Sunset Ceremony: Life in Ottawa


I mentioned in a previous post that the heroism in raising a large family is not always the endless march of chores (although it is relentless) but the ability to stop, breathe and do anything else than laundry, cooking and cleaning. When the children were younger… Let me rephrase that… When my older children were younger and we only had 4, we would go for hikes in the Gatineau Park, attend free family events in the Capital, visit museums, organize camping trips and get-togethers with friends. Since the fifth child, and even more since the sixth, we stopped doing anything but driving, cooking, cleaning… and oh, moving a few times too.

This week, my oldest daughter asked if we could attend the Sunset Ceremony at the RCMP musical ride headquarters. Once a year, the RCMP Musical Ride puts on a free show in Ottawa before leaving on their summer tour. Attending requires some wit as parking is limited and the best seats go quickly. We prefer to park at the Aviation Museum and walk 15 minutes (adult pace). Ideally, we would bring lawn chairs and a picnic and camp there no later than 6:00-6:30. The show ends at sunset with the lowering of the Canadian flag. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate Canadian culture and heritage and to teach the children about flag etiquette (because you know… more culture is better than less.) “Yes, every flag has to be lowered at sunset and put away.” “Yes, even the flag hanging off the neighbour’s front porch…”

This year, we were treated to a performance by the Canadian Sky Hawks, complete with wind change and crowd landing. I ended-up under a Sky Hawk parachute on Canada Day as a child. Memories… Now I watch the size of their boots and the speed of their descent and shudder.That being said, I was giddy as a little girl this week as we waited for the Hercules to drop its high performing cargo. I told my daughter: “There’s a fascinating mix of anal retentiveness and recklessness: they have to be obsessive about their kits and jump drills, yet they jump off a plane and do unnatural stunts with a parachute.” I could never take that step off the Hercules.

My husband is a rock star


Not a real rock star, of course. But he rocks more than the other husbands and that makes him a rock star. Photo credit to my two oldest (and apparently talented) children, who are not supposed to touch the D90 under pain of death. You are so busted.

12-ish years ago, we bought a canoe at Canadian Tire. We used it a couple of times to go camping. In fact, my last memory of using the canoe was at Silver Lake. I peed on a stick that morning and found out we were expecting Marie. My last memory of the canoe is therefore tinged with morning sickness. With 4 then 5 children, activities like camping took a sabbatical and the canoe sat — or rather lied — unused in three consecutive backyards. Until now.

The pond
Tall grass

When the children saw the pond behind our rental house they immediately thought of great canoeing adventures. When their dad asked where he should set-up the trampoline in the backyard, David’s answer was immediate:

On the island! This way it will be double the fun!

Trampo-freaks entertaining the neighbourhood
Trampoline Island

(it has not occurred to my little country bumpkin that the patch of grass behind our patio door is our only backyard. The pond belongs to the Crown according to the developer and the developer according to the City.)

Cloudscape
Plane

Last weekend, my husband took the children for a turn in the canoe. The pond is a rainwater catchment area landscaped to serve as a recreational path and  bird sanctuary. The children returned from their expedition with tales of seeing Aaron-the-Heron (and his partner-in-majestic-flight Erin-the-Heron) up real close and meeting a little water mammal in the cracks of the man-made retaining wall. My husband was proud to be fit enough to portage his vehicle to and from the pond. I never had any doubts.

Our teenage daughter and son ran around the pond taking pictures of the expedition laughing as they heard kids yelling from their backyards: “They have a CANOE!!” Meanwhile I could just imagine the exasperated look on their parents’ faces. “Two years doing just fine telling the kids we weren’t allowed on the pond, and they move with their 8 kids and A CANOE… There goes the neighbourhood!”

Since September we have not taken nearly enough time to pause and spend time doing something cool with the children. This little expedition around our suburban paradise reminded me just how simple building memories can be. In a large family, all too often the heroism is not in the endless march of chores but in being able to stop long enough to do something else.