|Despite living in Markham, less than 25 kilometres from Toronto, I really don’t get in to Toronto all that often. And in fact, my children have never been to Toronto. That is, until recently, when I packed the kids in the car and made the trek down to the heart of hog town.Great fun for Kayleigh, 2 years old, driving under all the “super big” bridges that cross the Don Valley Parkway, one of the main north-south arteries in Toronto.After finding “economical” parking for $15, I got Kayleigh out of the car and giggling she said, “Wow, look at all the towers. I love Toronto.” A good start.It was a beautiful spring day so we walked along Lake Shore Blvd to the Air Canada Centre, around the base of the CN tower (also known as “The Big Needle Tower”), walked back along Front Street and through Union Station. A trip to Toronto wouldn’t be complete without a ride on the subway, the train that goes underground.
When I was younger, I have fond memories of kneeling on the seat at the front of the train and watching the lights go by as the train would go through the tunnel from station to station. I had promised Kayleigh the same experience, but was surprised when we got on the front car to find there was no longer a seat only a small reflective window on door. Soon after we got on, that door opened and out came a conductor for a shift change. I explained to him my disappointment with the train, how it used to be in the good old days, and my promise to my daughter. He said that the trains don’t have that seat there anymore. “And besides,” he added, “you really don’t want them seeing some of the things that go on in front of the train anyway.” Ah yes, the harsh realities of life…how times have changed.
Normally, when I go to Toronto, I am not bogged down by a four wheeled baby carrier so I never really noticed the lack of ramps or elevators. This time, not so much, as time and time again, I would reach a set of stairs going up which I’d need to carry the stroller,
Usually, I’d carry the stroller, while Kayleigh would descend or ascend the stairs on her own. Each time, complete strangers (though I suppose the word complete is rather redundant, is there even such a thing as a partial stranger?) would offer to help. Sometimes, it was just a hand for Kayleigh to hold while on the stairs while I clambered up or down the stairs with the stroller and baby. On a short set of stairs, I told Kayeligh that I would carry the stroller to the top and then come back and carry her. This time, she stayed at the bottom of the stairs waiting for me to make good on my promise. Two business women extended their hand to Kayleigh, but she pulled hers away. I knew that it was because she was looking forward to the ride in my arms, but after thanking the women for their kind offer, they said they assumed her cold reaction was because they didn’t know the “safe word”. Oh right, the safe word–guess I better start teaching my daughter about the evils in the world.
|After riding the subway for a couple of stops I decided we better turn around and go back. We got off at Wellesley station. Kayleigh was a little spooked by the train we had just disembarked rushing by.This time she needed to be carried. Here, we had to go up the stairs to ground level and then back down the stairs on the opposite side of the station to get to the southbound trains. Not one, not two, but three people offered to help carry the stroller, with baby inside, to which I gratefully accepted, all the while keeping a close eye on baby, stroller and any missteps that might happen. None did. Impressive!Back in the car and driving slowly with all the other commuters going back home, I reflected on our trip. I was blown away that in the hustle and bustle that is city life, people would take the time to help out. This begs the question, why do people help? Despite my strapping physique, was my man-damsel in distress face so obvious? Do people see a man with two young children and think that something is out of place and feel the need to step in? Or is it that people deep down are just thoughtful and considerate, realizing that taking 30 seconds out of their day makes everyone feel better? Whatever the reason, in this day and age, kindness of strangers is both touching and refreshing. A city is defined as much by its buildings as it is by the people that live and work in them.And I thought about Kayleigh’s first words when we got out of the car, about looking at the towers and saying how she loved Toronto. And I realized, that towers, while large, dark, and imposing, can also be beautiful, protective, and a safe haven to people in need…just like the people of Toronto.
Yes, Kayleigh, I love Toronto too.
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