Papa, c’est pour toi

Nellie-Rose is rocking on her own art extravaganza. Most days on arriving home, I’m presented with one of her latest pieces – mixed media, a painting, or a drawing. She looks at me with a smile and says, “papa, c’est pour toi“.
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I now have a growing body of work and I’m running out of exhibit space. Mé has bought folders for both Nellie and Noah where we can keep the originals of selected treasures. Others will digitized by scanner or photo. I think it will be great for them to see their visually creative stirrings years from now.

This is an early family portrait. Nellie is always positioned right next to maman. She’s her right hand gal. Lila and Noah are orbiting in a free valence kind of way, certainly not part of the central action. I am not really a ping pong ball.

And this suits Nellie’s outlook on the world – crafting with nature. She is a collector of shells, leaves, rocks and twigs. Her coloured hand is sprouting leafy flowers and one is even a coeur d’amour, a heart of hearts.

Merci Nellie pour tes beaux cadeaux. Je les adore. Your art always lifts my heart.

Awesome!

Teddy has been a lot of things over the years including left behind and lost in Southern California. He made it back home to Halifax that time only to have to hop into a car and drive to Montreal to be reunited with his buddy Noah.

Now, Teddy is a sports star. Not just any sport but the glorious game of hockey. He’s also one of the many inspirations Noah calls upon to practice his writing, spelling and alphabeting. The other morning, maman got the spelling out call – “how do you write awesome?” Noah shouted. Maman thought this was a great chance to use the dictionary but Noah couldn’t wait so he went out on his own.

Maman could hear him voicing out the sounds – “aw, o, aw, o, ssss, ssss, mmmm, mmmm. aw sss mmmm. Maman, come see, come see, I’ve got it.” This is what he came up with – awesome = osm. And how does Teddy fit into all this? Well, he scored seven goals in a hockey game and he was, you guessed it, awesome!

A Palette of Fun

I recently took in Nocturne – art a night. It was a great show with happenings throughout the city. Maybe we’ll see Noah there in a future edition.

He is seeing differently now and capturing it in his paintings. It’s a whole new creative groove for him. I love the jaunty feel of his self portrait, bright and smiling with all 10 fingers. This reproduction doesn’t do the work justice as it truncates his feet.

He loves colour, colours – bright and broad. He knocked off sunrise morning with great satisfaction earlier today.

That’s our car in the foreground ready to drive along the black, black road right into the sunrise.

That’s it for this edition of digital art. Nellie’s coming soon. Her style is going through a great leap also.

Freestyle Land Swim

Lila’s training regime is picking up. Just about a month ago, brother Bob took a look at her cruising along the floor and dubbed it land swimming. It’s a good description. All that’s missing is the water as she puts her arms and legs through the motions of the dry freestyle crawl. Is this a premonition of things to come, or a longing for in uterus floating acrobatics?

She’s good to go on all surfaces – carpet, tile, linoleum, grass and hardwood. She would be a hazard to herself on a outdoor deck though. Noah blazed that particular path of learning for us at about the same age Lila is now and had the slivers to prove it. We took him into the IWK Children’s Hospital and they had a ‘we see a lot of this in the summer’ smile for us. Noah wasn’t in any pain and the slivers worked themselves out over time.

Lila is really working up a good head of steam with her signature version of the dry crawl. There is really no stopping her. Well, stairs do form an impediment going up and a danger in the down direction. On all flat surfaces though she’s becoming a speed demon and can get exactly where she wants to go.

Our girl’s latest twist is the big toe push. As she extends first one leg, then the other, she raises alternate feet with a full flex of the big toe while propelling herself forward. She’s getting traction and covering large distances with the greatest of ease.

Rocking back and forth on hands and knees is becoming a more frequent pastime. There’s a transition in the works. Before long the innovative yet ungainly land swimming will be so passé. In a matter of days, Lila will be launching herself into all fours full scale locomotion – a brand new sport.

The Indelible One

It only takes a minute with Nellie. She sees an opportunity and she goes. Not literally of course, but then again she’s not allowed out on her own. No, I mean she dives into her latest project passionately, fully, deeply.

We’re not sure if it’s fashion madness or faux pas for her most recent adventure. It depends on your point of view. Nellie transforms herself into the amazing human whiteboard. She’s her own design playground. Already she can tote up tattoo artist in her experience column. Not a bad job either given the brief spell she is on her own to create this solo work of fun and fancy. The close up of her sole demonstrates her attention to detail and her flair with the marker.

Being at work, I don’t have the joy of seeing this live. As a consolation prize, I do get to show my workmates a photo and share a good laugh about our talented and unrepentant Nellie-Rose. She is a maverick blazing her own trail. There’s a lot more in store for us. We’ll be well educated over the next few years.

He Shoots, He Scores

Another great evening on the Eastern Passage mini soccer fields. Our lad Noah runs half the pitch nicely controlling the ball all the way to the goal. He pops it into the net and runs back toward his team mates. He’s euphoric, ecstatic almost orbital.

We relive the feat when we get home for maman’s benefit. We go through the paces again as he settles into bed for the night. It’s a play by play not only of the action but of the crowd response too. Still awake well over an hour after his usual bedtime, he tells maman that he wants to score a goal with his head.

He’s eager for the next game. Now that he knows there is a tournament on the horizon, he’s musing out loud wondering if they will be getting another medal. Granma Helen and Grampa Bob are regulars on Tuesdays. I’ve told GH she can stop watching the Premier League now and concentrate on the games in the The Passage. Maybe she could even be a scout for the big leagues. Right now Noah has a good combo – the legs, the coordination and the heart. He’s having plenty of fun.

Montréal by Night

Time out on the town is an infrequent treat for Mé and I. When we get to solo it’s a blast, like drinking a good long draught of playful fancy. Our last night in Sorel and we’re zipping west down the 30 to Montréal. The three babies are with grand-maman and grand-papa being lavished with final moments of delicious spoiling prior to our Nova Scotia departure.

We’re on our way to an African celebration at le Cabaret du Mile-End on Avenue du Parc in the heart of Montréal’s Plateau district. It’s the kick-off for the well-established Nuits d’Afrique festival now in its 24th year.

Mé finds the club as I’m parking the car – in an expensive, we’re giving you a ticket spot as it later turns out. There is only a trickle of people arriving. Up two flights of stairs and into the venue. It’s packed. All 500 seats and more are taken. There is a hum of excitement in the air, that electric charge of pre-show anticipation. We find seats at a table that already has two occupants and settle in.

A symphony of languages swirls through the room. Flowing boubous of riotous colours are tropical beacons in the dimly lit interior. This is an evening to step out and salute African culture and music. I’m happy we’re here together to hear Dobet Ghanoré, a rising star from Côte d’Ivoire. The fans on her myspace page are a who’s who of African music. This is no surprise given her voice, musical arrangements and arresting stage presence.

Our table companions are a brother and sister in their 40s, or early 50s from the city. We speak a little over the buzz sharing snippets like bite-sized amuse-gueules. We hear the voice first and then Ghanoré takes the stage, embracing us in a sweep of her arm. For the rest of the evening, we are transported to her place of dance, of drum, of story and for good measure some sweet West African guitar licks.

Thanks Dobet. It’s a night out to remember – festival city, vibrant beats and time alone with my love. That time alone piece is hard to squeeze in with three under fives. When it does roll around at the end of the day, we’re usually dragging our asses, or lolling into sleep. It’s fun to get out and stir it up.

Vernissage

The reviews are in for Nellie-Rose’s first show and we’re popping the champagne corks. If you were not one of the lucky ones to see this spontaneous event live, check a couple of these rare photos.

“A virtuoso piece for her first public exhibition.”
Sandbanks Sentinel

“Performance art as it should be practiced.”
New York Art

“An audacious use of space and materials, colour, form and symbolism ”
La Rive Gauche

“A precocious tour de force.”
Post Modern Happenings

Drum me Better, Drum me Sweet

It’s hot and humid, sticky like glue. Around the world, hundreds of millions are tuned to TV and radio for the glorious final of the beautiful game. Live from South Africa new kings are waiting to be crowned.

Noah and I are on a just the boys mission to Montreal. First stop is the playground installed last year in Parc Mont-Royal. It’s right there next to Lac des Castors – such a patriotic name, Beaver Lake. There’s nice, new equipment unlike the standard fare seen in most playgrounds across North America. Noah takes in some swinging, climbing and splashing before we make our way to the base of the mountain on the Avenue du Parc side. On the way down, we pit stop at the panoramic look off. It’s a great view of the city stretching east beyond the Olympic Stadium – quelle vue urbaine merveilleuse.

We find a parking spot at the corner of Rachel Ouest and Esplanade just a short walk to the monument that honours Sir George-Étienne Cartier. This eastern slope of the mountain is the djembe jam beat of the city. Since the late ’70s, tam-tam lovers have congregated here on Sunday afternoons to listen, play and dance.

I’ve been percussioned here a handful of times over the last couple of decades. Drums are a compelling force for me since spending 5 months in Sénégal in ’78-’79. There, they are a fixture of daily life, the soundtrack of major rites of passage – births, baptisms, weddings and death.

I love the staccato shots of the Oulof drums, hands cracking sound that set limbs moving involuntarily. Further south, the Diola drummers of Casamance dance their hands across the three skins of the bougareb-bou. One night the Suelle griot motions me to come forward from the starlit sidelines. He gently straps his belled leather bracelets on my forearms. The dancers continue their gyrations and the deaf mute starts to step out to my pitiful, whimpering rhythms.

Even though I cannot find the beat, the moments are magic. Smiling, the griot returns to his three drum orchestra and lets loose a rich rumble of rolling thunder. Arms and legs like speeding pistons trace an intense choreography between earth and sky. Ululations pierce the night and the ground shakes deep down into the silk cotton tree’s roots. Heart pounding furiously, my first public concert is a wrap. I am still amazed at the generosity and graciousness of the villagers allowing me to lead the dance.

I have wanted to bring Noah-David here for the last few summers but the timing has never been right. Now we’re walking across Parc Jeanne-Mance and we can hear the drums over the drone of traffic on Avenue du Parc. We cross the four lanes and approach the monument. In the southwest corner there are about 15 drummers fanned out in a crescent with dancers drifting in and out of the open circle.

Noah and I walk around the periphery looking at the vendors’ merchandise. We need a small drum for him to play. This afternoon the event is not very crowded. Usually drummers are chock-a-block on the western steps of the monument. Today no one is seated there. It’s the pull of the World Cup. We purchase a small drum from a young Senegalese woman. “Jërëjëf,” I say (thank you) as we make our way to drummer central.

We stake a place just off to the side of the main action and Noah does his thing. The beat is coursing through him. At home we have an assortment of drums that we break out occasionally for jam sessions. This is his first time playing in public. After all these years I have not really improved much. Maybe it’s a retirement project. I have a beautiful djembe that I received as a gift from Mélanie and buddy Moussa for my 50th. With Noah’s early start perhaps he’ll be our drummer boy.

Out of the blue, Noah looks up at me and says, “Papa, I want to go now.” He’s looking pale. I gather our stuff and start heading to the car. We stop at the lights. On the other side in Parc Jeanne Mance he needs a rest. We lay down in the grass and I shade him with my body.

After a few minutes I take him to the water fountain for a drink. He doesn’t take much even with continued coaxing. He’s tired and overheated. We lie down again. He vomits a little. It’s back to the water fountain. I can lead him there but I can’t force him to drink. We’re in the last stretch to get to the car – about 200 metres, maybe a little more. He’s too tired to walk. I scoop him up in my arms and cover the distance as quickly as I can.

Next to our parked car on Rachel Ouest, I lay him down softly on the grass. We watch an unleashed dog cross the street its owner in close pursuit. Though not his usual litany he is asking some questions. His face is pale. I start the car and flash the air conditioning to high. He wants to get back to Sorel and see maman. We have to wait a few minutes because the car is an inferno.

When it’s cool enough to move out, I buckle him in and give him kisses on his forehead and cheeks. I tell him we’ll be in Sorel soon and he’ll see his maman. Almost immediately, he falls asleep. I’m a little worried. I shake him every couple of minutes or so as we make our way out of the city. I shout his name loudly to see if he stirs. When he does I ask him where we are and what we are doing. He gives the right answers. I’m still a little nervous because of the precipitous turn of events at the drumming, the vomiting and the pallor.

I have to gas up at the station on rue Papineau next to the Jacques Cartier bridge before starting out on the 40 minute drive. Noah’s breathing is steady. I decide that he’s okay and just needs to sleep after a busy outing and a little too much sun. I keep looking in the rear view mirror as we cross the bridge. I wish I was hearing the excited, chattery questions he was firing off as we crossed the same span just a few hours earlier.

I hit the 30 and I’m speeding. I just want my boy to wake up and be fine, to be brimming over with that ebullient wonder, the unstoppable force of why and how. I turn on the radio as a distraction. English commentators serve up a torpid play by play of the Dutch and Spanish World Cup final still tied with 20 minutes left to play. I look in the rear view and my boy is back – eyes smiling. He’s alert, awake and okay. “Allo papa,” he says. My world gets back to the one son beat.

First seen here

There have been so many firsts with the kids over the course of this finest gift parental leave wonderathon. Recent weeks are no exception. We left for Québec in June with a wobbly, gummy girl and returned home in July with a two toother who sits up by herself. Two nights ago for the first time in her young life, our Lila-Jeanne went to sleep solo in her playpen without rocking, cuddling, cajoling or cooing. There was some wailing and gnashing of the two teeth but eventually sleep won over. This is a huge breakthrough for us.

Nellie-Rose is just out of the blocks rolling on her new tricycle. She likes the mobility and the fact that she is now in league with big brother in the self propelled wheels gang. When I started this leave Nellie had just turned two. Over these few months, she’s been rocking through the changes – from high chair to the dining room table, from diapers to petites culottes (panties) and from soother heaven to cold turkey schnuliefest cutoff. The adjustments – some still ongoing – have been colourful, occasionally loud and always infused with that trademark je ne sais quoi Nelliness. By her own reckoning, she is now a grande fille and we support her in this assessment. She is also fiercely independent and can do just about anything ‘all by herself’.

Noah-David is fully engaged in soccer, his first organized sport. The coed Bumblebees play in a five team league twice a week in Eastern Passage. Parents, grandparents and sundry relatives cheer on the wee ones as they buzz around the ball moving it in fits and starts up and down the field. There is now a medal hanging from the curtain rod in his bedroom attesting to his participation in a soccer mania weekend hosted by the Dartmouth United club. I filled in for the regular coach in game 1 (a loss) and helped the coach out in game 2 (a win). Noah got his first two goals ever in organized play. He is still glowing.

This finest gift is unwrapped and well out of the box. There are just three weeks left before I return to the workplace. It’s gone by so quickly. I know I’ll be dreaming of this gift for a long time to come.