Monday, April 14, 2008


I had about three hours to kill last week - the time spent on the city bus and subsequent train ride traveling eastward to visit Frank. I usually pack a book to read and this time was no exception. Having recently returned one to the library, I looked around my own bookshelves for something to bring with me, and settled on the classic To Kill A Mockingbird. I had recently promised my son, Jeffrey that I'd reread it soon, so it was an easy choice. I'd have well-written entertainment for my trip and I'd fulfill a promise to my son. I settled into the first chapter when a little girl and her mother stepped up into the bus and took their seats near the front.

The child, no older than four, had a scowl on her
round, little face and when glancing up at her mom, I could see that it mirrored her own features and expression. The girl whined loudly, and demanded something from her mother. The parent outdid her child with volume, telling her that she could not have any chocolate until after the bus ride. Something in her tone and in her child's immediate growled response told me that the chocolate would be making an appearance soon. A few more growls, and half-hearted refusals on the mother's part and the little girl was presented with a large cream-filled chocolate egg. She continued to hold the angry expression on her face while unwrapping the candy, and it stayed with her well into eating it.

A few minutes into gobbling up her treat, the child caught my eye. Her angry expression never left her face as she watched me. I feigned a scowl in response, and her own scowl deepened. My eyes narrowed, and as I turned my face away from her slowly, I shot one more quick look at her and then smiled. She continued to frown as she watched closely for what I might do next. I dealt her a series of smiles and winks, and as her face began to soften, she returned the smile. Suddenly, she was quite lovely.

I continued making faces at her from across the aisle and several rows of seats, and she continued trying to return whichever expression I tossed her way. When I winked, she blinked and eventually resorted to holding one eye open with her fingers, allowing the other to blink a wink in return. I hid my face behind my hands and reappeared with a smile. She did likewise. I blew her a kiss and she obliged with one of her own. Occasionally she'd do something different, and I'd imitate her instead. We continued to interact like this off and on during the course of the trip. Her loud, raucous laughter was quite infectious and several passengers were watching and enjoying her amusement. Occasionally I'd get back to Jem and Scout who waited patiently for me within the pages of my book, but it wasn't long before I'd look up, and we'd continue our own little mockingbird game.

Eventually the mother nudged the little girl to let her know that their stop was coming up. The child continued to wave, make faces and blow kisses at me as she stood and waited for the bus to stop. She yelled a series of loud "good-byes" to me and she kept looking back at me as she descended the steps and exited the vehicle. The child left feeling cheerful - she skipped as she headed to their next destination.

I was pleased with the encounter which made the trip pass more quickly, but one nagging awareness disturbed me about the child's and my engagement. During the full hour trip, her mother never once looked over to see who was occupying her child's attention. Not once. She never looked at me while her child laughed out loud, blew kisses, waved and shouted her good byes. Unless the mother stole a sideways glance while I was catching snippets of my book, she had no idea who was holding her child's interest. As a mom, I found that troubling on a couple of levels.

Safety alone would dictate that a parent would want to see who is attracting her child's attention. Was I some potential child molester, or just an innocuous mother of long-grown children, out to acquire her child fix for the day? I would have expected to catch a glimpse of the smile that a mom can't usually hide, when her child delights in a silly game with a stranger. Mostly, I was concerned about why this mother would not show the sense of pride that most of us tend to feel when someone is clearly enjoying one of our offspring. Why didn't she show her little one that she took delight in her playfulness, her improved mood and her interest with some unknown stranger on the bus? I tried not to speculate about the relationship between mother and daughter. I hoped that perhaps the mom was just having a rough day, and therefore lost in her own thoughts. I tried not to entertain conjecture about the kind of mother she might be to her daughter, or what kind of person the girl might be twenty years from now. I do know that despite the smile on the child's face, I felt sad after they left.

Over the next several chapters of my book, I began to think of this little mimic along with Harper Lee's symbolic mockingbird. I hope that her songs generally evoke pride and affection in her mother. I hope that she feels cherished, and her innocence protected. And I hope she grows up to remember her childhood joyfully.

"Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird."

These photos were all taken in the wooded area just a few steps away from Frank's place. Please remember to click on them to enlarge.

When we go walking in the evening, we ease our way along the banks of this creek. The ice and snow that covered the land just days before, yielded to the warm spring sunshine causing the water to rush by rapidly.

Further along the creek, we enter the area that leads to the cedar grove. The area is beautiful and its approach always feels to me, to be the edge of enchantment.

Early the next day, our morning walk brings us to a calmer part of the creek, every bit as beautiful.

We soon arrived at the dam and fish ladder, where we paused to see if the trout were jumping their way upstream. Every now and then we'd see a quick flash of movement as one of them made its approach. I focused the camera where I had already seen a couple of fish splashing about. Frank warned me that it would take a lot of luck and patience to catch one of them. He then launched into a story about how he had spent many hours with his own camera over the years, in hopes of getting a shot at a jumping trout without ever having had any luck. "It takes luck and a lot more time than we have right now, Hil. Let's keep going. Benny is getting impatient" His voice droned on in the background...

By the time he finished his first sentence, I had already snapped this one. I suppose I had the luck. I didn't need much time. ;)

Here it is up close.

Moving along, the spring melt revealed some of last year's growth. Here's some Queen Anne's Lace, long gone to seed.

Close to the water's edge, we happened upon this natural wooden sculpture, being examined closely by one of the season's first flies.

Clearly beavers had been hard at work.

I'll post some more photos in a few days.


Crabby McSlacker said...

Wow. Not only amazing photos, but a very thought-provoking post.

It sounds like the girl's mother doesn't "see" her child on a lot of levels. The fact that you, as a stranger, took the time to watch her and respond and were rewarded with such a radical change in her behavior --yikes, it sounds like a kid in need of attention. From not only a safety perspective but a psychological one, I hope that kid's mom was just temporarily distracted. Otherwise, I'm thinking behavior problems ahead for that poor little girl as she tries to get someone to notice her.

And love the mockingbird theme btw!

Cath said...

Hilary that is a great post on so many levels! It had me transfixed and I am told I have been reading with my mouth open, it wider the further down I read! lol With comments like "Oh wow!" and "Oh yes go Hilary!" (You can guess which photo evoked THAT response!)

I agree with your thoughts about the little girl and her mum - quite sad and I only hope mum just happened to be preoccupied, but fear it is not the case. How can you not at least make eye contact with the person your child interacts with? And great book you're reading.

Love the photos. Love the fish! Well done. That's one up to Hilary! Poor Frank. I'll have to go over and console him.

Love the creek. I wanna come see!

Leah J. Utas said...

Excellent photos as always and I love the jumping fish.
It was kind of sad about the child being ignored by her mom. I won't speculate on any reason for it, but I'm sure the child will always remember it.

Frank Baron said...

Hilary, Hilary, Hilary. You really MUST pay attention when I drone. I said, it "often" took me dozens of shots over an hour or two to capture a decent pic of a leaping trout. Maybe I said "usually." That's possible.

But I HAVE taken some good shots of jumping trout. Just seconds like you did.

Still think you have horseshoes...somewhere....

Nice ruminations on Mom & Child. I fear for the wee tyke. You done good making her laugh. :)

the Bag Lady said...

The Bag Lady feels sorry for that child. But like Leah, refuses to speculate, only hopes the mother is not usually that inattentive.
Love the fish photo, and commends you on your luck!
Frank, where do you store YOUR horseshoes? 'Cause the Bag Lady thinks you must have some, seein' as you have such a wonderful woman in your life!

Suldog said...

Those are some lovely shots. Thanks for sharing!

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Crabby. I hope it was just a bad day for the Mom and that all's right in both of their worlds by now. I can hope. :)

• Thank you, Cath. I hope you didn't drool on your keyboard while reading. ;) I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. Thanks for your enthusiasm! :)

• Thanks muchly, Leah. I know I'll always remember that little girl. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Frank, Frank, Frank! Usually.. often.. always.. what's the difference? You were poo-pooing the likelihood of my managing a decent shot, to which I essentially said.. "Kiss my horseshoe" ;) Thanks for the challenge and for your comments.. all of them. :)

• Aww thanks, Baggie. How very sweet of you. Thanks for all your kind words. :)

• Thank you, Suldog. I'm glad you stopped by. :)

Tink said...

You should have gotten a picture of the look on his face when you showed him your jumping fish picture. :)

Even though most of us are ABLE to have children, it doesn't mean we all SHOULD. I hope that this was just an isolated case with the little girl. I hope this isn't always her interaction with her Mom. How sad...

Daryl said...

Sad that mother will never know who her little girl really is.. and scary that she doesnt care enough to take an interest in doing so.

Fabulous photos .. I hope Frank wasnt too jealous of your 'catch'!

david mcmahon said...

Beautiful post, on many levels of consciousness.

And WHAT a great picture!

Jo said...

I'm picturing you being silly with the little girl & it makes me smile. Not only were you doing the mom a favor in changing sullen to cheerful, but there was also a kind reminder there for her, how easy children make it to overturn a bad moment if we just agree to let go of it. Every parent needs those reminders bothers me that she seemed indifferent to it.

My son just finished To Kill a Mockingbird yesterday!

Wowee on the trout shot! And HA HA Frank! Did he scowl & stomp much?

Hilary said...

Before I was a mother, I was always annoyed by the mothers who ignored their children as they tugged on their sleeves, pleading Mom to look at them or listen to what they were saying...Now that I'm a Mom, I get how days can be overwhelming and everything isn't always SUPER cute...but after my son's 19 months, I'm already starting to realize that they grow up fast and they aren't always going to want my attention or find everything around them so's worth taking them time to enjoy as much of them as you can. The safety factor is definitely a concern...I hope, too, that she was just having a bad day.

That is a gigantic fish!! I so enjoy your pictures.

Jay said...

Amazing photos.

You made me wish I'd been on the bus, just to witness some of the joy shared.

Hilary said...

• Ummm I couldn't do that, Tink. He was seeing it in the image review right in the camera. I hope you're right about the kidlet and her mom too. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks Daryl E. I'm sure he wasn't too jealous.. just like I'm not too jealous when he catches one on his hook. We fish the same waters.. just different means. ;)

• Thanks so much, David. That means a lot to me coming from you. :)

• Your comments always make me laugh, Jo. I don't think he scowled or stomped any more than usual. A few sighs, an audible sob or two, and a few sniffles later he was pretty much over it. ;)

Did your son love it?

• I almost deleted your email alert thinking it was a straggler comment response of my own. You'll just have to change your name, Hilary.. I'm too easily confused. Thanks for your kind words and I sure can remember overwhelming days with wee ones. I hate to break it to you, but they get worse with teens! ;) Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thank you, Jay. You could have joined me.. I was only a stone's throw away from Toronto at the time. Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm glad you dropped in. :)

Chica, Cienna, and Cali said...

a beautiful post, more so coz TKAMB happens to be my all time fav. book, so much so, that I have mugged up some of my fav. lines form the book. such a simply written book and yet so profound. i wish harper lee had written more novels. did you ever get around to watching the movie? Greg peck was great as Atticus.........but i loved the book some hundred times more than the movie :)

beautiful pics as always

Anonymous said...

As I read your story I kept wondering, "What's the mother doing?" Now I wish I didn't know. I am a teacher and I see far too many people who don't know how to be parents. IT is sad.

I loved your photos, especially the fish. Great shot! I bet Frank is miffed though.

Russell said...

I just happened to see your blog and, wow!, I love the picture of that trout!!! I live in Iowa in the middle of the Great Plains and, well, we never see anything close to that!!!

When I was a child our family had a cabin near Rossport, Ontario, on Lake Superior. It is beautiful country and I really enjoyed the photos.

Take care.

Celebration of Life said...

I came over from David's blog. I enjoyed your post; I will be back.

Reb said...

Hilary, Great photos again. Love the trout shot, poor Frank. That is too bad for that poor child, glad you could make her happy for a little while.

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere (several times), "Any man/woman can be a father/mother, but it takes someone special to be a daddy/mommy". Obviously!
Great fish pic, hope the horseshoe isn't too uncomfortable.

L said...

Beautiful pics!

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Moi. I did see the movie eons ago and hope to see it again sometime soon. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks so much for your kind words, Quilly. I don't think he's toooo miffed.. anymore.. or at all. ;)

• Thank you Russell. I'm glad you happened by and enjoyed the photos. I think your have a fine blog yourself and I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts. I hope you'll return too. :)

• Thanks, Jo.. I hope you will. :)

• Thanks for your kind words, Reb.. and yeah.. POOR Frank! ;)

• Thanks, Andi. I'm beginning to adjust to the horseshoe. It's a learning.. ummm curve. ;)

• Thank you, WD. I hope you'll come back soon. :)

Shammickite said...

Hi Hilary:
I was quite fascinated in your story of the child on the bus, and very surprised that the mother didn't check on who was entertaining her little girl. Aren't we all told to look out for "strangers" who might have evil intentions for our children? Good for you to change the little girl's mood from bad to glad, but I wonder how long it lasted after she got off the bus with Mama.
Nice fishie! My son and DIL live somewhere near Frank (Bowmanville?) and son and his FIL and UIL (uncle-in-law) are going fishing in the area next w/e. Maybe at the same place you "caught" the fish!
Thanks for the offer of help with the video thingy, I will be in touch, but I have NO SPARE TIME right now, I'm so busy with rehearsals for the annual variety show that will be held next week. I'll be blogging about it in a day or two.

Seamus said...

It is a bit troubling to know that the mother did not acknowledge you - perhaps she was just shy and didn't want to engage with anyone. It is odd though!
Excellent post, weaving the story and the book together!
Funny, but I used to try and capture the jumping salmon at the locks and fish ladder in Seattle without a lot of success. A friend from the east coast, new to his camera, got an amazing shot like your on the first try. Luck! :)

Cath said...

Hilary - re your comment just now at mine. It's not you - it's me! My thoughts went faster than my fingers typed! I have amended it now. Thank you!

photowannabe said...

Well Hilary, you took my emotions on an interesting ride today. I felt to much sadness for that little girl and the prospects of what her life could be like. i also felt some anger towards the mom and her lack of Mothering. Of course there are always reasons for behavior that we don't know about. What you did was so simple yet profound. You made that little girls day I believe.
Your pictures are lovely and i feel like I was on the walk with you. The trout is a fantastic capture.

david mcmahon said...

Sorry this is off-post, but ....

Your comment ``always the bridesmaid, never the imbided'' absolutely cracked me up this morning!!

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping the mother was shy and peeking out of the corner of her eye. Fingers crossed.

Lovely photos. I think he needs to take you along when he goes fishing -- you have good fish karma!

(Can there be such a thing as fish karma? Well, why not.)

Hilary said...

• Hi Ex-S. Glad you took the time to drop by. I'm still hoping that the Mom was just having a bad day. It sounds like your son will be in the same area.. somewhere nearby anyway. Good luck with the variety show. I'll be looking forward to that blog post. :)

• Thank you, Seamus. I'm glad you liked it. And yes, I'll admit it was luck. There sure wasn't any skill involved. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Hi Cath! I kind of liked it the way it was. Not everyone has chats with their sheep. ;)

• Thanks so much for your very kind words, Photowannabe.I'm so glad you enjoyed it. You're welcome to walk with me anytime. :)

• Hey, David! I'm glad you got a laugh out of it. Your punny titles and footnotes always make me laugh.. or better yet, groan. Thanks for letting me know. :)

• Thanks, Merry. I never considered shyness. I hope you're right. :) He has taken me along fishing.. several times. I don't think I have that karma of which you speak. I've caught some very lovely driftwood though! I should stick to cameras. ;) Thanks for stopping by.

Kerri Farley said...

Oh these are FABULOUS! I have NEVER seen a trout jumping up like that (in person). WOW oh WOW!

PS - hoping that Mom was just having a bad day!

Shrinky said...

Oh, how fabulous to caught such a shot! They are wiley creatures. I have trout in the river that flows though our garden, I have never attempted to catch one.

To kill a mocking bird. Strangely, a friend recently suggested I re-read the opening chapter of it (it was an acedemic exercise, I was struggling with a certain style I was trying to write). I read it through from start to finish, forgot the style and became swallowed in the plot).

The little girl you connected with - perhaps she'll be lucky enough to connect with some others along the way - I hope so.

Sandi McBride said...

I came in to thank you for leaving the very nice comment on my post and visiting me for a bit, and found myself wrapped up in Mockingbird. I read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school mainly because I heard my Granddad say repeatedly to us as children to be careful never to hurt a Mockingbird, for it was a sin to kill a Mockingbird...he told us that we never know when the call the bird is shouting are words given to him by God. Like you, I wonder about the mother and find it sad that she is too tired, overworked or depressed in these days and times to look down at the little Mockingbird by her side and draw her more closely to her side. Todays mothers miss out on so much. Lovely were great, too...

Hilary said...

• Thank you, Kerri. I'm glad you were WOWed! ;)

• Thanks so much for stopping by, Shrinky. Coincidentally, I'm happening upon many blog references to To Kill A Mockingbird the past few days. Good stories live on forever. I hope you were able to reconnect with your writing. :) Thanks for your kind words.

• Thank you for the visit, Sandi. I'm glad you enjoyed and could relate to the post. Your Granddad sounds like he was a wise man. Please stop by again soon. :)

CC said...

I LOVE the trout picture!

It had me reaching for the cornmeal and the tartar sauce.

Hilary said...

Thanks, EWBL. I'm glad you like it. Trout dinner for the wee infidels, eh? :)

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