Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Toronto Santa Claus Parade 2013

    Watching the Toronto Santa Claus Parade is a family tradition.  For us this parade signals the beginning of the holiday season.  Normally we cozy down in our living room with pizza.  The kids all eat their left over Halloween candy, comparing who has the most left.  On the television the floats look so larger much than life.  They seem to tower almost as high as the buildings that stand on either side of them.  It seems like magic.
    It is a tradition that began in my childhood.  When I was a little girl we would go to my Nana's little apartment and gather around her television.  Sitting at Nana's, Toronto seemed a million miles away, almost like the North Pole itself.   Those floats seemed like Christmas magic.  I promised myself that when I was a grown up I would go to Toronto and see that parade in person.  It was a promise that I kept not only to myself, but to my children.

    My first Toronto Santa Claus Parade was my first year at York University.  I was on crutches (that's another story) and being jostled around by the mob of people.  It was overwhelming, and yet a promise fulfilled.  In the end I went up to McDonald's in the Eaton's Centre and watched the parade from a plastic seat, a Big Mac in hand.  I sat there feeling like I had made it.  I was finally a grown up.  I had seen a real Santa Claus Parade in the flesh (the irony of that statement is not lost on me).  

    The first year that Christopher and I took Gabe he was around five.  It was magic all over again.  I got to be that little girl who thought that those floats were magic.  I got to witness that magic through my little boys eyes.  Those floats were so bright, but so small.  As a little girl those floats seemed so much larger than life, but in reality they just about the size of a transport, only not as tall.  There we stood at the side of the road, bundled up against the cold, feeling like the best parents ever!  I was living through my child.  We stood there in awe.  Gabe's little hand nearly falling off from all of the waving.  Then the big guy, the man of the hour, that jolly old elf made his appearance.  Gabe's face filled with wonder, as he just stood there, mouth a gap.  He was star struck.  It was and still is one of my treasured memories.

    Over the years we have made a few return appearances to the parade.  Some years the weather has been lovely, some years it has been miserable.  The one constant was how much the kids loved it.  The last time we visited the parade the twins were only around three.  Elly has never been.  This was the year that we decided to remedy that.  We made it into a week-end mini-vacation (see yesterday's blog).

    We had planned the hotel that we stayed in based on the parade route.  Our hotel was just a few blocks away from the parade.  The weatherman had called for rain all week long.  We had come prepared with rain ponchos that I knew would drown the kids.  Our fingers were crossed, hoping that the weatherman was wrong.  I wonder if Santa had a word with Mother Nature, because by noon the skies were grey, but there was no rain, and the weather was unseasonably warm.  

    We walked down to University and Bloor Street.  The police already had the street blocked off.  From the distance we could see bright red balloons showing the way.  We arrived at the road as a flurry or runners ran past.  They were helping to support the parade with the Holly Jolly Run.  The participants paid $100.00 to enter the run, and their entry fees help support the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.  I was surprised and excited to see that there were only a few people in front of us on the parade route.

    The kids were so excited for the parade to begin.  Elly sat up on Daddy's shoulders.  Throughout the parade she would need to get down and walk off the pin and needles, but then she would be begging to go back up there.  Elly had the best seat in the house. All there was left to do was stand and wait.

    Unlike a lot of people I do not think of Toronto as being inherently bad.  It's busy, and everyone is generally anonymous, that is how I think of Toronto.  I am accustomed to acts of kindness at home, I expect it, that's why I live here.  I don't expect it in Toronto, and that is why it was all the more unexpected.  There was a lady in a wheel chair sitting in front of us.  She had said that her husband was running in the Holly Jolly Fun Run.  She had her daughter sitting beside her in a camp chair, both there to root that generous man on.   Before the parade began several vendors came by selling cotton candy, grossly inflated reindeer antlers and elf hats, and there were army cadets selling reindeer noses.  The lady in the wheelchair asked one of the kids selling the noses how much they were.  She was told that to buy three got her a better price.  She bought three.  She then turned around and gave them to my three youngest children.  I was stunned.  I thanked her profusely, the kids thanked her.  It was so kind and so very unexpected.  She then asked if we would like some hot chocolate, because she had brought to flasks and had lots of cups.  WOW!

    We stood there basking in the warm weather, the excitement and the kindness of a complete stranger.  We stood eagerly anticipating the beginning of the parade.  A policeman came up the street to tell us that the parade was just a block away.  The kids were beside themselves with joy.  It was around this time that the hoard of people began to find their way to our area.  They were the Johnny come latelies who had not thought to come early enough for a good spot, but had enough nerve to just push their way into our spots.  I could feel my temper boiling as grown adults fought their way up to the front, attempting to push in front of our children.  Several times Christopher and I politely reminded people that "our" children had been waiting there for some time, and not to push in front of them.

    By the end of the parade I just wanted to leave.  I was so angry.  On television the parade lasted minutes, in real life it was hours.  I was seething with the injustice of those budders.  My feet hurt, and I  was squashed like a tube of toothpaste.  I very nearly had a temper tantrum and left.  Thankfully my better part, that part that is the mother who wants her children to have beautiful memories, and not memories of Mommy being escorted away from the Toronto Santa Claus Parade with a police escort in handcuffs prevailed.  I looked at my kids.  They were tired, but they were also excited.  The crowds pushing in on them were a annoyance, but they were still having fun.  I took a deep breath.  Toronto is a busy place, with lots of people.  Not everyone has great manners or a sense of fairness, deal with it.  The world is not fair, suck it up sunshine!  After that internal resolution I began to refocus.  I stopped thinking about the idiots around me, and instead brought my attention back to where it should have been, my kids.

    The kids would excitedly look back at us and tell us about that cool float.  "Oh that one is my favourite, no wait, it's this one."  They were drinking it all in.  They were doing exactly what we had brought them there to do.

    I hate to admit it, but my inner child did come out, just a little.  It was at the sight of the princess with the HUGE dress.  As a little girl I always loved those.  I would sit and plan how I too could get one of those amazing dresses.  I would close my eyes and picture how I would look walking in one of those dresses.  I saw that pretty princess dressed in blue, and I was that little girl all over again.  The angry lady vanished.

    In the end we had an amazing day.  All of our feet hurt, but it was o.k.  We stopped along the way back to our hotel where we were parked.  We looked in stores that we don't have around here.  We looked at beautiful things that are on my "when I win the lottery" list.  We saw Toronto the good and we saw Toronto the not so great.  It was an amazing week-end, a week-end that none of us will soon forget.

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