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lovechild and war

Okay, so I’ve had easier trips.

We are staying in an Airbnb rental, rented because it’s cheap and very near Auntie Do’s – one very small room for me and a room with one big bed for Anna and Eli; the owner is in the next room and other renters are downstairs. So with a very energetic 2 year old up at dawn, the name of the game is trying to keep him quiet. Not easy. I repeat – not not not easy.

Add to that the fact that Ottawa is beyond cold – minus thirteen today but it felt much colder, bitter – as Anna says, Why do people LIVE here? She didn’t bring enough warm clothes, Torontonian that she is. Eli is really quite sick, with an appalling cough – we really shouldn’t have come, but it all took so long to arrange, the dates for us all, the train tickets, the car rental, the rooms, Auntie Do, my brother … no way we could cancel for anything less than ebola.

And surprisingly, though he’s sick, he’s extremely active. He wants to climb everything he sees. He wants to touch everything, sit on everything, throw everything on the floor and eat everything, except what’s on his plate at mealtime. The terrible two’s have hit with a vengeance – asserting his will at every opportunity. NO! Don’t want to! Don’t like it! And the worst of all, tonight – NO I’M NOT SLEEPY.

Anna has the ultimate trump card – phoning Santa. Tonight at our restaurant dinner as he clambered all over the booth we were sitting in with Auntie Do, and then slid down the seat and under the table, his mother had a long conversation with Santa about how bad he was being and how Santa would have to throw away all his toys. So he tried to be good but could not. I took him for a walk around the room to see their boring Xmas decorations and he did some scribbling with the crayons they brought. Then that was it – one bored, sick, passionately interested and restless child trapped in a booth with three adults trying to eat in peace.

God, give me strength.

Finally – and I admire her for not doing it sooner – his mother put something on her cellphone and he was still.

It takes incredible strength and patience to do this job. I’d forgotten. But I do remember once running screaming out my kitchen door into the snow, to avoid murdering my children. We weren’t quite that beside ourselves today – there are two of us to deal with him, and anyway, Ottawa is too cold, we’d freeze to death.

But the trip has been worth it for the visits with Do, who’s remarkably patient with a squirmy boy who made frisbees out of her round coffee table coasters – and then they turned into pancakes that, adorably, he served her on a tray. This morning, with a long day too cold to play outside stretching ahead of us, we headed downtown to the art gallery but passed the War Museum and ended up there. Ideal – huge spaces for running, giant tanks and helicopters to look at. It is, I think from what I could see through the blur of boy, an even-handed evocation of war – respectful to those who’ve suffered, open about the horrors. Perhaps I’ll go back sometime when I can actually take it in.

Or perhaps I won’t.

We also spent an hour in a Chapters-Indigo which has wonderful toys out for kids to play with – didn’t know that before. He played for half an hour with a big train set while his mother and I took turns looking at books. Very clever marketing, certainly, but a godsend for us.

Tomorrow, we’re going to have breakfast at Ikea, another great place out of the cold with toys to play with. I know, our cultural trip to Ottawa – Chapters, Ikea and war. And glad of it. And then we’re visiting my brother and his family in the Gatineau, where it’s even colder. But pretty.

And then Tuesday we take the train home. I love this boy very much, as you may have noticed. But I will be very happy to kiss him goodbye and leave him to his very brave mother, who is not quite the paragon of patience I’d thought her. And neither, for sure, is Glamma. One very small boy pushed us both to the limit today. Amazing.

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3 Responses to “lovechild and war”

  1. theresa says:

    I found the War Museum surprisingly balanced, Beth. Have been twice, once around Remembrance Day, and I have fairly conflicted ideas about the ways we remember war, so I was interested to see how well the War Museum presents a fairly wide-ranging perspective. And for an energetic child, there's the Aviation Museum too. Lots of room to run!

  2. beth says:

    Glad to hear this, Theresa – that was my impression, but as I said, the museum was a background blur to the small moving creature beside me. I would never have gone if we hadn't needed the space to run – and I'm glad I did, it was far more interesting than I expected. It's just the name – War Museum.

  3. theresa says:

    oh, I know. War. So casual, in a way. As if.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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