Monday, May 5, 2008

The People on the Bus

Last month I wrote about a bus ride that I took, during which an initially grumpy little girl and I exchanged funny faces and gestures, and became fast friends by the time her stop arrived. Despite the fun and the endearing connection that we made, the incident left me feeling sad because of the lack of interest her mother showed her. Last week I took that same bus ride at the precise time as the previous trip, and I half-hoped I'd see the little girl again. I didn't.

As I settled into my seat, someone rang the bell indicating their intention to disembark at the next bus stop. As a woman and her young son passed my seat, I could hear the boy enthusiastically singing "The Wheels of the Bus" It brought me back to a time when my own son was around four, and my cousin's ex husband taught him his version of the song. My son was the only kid at school who knew the verse "The muggers on the bus say 'give me all your money' all day long."

Shortly into the trip, a woman and four very young children climbed the steps into the bus and paid their fares. The youngest was in a stroller but the other three cautiously made their way down the aisle of the bus, as it angled its way outward from the sidewalk and back into the flow of traffic. This sudden acceleration caused the bus to lurch slightly, and one of the little ones stumbled backwards when he turned around to make sure that his Mom was still nearby. He was an easy catch as he staggered into my outstretched arm. I helped him to steady himself, and the woman glanced over to me and smiled her "thank you."

The three older children took their places on a long, side-facing seat at the front of the bus. They immediately scrambled up onto their knees so that they could look out the window. Their mother took the next seat which faced front where she could keep an eye on them, and a firm grasp on the stroller holding her youngest child.

Throughout the trip, the children chattered to each other and to their Mom. Each of their questions and comments were met with a thoughtful response from their mother. Her pride showed in her eyes as she caught my smile while watching them. The kids were oblivious to my presence, even when I snapped a couple of photos with Mom's permission.

The interaction between parent and offspring was heartwarming. The four pre-schoolers were well-behaved, curious and bright. Mom was warm, available and proud. I felt grateful for the reminder that most parents do their best, and love unconditionally. This young family may not have known it, but they made my day.

Like last time, this bus trip was the start of my journey eastward to visit Frank for a couple of days. As usual, the photos below are from walks around his place. Please remember to click on them to enlarge.

The day before I arrived, this lovely historic town suffered a bad fire. Two of these 100 year old buildings were completely gutted, a feeling which I'm sure was shared by store owners and customers alike as their town is preparing for its 150 year anniversary this summer. We wandered through a few of the quaint shops directly across the street, which were open for business as usual, but the sadness and sense of loss among onlookers and passersby was palpable. By Thursday afternoon, the building was fully demolished. Click here for a view of this same street, just a few doors down, as it appeared to me in December.

Further east along this same main street, there's a cozy little tea house which recently opened for business. One full wall is dedicated to dozens of varieties and flavours of loose tea, which you can purchase in several sized packages. Their entrance way displays this unusual table and chair set, made from the wood of coffee bean plants.

As you can see by the above photo, they offer much more than tea. Along with appealing lunch items, they also have delicious homemade sweets such as tasty pecan butter tarts and dunk-worthy biscotti. As I was leaving with a package of tarts for that night's dessert, this "Daily Special" sign caught my eye. I hadn't had lunch yet, and the opening line seemed particularly friendly. I read it as "Homemade soup, Baby!" in a George Costanza kind of voice. It took a moment for me to realize that the use of "baby" was referring to the salad greens, and not their customers.

Heading out of the downtown area, a set of steep steps leads back to the wooded paths along the creek. The area is beautiful in any season, but the changes are quite startling as the spring foliage emerges and the rich green colours return.

Frank picked a bunch of these delicious fiddleheads the week before. By the time I took this photo, most of them had unfurled into the lovely ferns that will last through the summer. We boiled them until almost cooked, then sautéed them in butter, minced garlic and freshly-ground pepper. Once drained, you can also toss them in a dusting of Parmesan cheese which will cling to the unopened fronds. This springtime treat goes great with almost any dish.

This view of the creek urged me to stop and snap a photo. The trees have sprouted leaves, but are nowhere near as lush as they'll be in a week or two.

As I glanced out over the creek, this tree caught my eye. If you click to enlarge it, you'll see something red and white hanging from its branches, just a little left of center.

Zooming in, I could see that it was a wayward fishing float. I wonder if an avid angler will rescue it before it becomes completely hidden behind the growing foliage. I'm looking at you, Frank!

A walk in the woods is incomplete without the silly antics of a goofy JRT. Benny dares us to just try and take his stick. Don't even bother - you can't win. The puppy runs like the wind.

Back at Frank's place, he suggested that I take this shot as the late-day sun shone on this bare-boned chair. In a few weeks, it will be warm enough to grab a cushion and sit out there most any evening, while that night's dinner sizzles on the barbeque. He'd probably pop open a beer and I might pour a glass of wine as we both toast our appreciation to the return of warmer weather.

For amusing tales about walking with Benny, check out the most recent post (April 29) over at Frank's blog.


Suldog said...

Again, again, again - great shots! And I still haven't been out with my camera to get any. I was very busy this weekend, though, so I finally have an excuse.

Dianne said...

I love the bridge over the creek? lake?

and the shot of the bare chair is stunning - it has a warm, worn glow

all the shots are spectacular

I too am happy when I see families together enjoying themselves, when it's clear that the children are listened to and valued.

I love how you called the Mom "available" - that's it exactly.

Daryl said...

I totally love being a part of your bus rides and visits to Frank's ... thanks for sharing ... no puns here .. :-Daryl

Leah J. Utas said...

Sorry for the deletion. I love the pics. Wonderful as usual. I love the coffee wood table/chair. Where was the magical critter who should be seated at it?

the Bag Lady said...

Wonderful as always! Love the shot of the bridge.
Sad about the fire - hate it when historical buildings burn.
You have more green happening out there than we do. The lawn is starting to green up, but the hint in the trees is still pretty vague. Mostly pussy willows yet.

Frank Baron said...

I feel almost as invigorated as if I'd taken the walk myself! Maybe tomorrow morning, instead of being dragged out there by Benny, I'll just plop him on my lap and we'll re-read your blog together. ;)

Reb said...

Beautiful as always Hilary!I love the way you weave a tel through your photos too. I am saddened by the loss of the buildings, I hope they will be rebuilt in the same architectural style.

Are you going to hold the boat steady while Frank gets that bob?, It looks like that is the only way anyone will get it.

Love the mix of textures on the chair photo.

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Suldog. It sounds like you had a great reason to be too busy to take photos lately. Looking forward to hearing about part two of this weekend. :)

• Thank you, Dianne. I have to give Frank credit for suggesting the picture of the chair. I agree about "available" being an important quality. Thanks so much for stopping by. :)

• Thanks, Daryl. I'm glad you came along for the ride. :)

• Thank you, Leah. Frank was back at home, sleeping off a virus. Oh, not the critter you meant? ;)

• Thanks, Baggie. Fires that damage old buildings are heart-breakers for sure. I'm not sure I've ever actually seen a pussy willow growing. You'll have to take some pics... ;)

• Not a good idea, Frank. When he gets to the photo of the JRT, he'll probably fight himself for the stick. :)

• Thanks, Reb. I'm glad you enjoyed. I'm not sure what the plans are for rebuilding, but if I hear anything I'll keep you posted.

Maybe Frank will put Benny to work retrieving that float. You should see that dog jump! Thanks for stopping by. :)

Shammickite said...

I saw the fire on the late news, but I haven't been to see the damage in person. I visit YoungerSon and DIL in B'ville quite often, we'll have to meet up one day! Maybe at that nice tea shop????
I love the pic of the chair.
I think the fishing float must have been a remnant of my DIL's dad and uncle's fishing trip last weekend!!

Jo said...

What a lovely bus ride to balance out the former one, Hil. How sad about the buildings though...I'm sure they will rebuild with gusto.

Love the photos...the fishing bobber was my favorite--I'm surprised I didn't see Frank's hand in the photo...will he climb trees to get his treasures?

Homemade Soup Baby gave me a giggle. And I didn't know that about fiddleheads! Can you do that with any ferns, b/c we have a ton in our yard & fiddlehead-looking things are everywhere right now.

david mcmahon said...

You always take us to fascinating places. I've never heard the ``muggers' verse!!!

Pat - Arkansas said...

Another lovely post and photos. I am very much enjoying your site, but have much catching up to do. The coffee-bean wood chair is charming; I can imagine it in some elfin creature's parlor.
Thanks for the kind comments on my blog; your sweet words are heady perfume.

photowannabe said...

Thanks for the trip on the bus. Wonderful observations and made me feel happier than the last trip.
Loved the pictures of your JRT. The bare chair is great too.

Maggie May said...

Enjoyed the bus story. Amazing how different interactions occur with different types of children.
Lovely photos. Came via David!

Hilary said...

• Sounds like a plan, Ex-S. I'm not there all that often but we could aim to hook up one of those times.

• Thanks, Jo. I haven't see Frank climb much of anything..

From what I understand, the only fern that is edible this way is the ostrich fern. There's a lot of information about it on the web though. Hopefully your ferns are of that variety. Thanks for stopping by.

•Thanks, David. You might consider yourself lucky on that one.

Thanks so much for the 'Post of the Day' mention. Much appreciated.

• Thank you, Pat. I'm glad you're enjoying it.

• Thanks so much for your kind words, Photowannabe.

• Thanks Maggie May. Children sure are always entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Another beautiful post, and what a pleasant day! I feel like I got to go with you on a great spring trip.

Though I wish I didn't have that "wheels on the bus" song going through my head!

Anonymous said...

I think that chair picture is my favorite.

Kat said...

What a lovely post. Gorgeous photos and gorgeous words.

Tamie said...

Your blog is very inspiring. You've given me an appreciation for the outdoors. I've been a hermit all my life and now I find myself looking up
hiking trails at state parks on the web. I just discovered Bendix Woods in South Bend has a nature center.
I have a feeling I'm going to be discovering the big (not so bad anymore) outside world this summer.

And I still think busses need seat belts btw. Espescially for kiddos. Lucky your hand was there to catch them.

Sandi McBride said...

You have the most fascinating bus trips...I admit I still think about the little girl with the plank for a mother...these children make her life seem that much sadder. Lovely shots of the town and the wood...lovely little pup..reminds me of Asta from the Thin Man series
David sent me yet again...

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Crabby. It's a good thing I wasn't in Disneyland then, eh? (It's a small, small world...)

• Thanks, Beav. Kudos to Frank for suggesting the shot.

• Thanks very much, Kathryn. Much appreciated.

• TKWI, that's great to hear. I know it took my camera to get me out and about more, and with that, a new appreciation.

I tend to agree about seat belts in busses, especially school busses, and I used to approach the subject with the school board when my kids were younger. The standard answer was that they endure a high amount of vandalism. Often brand new busses equipped with seat belts don't last more than a few weeks before kids start cutting through them with scissors and knives. I'm not sure how much of that was fact and how much was easier to say than 'budget comes before safety." City busses would only be worse, I'd imagine.

• Thanks, Sandi. I wasn't familiar with Asta, but Google showed me that there is in fact a similarity. Cute pup! Thanks for stopping by and thanks again, to David!

Anonymous said...

Great springtime pictures, Hil
Maybe you were too young to remember (but I didn't think you forgot ANYTHING), Dad used to take us out of the city "hunting" for pussywillow branches this time of year. We always had a vase full of them when were were little.

Cath said...

Hilary what a lovely warm post. What a contrast to your last bus journey!
Your photos are so peaceful; tranquil views of the creek and the walk. Frank lives in a beautiful place.
I bet it is his float. I bet it is!
I'll call on Frank later - It's now 5.30am. Stayed up waaaayyy too late.

Russell said...

Love the pictures... My very favorite (is that redundant? oh well..) is the one with the chair and the sunlight spashing against the brick.

I laughed at the photo of Benny! Yes, I am sure he would be a quick pup! I was saddened to read about the fire and recalled various times I have walked through or seen damage done by a fire.

But the picture of the chair, now that is special. Take care.

Tink said...

I love your pictures because they're never JUST pictures. They're actual screen shots of what you SEE and often feel. Beautiful as always.

John-Michael said...

Exquisite! Nothing short of Exquisite! Every element of your story ... each aspect ... how I felt the absence of the "initially grumpy little girl", shared in your sadness in realization of such a wasteful loss in a tender and impressionable person ...reveled with you in the mother and her involved engagement with her small brood. I hear your melancholy in recognition of lost history and traditions in the fire's destruction ... and celebrated Earth's opening and refreshing along with You and Frank as the two of you engage each other in the bosom of lovely surroundings. Ah Yes!! 'Twas a nice "outing" and I am grateful for your generous sharing of each emotion and revelation.

Lovingly ...

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Andi. I do remember that we always had some in a vase, but figured they'd come from the store around the corner (Young's) ;) I'm guessing that "out of the city" was Mount Royal...

• Thanks for your kind words, Cath. I sure hope you got a good night's sleep after such a late/early bedtime. I won't bet you about the float because I think I might already know the answer. ;)

• Yes, Russell, it was redundant AND repetitive. ;) But much appreciated anyway. I'm glad you like the photos. Thanks for stopping by.

• Thanks so much, Tink. That means so much to me. Thanks always for the visit. :)

• Thanks for your kind words, John-Michael. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)

david mcmahon said...

Do let me know when you update this wonderful blog, Hilary!

Jo said...

That picture of the four little kids is wonderful...! I remember when my own daughter used to scramble up onto the seat and look out the window like that.

Gorgeous photos.

The shot of the bare chair is a prize winner!

Latin Lupe Lu said...

Hilary. New to your blog but throughly enjoyed every minute of your journey. I would have to say the chair picture is my favorite as other people have commented.

I can also relate to your bus journey. In MY city, my bus journeys haven't always been so pleasant so it is always a breath of fresh air when you come across people who share your same values of caring, warmth and humanity.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Hilary said...

Glad you had a better experience on the bus this time...I want to be a mom like that too.

So sad about the little looks like a town I know well...Northfield, heartbreaking.

Chi said...

The People on the Bus
A picture of a creek
A bridge o'er water
A furry stick freak

A burled wooden chair
Then a chair without a seat
With the picturesque town
The Smitten Image is complete.

Very nice, Hilary. Don't try that in L.A. Bus rides aren't the same.

Hilary said...

• Thanks, David. I'll try to remember when I stop by yours after my own updates. Your visits are always appreciated. :)

• Thanks so much for your kind words, Josie. Frank sure does have an eye for a good shot. :)

• Welcome, LLL. This particular trip involves the bus ride and a train trip. The train is so much more relaxing, but the bus is always more interesting. I'm glad you enjoyed the post and hope you'll return soon and often. :)

• Hi Hilary. I suppose there are small towns like that all over the continent, all of which have their unique history. It's heartbreaking when a part of them is lost. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Wow, Christopha! Thanks for the poem. What a cool way to comment, and "furry stick freak" is an apt description of Benny. Thanks also for the advice.. I'll keep it in mind if I ever find myself in L.A.

I loved your own tale about your Grandmother and hope that people will click on your profile link and check it out. It's a great post. :)

Carolyn said...

LOL on the George Costanza bit. Very funny.

And thanks for writing about the proud mom on the bus. I try to be that kind of mom with Csilla and your observations affirm my efforts. Thanks for helping me create a clear picture of what good mothering looks like.

Lovely post.

Hilary said...

Thanks Carolyn. I'm glad the George line gave you a laugh and I'm sure that you and Csilla are a great team. Happy Mother's Day. :)

CC said...

I'm a people watcher too.

I'll never forget the day I struggled with my 4 youngest kids at the craft store. My 4th child was about 4 at the time and she was pitching such a fit and refused to walk. So while struggling with a 1 year old and a newborn I picked her up and plopped her into the shopping basket while seething and thinking 'Just wait until we get outside.'

We get outside. I load up the babies into their car seats and save the 4 year old for last because I intended to swat her butt for her bad behavior. Just then a lady came up behind me and touched me on the arm. Startled I turned around and she smiled as she said, "You know I was watching you with your children and I wanted to tell you how impressed I was with how sweet and patient you are with them. You're a good mom."

And then she left. I slowly put the 4 year old into her car seat and then burst into tears. That lady really made a difference...for both of us.

Hilary said...

That sort of encounter sure stays with us, hopefully in the "pay it forward" kind of way. Thanks for sharing EWBL. :)