No Dinosaur Park

I am not welcome at the dinosaur park anymore.

I keep a daily log. A very detailed daily and I know this little adventure started on June 21 at 4:15 pm in Couchiching Park near the newly constructed port office building at the picnic table right beside the gazebo. You know, the one where the seagulls strut around boldly looking for handouts and scraps of bread. The sun was shining, the wind was cool – a refreshing cool not a chilling cool.

It was one of the last days of school and we were able to go for bike rides without taking a jacket. I picked my eight-year-old grandson, Vincent, up from the school bus and we went to Couchiching Park for a picnic supper, This had become our standard routine for the last month. Vincent said that he was more hungry than adventurous so we ate supper first and would go to the skate park later.

We set Vincent’s magic backpack on the picnic table and started to unload it. We considered it magic because, much like a magician’s hat, one could pull an endless number of rabbits of it. We sat down and, one at a time, he would carefully pull an object and hold it up for inspection before placing it on the table. Look… one thermos of hot soup, two bottles of water, two plastic sandwich containers, two oranges, a dish of strawberries and cups of yogurt. That was just the beginning of the magic. Next he extracted one not so small teddy bear, a deck of Pikachu cards, two small soccer balls (one was flat), the red tie that he wore on red and white day, his report book in which his teacher always said nice things, a fidget spinner and a mangled drawing of something really important. Today, it also produced a kite. He set the last item on the table and gave it a curious look. That was truly a surprise. It had not been there yesterday and neither of us knows, or will admit to knowing, how it got in the backpack.

We were hungry so we left the stash of treasures on the table and dove into supper. He was very careful not to give the begging seagull any bread because the sign at the water’s edge said, ‘Real bird’s don’t eat bread.’ He did flick some pieces of peas and corn at them just to see them dance around and over each other to get their snack.

We finished the last of the yogurt and the fruit and drained the water bottles. We were done and we were full. He threw disposable containers in the recycling as I repacked the magic bag. Just as he came back to the table a gust of wind stirred little clouds of dust off the sidewalk, grabbed the kite and tossed it on the grass. Vincent ran to save it from the seagulls and clutching above his head he declared, “We will fly this kite!”

My heart sunk. That shouldn’t be my first reaction when my grandson says that he wants to do something cool together. We go swimming and it’s great – I can swim well. We go bike riding – I enjoy riding a bike. We cooked together – I love cooking and am good at it. However, I have never been able to get a kite to fly. He was on his own here, “Go ahead,” I said as cheerfully as I could, “I’m right behind you.”

I have a crystal clear memory of Dad taking my brother and I to an open park on a blustery summer day. Puffy clouds moved across the vast sky and as we approached a huge field with a rolling hill at the far end. I saw at least ten or twelve groups of people pulling soaring kites of all kinds. They dived and danced to the delight of everyone below. This was great! We’re going to fly a kite! There was a lot of running up and down the field. There was a lot of fidgeting with the wooden struts, the colorful streaming tail and the tangled string. I even learned a couple new words that day, but there was no ‘flying.’ We tried it again half-heartedly several times since then but we already knew that it was bogus. Despite proof to the contrary, we knew that kites don’t really fly, and they never did. After a while, it was just something we didn’t do.

And now my grandson was about to experience the same disappointment and I thought to myself, ‘I will be there to console him when it doesn’t work but I will have to let him discover the heartbreak on his own.’ I smiled, kept quiet and helped him attach the plastic straw that stretched the kite open. We hooked the long string on the kite and Vincent held it up with a big smile. “It’s Spiderman!’

Sure enough, this small pathetic sheet of plastic had the mask of my childhood hero boldly printed on it in bright red and black. Spidey was going to be the one to disappoint my grandson at this tender time of his life. We walked over to the middle of the field. It seemed ridiculous. We were standing in the middle of a gigantic field holding the smallest kite I’ve ever seen. I looked around to see if there was anyone I knew in the park. Good, no one is looking. “Okay buddy, let’s do this.”

“I’ll run,” he said enthusiastically.

“Yeah, that will help,” I said with a total lack of conviction. I felt bad lying to him. ‘Okay. let out some string and I’ll hold the kite for you.” ‘Ready?”

“Yes!”

“Run like the wind!” and I gave the kite a little toss as he bolted down the field.

I was just going to let him run and drag the kite around the park for a while. When he got tired of the kite we would go biking and stop in at the skatepark. That was always interesting.

“Look Grandpa!”

I turned my head and I’ll be damned if the piece of dollar store junk hadn’t shot forty feet into the air and was straining against the string. Vincent was laughing and smiling.

“That’s great kid, I knew you could do it! Keep running.”

I had two thoughts at that moment.

The first was, “Fantastic, what a great experience.”

The second was, ‘I like the thought that he will not have the same restrictions and limitations that I unconsciously accepted all my life. He has his own, fresh perspective. I made a mental note to never get in the way of that.

Actually, there was third thought that was much stronger than the other two.

“I wonder if the wind will still be blowing this strong after he goes to bed?”

His enthusiasm, determination and success were contagious. I went out and bought another kite for $1.25. It lasted for 20 minutes and the stick fell out and the plastic tore. I got bolder and spend a full $3 on the ‘Delta Wing” model. This had to work – it had a picture of a Transformer on it. However, Transformer lasted two sessions before the stitching fell apart. I had the bug now and I took a $5 kite on our visit to my great grandkids Lily and Ethan in New Hamburg. We had fun because they already had kites and we all flew/dragged our kites together. Their quick thinking Mom got video evidence that my kite flew for a good 15 seconds.

Video evidence isn’t always good. I was still on the kite kick when we visited Jim and Shirley in their wilderness retreat up north. Jim and I did our best to get the kite to fly. Mercifully, no one seemed to pay any attention to two silly old fools trying to fly a kite in a back field. That might have been amusing enough, but there was next to no wind. Being the resourceful people we are, Jim got out his portable leaf blower…, never mind, it just didn’t go well. In the end, Jim clipped the kite to the clothes line rolled it out to hang in the yard. The ladies say they got video evidence of the leaf blower event, but unfortunately, it seems to have vanished.

Then I got serious. I found a not-a-toy, rip-stop nylon, parafoil, kite at half price. It flies like a dream, but the irony is that there had been next to no wind for over a month. I would notice that the trees were being blown around outside. I would jump in the car and head for the park. The winds got stronger, the clouds got darker and by the time I approached the park it was raining so hard that I had to pull off to the side of the road.

Today the wind started up with a vengeance. I grabbed the car keys and my hat. I was going to the dinosaur park. By the time I got to the park rain was coming down so hard that the wipers couldn’t clear the windshield. So, I waited. In fifteen minutes the rain had stopped but the wind hadn’t. This was my chance.

They call it the dinosaur park because the city set up sand boxes and fake buried bones so that kids can dig them up. It’s one of the newer parks in town, surrounded by one of the newer neighbourhoods with newer, very nice houses. Around the perimeter of the park is a row of Charlie Brown kite-eating trees.

I walked quickly to the far end of the big field to a small rolling hill, tossed the kite up and the wind carried it away. Awesome! It flew and soared and dipped and dived. It was like having the biggest salmon ever at the end of my line. Would the line break? Would the kite fold? It held strong as I let almost all the line on the reel out. It was a strong, steady wind and it was magnificent.

I was doing my best to avoid the kite-eating trees but the wind slowed down for a moment, the kite dipped and I could feel the vibration in the line as it brushed through the leaves and branches of a Charlie Brown tree. Damn, I was caught!

I rolled up five hundred yards of string onto the tiny reel and gently tugged and pulled the line that disappeared into the main branches. I had been caught once before and the wind had lifted the kite out by itself. A voice in my head was saying, ‘Think positively, the wind will lift it out.’ another, more convincing little voice was saying, ‘Now you’ve done it. The kite’s a goner.” I thought back to the other park and the numerous kites that had been tree eaten and were perishing high in the outstretched arms of those vicious monsters. I also remember having ungenerous thoughts about people who could be so stupid as to fly a kite so close to the trees.

I looked at the branches closely as I circled the tree I couldn’t see my kite at all. The tree wasn’t that big and the kite had bright rainbow colours. I tried to figure it out when a woman, with a cell phone poised in one hand, stepped out of the back door of one of the nicest houses, “Are you looking for a kite? I think it’s all wrapped up around my car.” It had gone over the tree, over the house and into the next street.

I felt like a guilty twelve-year-old as I went to the front of the house to salvage the wreckage. Sure enough, the kite had gone over the two story house and wrapped itself around the front right tire of a rather expensive car. As I untangled the $17 kite from the $80,000 car I heard a rather exasperated voice come through the front door, “Have you got it yet?”

“Uh, yes, thanks, sorry for the inconvenience.”

I smiled as I walked away. I had my kite back, in perfect condition and it had flown really well.

Just the same, I think I will stay away from the dinosaur park for a while.

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Serena Ward – Mary Ward – Jessica Ward – Samantha Vandermolen – Amanda Snedden – Jill Everett-Young – Hazel Ingram – Muriel Cairns – Dennis N Kathryn McMeekin – Alicia Beemer – Wendy Rice Mullen

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