This year, unfortunately, I was running low on ideas. She was no help whatsoever. I would ask her if there is anywhere she would really like to go, and she would just say that anywhere I wanted to go was fine with her. This is a little frustrating, because part of what I am doing is crossing items off her bucket list. As her last birthday was particularly large, I think its best we get a move on. But, mother just chugs along like she always has. She named a few places which were, unfortunately, out of range for a car and a one day drive time.
The other problem is that I've already taken her to many of the best places, and I am running out of idea. What would compare of Notre Dame in Montreal, and St Patrick's? Or Notre Dame in Ottawa? The annual bird migration at Point Pelee? I couldn't think of anything that would top those. So, instead, I decided to go with quantity. Instead of seeing one or two great places, we would see five or six really good ones. Thus, google directions in my hand, I loaded up the car with myself, Puff, Younger and Frodo, along with Mom, and off we went.
First stop was St Francis Xavier in Brockville. A lovely church. If the church had been closer, I would have visited it long before now. As it was, I didn't know if it would be worth a three hour drive to see.
The forward altar is actually made up of the two side altars now placed back to back.
I ran into the priest towards the end of the visit. A nice fellow. He told me that there had been a suggestion some years ago that the high altar be removed, but there was an uproar among the parishioners and letters were written to the Papal Nuncio in Ottawa and to the Pope himself. It was rather like the affair that occurred when Fr. Vosko was hired to renovate Our Lady in Guelph. So, the new vandals can be fought and occasionally defeated. That makes me feel good inside. I was glad I stopped here.
Next I took mom to one of her favourite things to paint, a mill. This is the Mill in Delta Ontario, which is apparently the oldest in Ontario, dating from 1809-10.
I took younger around to see the mill while Mother went to a bridge near the Mill to draw the outside. I should mention, mother moves rather slowly, and sometimes you seem to need stop motion photography to be able to actually track the movement. She slowly made her way to the bridge, hung her cane on the rail, opened her art book and pulled out her pen, drew the first line for the building.... and then that dark cloud in the picture dumped its rain an her. "Look at this!" she said to me. "I drew exactly one line before it started to rain."
"Remember to sign and date it," I told her. "So you can remember where you were when you drew that line."
On our way to and from the Mill we passed through the town of Athens. Puff and I passed through there over twenty years ago on our honeymoon. (Being poor, we drove around Ontario visiting places that were named after other more famous cities. That way, when people asked us where we went for our honeymoon we would say "Oh, you know, the usual tour: London, Cambridge, Athens, Sparta, Warsaw, Odessa....") Athens was at that time calling itself the Home of the Murals. They had painted almost every wall on the main street with large murals, most of which were very nice. I imagine they were trying to draw visitors to their town to stop, look around, spend some money. Athens no longer calls itself that, and the murals are faded and peeling. Sad, really.
.After a quick stop at a Harvey's, we headed off for our next stop on the itinerary, St Finnan's Cathedral in Alexandria, where we heard Mass.. The Cathedral was beautiful, but for some reason I forgot to bring in my camera. Here are a few photos from the net.
There's a much better but copywritten photo here.
I wasn't the only one who forgot something at this one. While we were driving away from the cathedral, I asked my mom how she liked it. "Well, I thought it was very nice," she said.
"'Thought?'" I asked. "Don't you know?"
"I wanted to have a good look," she said. "But I couldn't find my glasses in my purse, and I was sure I left them in here... Oh, here they are."
We continued to get rained on off an on all the day. I went to a spot near Ottawa for a hotel for the night. I figured once we had the hotel we could eat and look around Ottawa for a bit. (I had a plan in mind to take mom to a park where they have some life-sized model dinosaurs, which she despises. I was going to photograph her with the dinosaurs and put the caption: "An ancient relic from a bygone era. Beside her are some dinosaurs." She and the grand kids would laugh, after they accused me of being a jerk and punching me in the arm..)
But there were no rooms at the motor in, nor in the one beside it. This was bothersome, because this would have been the perfect place to begin our journey the next day. Instead we had to find a hotel somewhere else. No problem, thought I. There should be plenty down on highway seven.
Except highway seven in the Ottawa area is not like the highway seven I know. It is a four lane split highway with nothing on either side for miles and miles. I was wondering what to do when the highway finally narrowed and came to an intersection with another highway. I thought, wonderful. If there's a place for a motel to be, this would be it.
But all I could see at the intersection was a Tim Horton's with a gas station, a Burger King and Home Depot, a Starbucks (they are truly everywhere. And evil.) and something I can't remember. Looking farther ahead down seven, I saw a big Ford dealership sign, which blocked out everything beyond it. If I were to go much farther down seven, I would be getting too far from where I wanted to be and to go the next day. The road that crossed seven was heading to some small towns to the north of us. and would be considerably closer to where I wanted to be. I turned right and headed north.
There must have been some hotels around, but I just didn't see any. But the turn did lead to what was the highlight of the trip for my mother: Grand Falls in the town of Almonte.
As we left Almonte, Younger piped up that she had to go to the bathroom. Puff and mother quickly chimed in that they needed to go too. So I began looking for a Tim Horton's, or a fast food place, or somewhere to stop and let them go to the bathroom. Had they been three men, I would simply have stopped the car at the side of the road, and y'know. But they weren't and here we were. I found myself driving in a large, wide circle through eighty miles of nothing. Absolutely nothing. I couldn't even find a Tim's, which has never happened to me before. I must have found the only eighty mile stretch of road in the country without a Tim's. I had thought that was illegal. I'm sure it's written into our constitution somewhere that there must be a Tim's every ten miles.
The circle brought us back to that intersection. I pulled into the Tim's/gas station and the women disembarked. I told Puff to ask the attendants if they knew where the nearest hotel was. I settled into my seat, and stared absently out the front window while they were gone.
It took a moment for me to realise what I was seeing. From the Tim's Parking lot I got a view down seven that was different from back at the stop lights. I could now see what had previously been hidden by the Ford dealership sign: three motels. "Of course," I thought, "Of course."
Puff came back. "The attendant says there's a couple just over..."
"I know," I said. "I kn ow."
We spent the night at one of the motels (it was a nice motel, once I forgave it for hiding behind a sign), then rose early in the morning to resume our trip. We went to the little town of Pakenham, home to two of the Seven Wonders of Lanark County.
The first is a bridge.
Behold the mighty Five arch stone bridge (of which there is only on in North America) as it spans the mighty Mississippi River (of which there are two.)
I parked the car near the bridge so mother could sketch the bridge comfortably. The rest of us went out and walked around, after we carefully wound down the windows and left doors open on the car so she wouldn't get overheated. We enjoyed the sights and the nice breeze. I spoke to a fisherman. When we got back to the car, it was filled with mosquitoes. Poor mom. We hadn't realised they would be flying into the car for 1. food and 2. to get out of the breeze.
Close by the bridge is Wonder Number Two, St Peter Celestine Church.
It's another small, beautiful country church. Built over a century ago in a french style, which makes it stand out from other Ontario churches of the era, which are almost all Gothic. I could say more, but they have an excellent website that says it much better than I.
The interior was a feast for the eyes, beauty and symbols of our faith everywhere.
After Mass we began our long winding trek home. I drove us back along seven so we could take in the scenery. We stopped in for ice cream in Bobcaygeon and then I took mother to one last stop- Lucy Maude Montgomery's house in Leaskdale.
Montgomery lived there with her husband for a time when he was pastor of the local Presbyterian church. She wrote half of her Anne novels in that house, although, alas, not the first one.
She wrote every morning from nine until noon sitting in her front parlour (the windows to which are circled above) and forbade anyone to interrupt her. Her sons used to slip her notes under the door. The area where she lived would still be recognisable to her today. I suspect large parts of it have not changed much in the intervening years. Her house and the church are now kept as museums in honour to her. In the upstairs bedroom there is a quilt with the names of many benefactors who help keep the museum going. About a quarter to half the names are Japanese, where Red Haired Anne is very popular. I wonder how the joke about spelling her name with an 'e' would translate into Japanese characters.
And so home. A long trip with lots of driving, but mother was happy, and we all had a good time. It is one thing mother and I share. We love to go on drives and see our homes. As long as she's above dirt and can still move a little, I'll keep taking her.