I am in Vancouver, a city too big to be enticing, too busy to be encouraging, in “too big a’ hurry” to be welcoming. I don’t belong here, but my daughter does. This is home to her. I live in a place that by the time the snow flies I will rarely encounter another soul on my daily walks and as you can imagine, that is not the case here. Aimee has made peace with Vancouver’s concrete and steel, with its busy roads, with its bumper to bumper cars spewing out pollution that makes my throat hurt and my eyes sting, and with lots and lots of rain. Who would want to live here, I find myself muttering under my breath? She does and is happy to do so, with the mountains beckoning her for snowboarding and mountain biking, with the massive trees watching over her, with the moderate climate soothing her. I couldn’t do it.
I spend my days at the end of a pen, with paper in front of me and long research reading list, while I sit at Aimee’s dining room table. I squeeze writing into the day remaining after I walk my eight-year-old grandson to school, a grandson who isn’t mine alone but whom I get to claim as mine after a two-and-a-half-year gap in visits. Thank you, Covid, I say using my most disingenuous tone. I walk my grandson’s dog to help Cedar release some of his pent-up joy so that he might curl up on his cozy bed in the corner and leave us alone while Linden and I play catch. It sometimes works. And I do whatever I can to make Aimee’s life run smoother.
In our twelve-minute-walk to and from school, Linden and I encountered a large banana peel in our path, dropped by some careless soul who thinks biodegradable waste is okay to drop on the ground. We stepped over it, but I was thinking of the “do as I do” adage when it comes to raising children. Linden gave me a head’s up when we first encountered the banana peel and I managed to step over it without incident. “People shouldn’t throw garbage on the ground,” Linden said, his voice filled with conviction. “That’s quite right,” I said. And then after a few moments of thought, I went on. “When we see something out of place and the remedy is simple, we should correct what we can, where we can,” I said. He agreed wholeheartedly, but still I forgot to pack a garbage bag for the next encounter with the banana peel. We stepped over it twice more, until this morning. On my way back from the before school walk, I pulled a dog-poop-bag from my pocket and gathered up the rotting banana culprit. It took me all of three seconds, but I felt a certain hint of pride. On our way back from school, Linden stopped and pointed to where the banana peel had been that morning. “Grandma,” he shouted. “Did you?” I nodded and he hugged me. It was a win-win situation.
Picking up a banana peel hardly qualifies me for the Nobel Peace Prize, but the way Linden looked at me felt even better. He pointed out a problem, I gave him an opinion, and we acted. That action, though beyond simple, will stick with him. He won’t be throwing garbage on the ground, though that isn’t something he would ever do, and he will right a wrong that is within his power the next time he sees it.
I remember walking down Scott Street when I was about eight or nine years old. I watched the adult walking toward me unwrap a stick of Juicy Fruit gum and drop the wrapper onto the sidewalk. I stopped walking and stared at the paper and watched the back of the adult continue down the sidewalk. I remember wondering who was going to pick it up. I have no idea why it was that particular day I took notice of garbage, but I remember it very clearly. I picked up the wrapper and went on my way. Linden and I will carry extra bags for those just-in-case encounters of the garbage kind. We’re a team. Lucky me.