It’s Not All Mary Poppins

It must be Fate

Oh, what a spectacular day it was today! Sky a clear, pale blue, interrupted only occasionally by the wispiest of brilliant white clouds. Temperatures a balmy twenty degrees. All the leaves are out on the trees, the grass is green, dandelions abound, and baby ducks bob in peeping clusters after their mothers on the river.

Where else would we go but to the park on a day such as this? Well, actually, we might go to Tim Horton’s. Somehow Thomas had decided that this might be a potential destination of our outing today, so when asked whether we should go to the park this morning, he answered “No.” I was shocked! Here I was, thinking I was asking an entirely rhetorical question, and I’m completely blind-sided by a two-year-old. This particular two-year-old, you must understand, loves going to the park. He never wants to go anywhere but. Ask him one bitter, minus-30 January day what he wants to do, and he’ll want to go to the park, never mind that it’s buried under a metre of snow…

But today he wants to go to Tim Horton’s, aka “The Doughnut Store”. (For my non-Canadian readers, Tim Horton’s is a country-wide chain of coffee and doughnut stores, named for its hockey player originator. It’s hugely popular in rural Canada, and holds its own well in most urban centres, despite urban competition from more upscale joints with their high-falutin’ cappucinos, lattes and suchlike.) Well, it may have come as a surprise, but we can walk along the river almost the whole way there, get some sun, watch the ducks, romp along the path. It’s not such a silly notion. And besides, I’d like a coffee, now that he suggests it!

It takes us a solid forty-five minutes to walk the kilometre or so to the place. We run in the fields, we pick dandelions, we find glittering bits of quartz that must be pocketed. We dance on the stumps by the river, sneak up on a couple of sun-bathing ducks, pet a dog or two. We find a puddle that must be stomped in, a bridge to peek under, some pigeons to startle into flight.

When we approach the “busy street” upon which the store is located, Zach goes into the stroller, with Thomas and Darcy in their usual outrigger roles. All this in the interests of safety, of course.

The shop has two entry doors, set at right angles to each other. You walk alongside the store to the first door, then immediately turn to your left to enter the shop. This is far more trouble than it might appear from the description. I need one hand to steer the stroller, another to hold the door open for us. With slightly older/heavier children, I could set one to act as door stopper, leaning their bottom against the glass of the door while we pass. But these guys are too light for that, and are merely swept inexorably forward as the door shuts upon them. So, having opened the door with my one hand, I prop it open with my own bottom, and manoeuvre the stroller round the 90 degree corner in front of me.

Remember that the two older boys are still hanging on. Inevitably one ends up compressed between the stroller and the wall, or the stroller and my legs, such that he cannot pass – not if he stills hangs on to the stroller, and obedient little tykes that they are, they rarely let go unless told. So while trying to push the stroller forward, it is being held back on one side by a stuck child, and now it’s not going forward, it’s going into the wall, and now the other child is being run over, and I have to dislodge their hands from the stroller, and I can’t get ahead of it because that would mean moving my bum and having the door shut on us, and…

You see the difficulty. I’m anticipating my coffee, well-earned by now!

However, we do successfully, if awkwardly, achieve the inside of the shop. I order my coffee (large decaf, two cream, no sugar), and a small box of Timbits. (“Timbits”, called by Americans “donut holes”, are round doughnut balls, a couple of cm in diameter.) Now, I’ve always simply asked for half plain and half chocolate, but this morning I can’t remember why I do that, and so let the nice lady give us an assortment of all their flavours.

We sit down. I savour my first sip of coffee. Once they dive in to their treat, I am given three graphic demonstrations of why I never, ever order jam-filled timbits. We will definitely have to make a trip to the bathroom before we leave! Jam-sticky hands and faces collect icing sugar, grit and grass bits appear from nowhere and attach themselves to necks and arms. They’re adorable, and they’re filthy. Ah, well. Let me just finish my coffee, then we’ll clean them up. One more luscious sip. And then Zach, sitting happily on my knee, sneezes. Of course his mouth was full when he did this. Of course. Bit of jam-filled soggy timbit chunks spatter all over my arm. All right, boys, we’re hitting the bathroom now.

More double-door manoeuvring, because of course the doors to the toilets are set up in the same was as the entry doors! Thankfully, some nice man holds the door for us. Altruism, or merely his own need to get to the men’s? I didn’t ask, because truthfully, I didn’t care!

We wash up. We have our pees. We head out. I make sure Darcy and Thomas have their shiny rocks, and Zach his “ah-poon”(airplane) from the counter by the sink. We navigate through the double doors to the store, and then through the other double doors to the sidewalk. Phew. It’s not till I’m settling each of their matching hats on their little heads that I realize the awful truth: I’ve left my coffee in the bathroom!

Some things were just not meant to be.

May 31, 2005 - Posted by | Ottawa, outings


  1. Not being a coffee drinker, perhaps I can’t generate enough empathy for your “forgetfulness,” but I certainly found your adventure quite entertaining.

    Comment by aaron | May 31, 2005 | Reply

  2. A perk of blogging. Someone could ask me what I did today, and I could say, “We went to the coffee shop.” People might rightfully wonder how I could justify spending the morning doing that! But when I blog it, a walk for a coffee becomes an “adventure”.

    Which, with three or five toddlers, it is, of course!

    Comment by Mary P. | June 1, 2005 | Reply

  3. I fail to see how leaving a DECAF (uuurgh!) coffee behind can classify as a trauma. Now, a cup of tea, that’s a whole different level of emergency! 🙂 I’d call out the national guard for a lost cup of tea.

    Comment by Simon Peter | June 1, 2005 | Reply

  4. Decaf, yes, well… I have been an inveterate tea drinker since the age of eleven; I learned to drink coffee only when I turned thirty, but I’ve always preferred tea. However, about five years ago I developed a “pre-ulcerous condition” which necessitated a strict diet for a while lest it turn into a full-fledged ulcer.

    Two completely alcohol- and caffeine-free years followed. The caffeine deprivation was by far the most severe.

    My alcohol tolerance has returned. I can now quaff a pint, pain-free, or a civilized gin and tonic on a summer afternoon. However, my poor old stomach can just barely tolerate a cup of tea, and only if I take pills before and after! Coffee, with its higher levels of caffeine, is completely out of the question.

    Herbal teas, though I like them, just don’t cut it when black tea is what I want, and decaf tea tastes, on a good day, like thrice-used teabag tea. On bad days, I’ve been heard to mutter blackly about “shrew’s urine”. A waste of perfectly good water. Decaf coffee, however, is tolerable.

    So there you have my long, sad, story… And oh, I miss my tea!

    Comment by Mary P. | June 1, 2005 | Reply

  5. I liked what you said about daddy rowdiness versus mommy carefulness in your comments on another blog. And its nice you still give your ex some credit.

    Comment by Kevin B | June 2, 2005 | Reply

  6. Thanks! Nice of you to drop by just to say that. Which blog was that, anyway? I’d like to go back, but I forgot to bookmark it.

    And my ex couldn’t be all bad: he did manage to co-produce three terrific kids!

    Comment by Mary P. | June 2, 2005 | Reply

  7. I think that was my post on bathing small children.

    And yes, Mary’s comments were good. 🙂

    Comment by Simon Peter | June 3, 2005 | Reply

  8. Hey there, Simon. I found the post after I wrote this comment. And I do have you bookmarked! Mental hiccup.

    Comment by Mary P. | June 3, 2005 | Reply

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