybe next year!), so we loaded up two sleepy, pyjammified youngsters, complete with blankies, into the double stroller, hopped on the bus, and stepped off just outside of DFAIT. I was a bit worried about how Vaughn would take them – recently, he’s said that he doesn’t like thunder, booming, nutcrackers, wolves, … you name it. I had prepped him about fireworks ahead of time, but figured that, with the extra stimulation of being outside at 10 pm, this could go very, very badly.

He was a bit tense for the first few (he had a death grip on blankie), but then relaxed – well, sort of. He kept a focused gaze the whole time, but told us that he liked the green ones best. Ailsa, he said, liked the pink ones. Ailsa, for her part, was pretty low-key about the whole experience. I sat her on my lap (some kind Canadians gave me an extra lawn chair), and she’d look at the sky, point, and then whip her head around to look at me, as if to say, “are you seeing this, too?” After a few minutes, though, she cuddled in, and only looked at the sky a few times after that.

What with more street closures (those darn motorcades! My Royal Experience consisted of a lot of police, a black car with a little flag flying on it (and lots of hooting and waving from surrounding people), followed by a lot more police), we decided to speed-walk home. Forty minutes later, we scooped two drowsy little ones back into bed. When I asked Vaughn what part of the day he liked best, he said, “Snowbirds.” Happy Canada Day, indeed.

* Better than that: the Cowguy (Brian) knows my name. It’s almost like being famous, but more awesome. Ok, Cowguy Nick knows my name too, but that’s not from years of stalking, so it doesn’t count.

** Vote now! Take into account that although we didn’t smuggle drinks with us, we really regretted not having done so.

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