Owen seems really to enjoy people. He has a smile that draws both men and women to him and a warmth and delight that seems to make them want to forge connections with him, make him laugh. I’m never surprised when women play with him, but I’m always especially moved when men go out of their way to amuse him. Owen has made several special bonds with men, strangers, who have taken a shine to him. I’ve written about one very memorable experience in Würtzburg and recently, two more men have managed to make Owen laugh so gleefully that I felt myself thanking them and thanking them as we left.
The first was our waiter at the St-Hubert Restaurant in Rivière-du-Loup. First, can I just say do they ever know what they are doing when it comes to kids… the high chair tray comes with a bib and CRACKERS! If you have a hungry child and no immediate food, you have something to feed him! Anyway, our waiter was pretty ordinary at first, but near the end of our meal, and the end of his shift, he had more time, I guess. Well, he started to make faces at Owen and hide behind his high chair. We got into a conversation about the benefits of bilingualism (his four-year-old daughter was learning both English and French, and her English was already better than his.) Language is a difficult subject in this province, so it was nice to meet someone so open to bilingualism. I told him how instinctual I had found the mother tongue. I had every intention of speaking to Owen in French when he was born but found myself unable. The songs I knew, the expressions, the baby language – all of it was English. And I imagine that French will continue to be spoken in the homes of Quebec even if more English education is provided. Then again, it always shocks me when I travel outside Quebec (or Ottawa) and realize how little French so many people know. Up with bilingualism! Anyway… I digress. Our waiter came by again while cleaning up and noticed that Owen was pretty dirty (from the meal)… so with great fanfare, he started to wash his hands (making sure to get into the cracks between the fingers) and then washed the tray – all the while making Owen laugh hysterically at his antics. Thank you Grégoire!
The next day, we stopped in Quebec City to see an exhibition of Victorian paintings at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec. The exhibit was fantastic, but what was in a way even more memorable was Richard, who had been hired to assess the impact of the exhibit on Quebec tourism. He was a total clown with Owen, running behind the exhibition sign, playing peek-a-boo, and making every funny face he could think of. He was so animated and involved that he had us all laughing (Owen hardest of all). Thank you Richard!
We arrived home tired and happy, in part because of the generosity of spirit of these (and other countless, nameless) strangers.