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The Baby Dolly and Me

June 10, 2009

It’s just after 9 o’clock Wednesday morning. The sun has just cut through several days’ worth of grey and rain. I am walking through a forest, along a well-worn trail. Two teenaged boys, complete with shaggy hair, baggy jeans and that goaty smell, pop out of a side trail, stop when they spot me, and snicker.

I am a 40-year-old man, alone in the woods, holding a baby dolly and a bouquet of daisies.

There’s a story here. See, my kids, 10, 7 and 5, wanted to walk to school this morning. This is not something we normally do, even though their school is just a kilometre away. The road I live on has no sidewalks, and during rush hour is used by morons from the outlying villages who are commuting to their city jobs, or racing to shop at Wal-Mart. They bomb down my 50 km/h road at more than 80. It makes getting out of my driveway sometimes a problem; I don’t like the idea of my kids walking it, even with me there.

The other option is the forest. My field and the kids’ schoolyard back onto the same patch of forest, several square miles of trails and tangle. We spend a lot of time back there — always with a bit of caution, because we’ve come across a homeless campout or two — and we know the trails well. Well enough to know that after three days of rain, the trails are thick, dirty mud, and the going can be tough.

But they wanted to go. And I finally said “okay, what the hey.” We set off at 8:15 or so, the four of us. At the last minute, my daughter grabbed her favourite dolly, the one that laughs when you squeeze its belly, and said she wanted to bring it to school. I gave up arguing about this months ago.

The trails weren’t bad. We had a couple of puddles to manage, but we stayed dry. Along the way, my youngest picked a sizeable bouquet of daisies for his teacher. He loves his teacher. We all do, really. But as the bouquet grew bigger, it became harder to hold onto it.

  • Him: “Daddy, you carry it.”
  • Me: “I’m already carrying your backpack. You want to pick the flowers, you carry them.”
  • Him (turning to sister): “I was kidding about giving these to Mrs. W. They’re for you.”
  • Her: “Thanks! (adjusts backpack and doll) Daddy, can you carry my flowers?”

So this is how I ended up carrying flowers.

We arrived at the schoolyard. My daughter looked at her friends, looked at her doll, then had some kind of weird moment. She handed me the dolly. “I don’t want her after all. Can you take her home and babysit for me?”

I ended up standing near the doors (I have to wait until my youngest’s kindergarten class enters the school) holding the daisies and the dolly as students eyed me up and down. With my kids scattered acround the playground, it may not have been apparent that I was a parent. Finally, the bell rang, and in they went, and I headed home.

Aside from the encounter with the teenagers, the only other problem came when I ducked out of the woods to avoid the mosquitos and shortcutted down a street that runs off mine. This is a quiet cul de sac with a dozen or so McMansions on it, one of our city’s nicer streets. These people already eye my little old house with disdain; this morning, they got to see unshaven me trudging past their manicured lawns, with a doll and flowers, snickering away (I was listening to Crimes Against Food). While the teens in the forest made me blush a little, I didn’t feel bad about upsetting that middle-aged white guy hosing down his BMW.

Maybe I’ll wear my Spider-Man costume when I go pick the kids up. It looks really funny now that I’m carrying a few extra belt-pounds.

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