Four & Waiting in Victoria, B.C.

Looking Back. A stitching together of all that remains unsaid, unaccounted for and unclaimed as a complete memory from my third pregnancy into a present quilt in time. Here is one of those squares…

Victoria, B.C. September, 2009
“Wfewwwwph,” puffs Lucy, “I’m gonna get a big wish on this dandy-lioon.”

We closed the book on summer with a trip. With a babe on the way and summer drawing its drawers, we felt like we didn’t have the time or money. But, it seems like every time we travel we return with our bellies full, smiles long and bank account in the red. It’s how we roll: in the moment. Saving memories, saving sanity. And in the moment of August’s end, we decided to leave the country for a last vacation as a family of four.
Luke wanted a sailing trip and I wanted a fancy hotel excursion so we compromised. Our summer island neighbors on Lopez were returning to Portland’s hustle soon, so we convinced them to join in our plan. The boys would sail over, get their PBR fishing urges out and meet the mama minivan with four kids and counting in Victoria.
Mary Gage, baby Lois & Ben

Although we can almost see Vancouver Island from our rooftop, the trip took a good seven hours with ferry travel, Customs and check-in. DVDs, MLPs (My Little Ponies, as we call them) and morning-made banana scones kept the kiddos calm. Passports, Birth Certificates & official letters documenting we weren’t going to sell our children and, in fact, had our husband’s permission gained us access into the country. Somehow Ben, the other ragged sailor, entered with an expired Passport, which was great considering our men didn’t have a plan b for not being welcomed ashore.
Regalia, Inner Harbour

Our hotel was wonderful, within walking distance to Victoria’s Inner Harbour. September’s start marks The Wooden Boat Festival. I had visited this festival before as a new Washington Islander before marriage, North Whidbey Middle School’s teaching job and babies with my college pal Amy and had longed to return ever since. The Daddies kept the big kids at the marina and had an on board sleepover, while my pregnant self shared the room with baby Lois and Mary Gage. Late night chats were so needed and refreshing to pregnancy’s insomnia. Without anyone to dress, tuck in or take potty, I changed into another address book, pencil freshly sharpened, and knit. I know it sounds crazy, but I would even check into a hotel from time to time down the street if I could just for the stillness of solitude. I love stiff sheets and room service a whole lot more than the afterthought rooms booked past midnight on rides back to Montana – rooms where you dare not walk barefoot or allow a baby to crawl on decade’s old carpet.

I love Victoria as much as it adores tea (barely an espresso shop in sight) and really feel like I’m in Europe with old stone architectural details and bright flowers everywhere. I was most fascinated with book stores. I get so used to Oprah’s Book Club picks and National Book Award and Newbery’s Medal and Indie Excellence packing the front award tables here that I forget other countries have their own faves. Local Children’s books featured a different spin on language and illustrators I, of course, hadn’t before heard of. Hmm, funky tasting ketchup (tons of sugar added), authentic Indian food and Kindereggs are everywhere. The latter is banned in the states but always a requested item for anyone I know traveling there; I love Kinderegg’s odd toys hidden inside the chocolate egg’s shell, but I can imagine the lawsuits from choking hazards here. The girls would create an army of the mini plastic treasures, I swear.
kayak’s take-out window

Re-Bar and Lady Marmalade were the greatest breakfast joints in town, while fish-n-chips at the docks weren’t. Always, always, be wary of the self-described, “Best in Town.” It was fun to walk around the docks. While waiting for our ordered grease, we stopped to listen to a guitar player. He sounded great, played classic rock’s covers as good as the get but when he turned to the table beside him and whispered, “here goes the serenity,” we decided not to tip him. He was referring to us, four adults and four kids settling into a picnic table. Our joyful and quiet eaters showed him. It was the sort of look you get on a plane if you’re holding an infant. But, it wasn’t all bad down there because I love looking at house boats the way Lucius loves big, local caught fish, too.
“Can I hold it,” inquires Lucy, “pleeeeeassseeee.”

When my belly felt too big to walk anymore, we sat and watched the street performers. Not having been to a city in a while, I’d forgotten how this can be a livelihood. Eavesdropping, I heard they actually had to sign up for their street spots and have something like a permit. While the girls watched some Irish dude on a unicycle juggle fire, I watched this guy. Not a street performer, but, come on, he should have been.
Maybe it’s the blond hair, or maybe it was the matching foul weather gear, but this has happened more than once, more than twice. Japanese tourists following us, taking pictures leaning out of slow moving cars or taking pictures while holding a camera down low, inconspicuously. In each instance, their English has been few and far between their appreciatory laughs, approving head-nods and excitement. The Empress Hotel’s Main Garden will always hold this memory:
I asked Luke if they were following us and he thought I was crazy. When they picked up the pace, I flicked his arm in a loving see I told you so moment and could finally have him along for the situation. See, every time the well-meaning Japanese tourist thing had happened before, he wasn’t around and I know he chalked up my story as just that – a story. The woman came out of nowhere with a broken, “Girls, come to Auntie” while her family snapped photos. In the in-betweens, she asked if it was alright in a giggling and overcome-with-excitement sort of way. Lucy thought the lady was nuts, rightfully so, and said, “You’re not Aunt Rose!” Then, we felt too taken aback to know what to do next, so we posed. They were so ecstatic they took one with our camera, too. And as we walked down the garden path to the harbor, they repeatedly turned around and snapped photos with a camera down low saying, “thank you, thank you.” On the main road along the water Luke turned to me and said, “Well, that was strange” just as a car full of more tourists of Japanese descent leaned out the car window and took a crazy amount of pictures. Yeah, that’s what we thought.

“Huck-y is driving the ferry,” says Lucy. She was only eight months old when he died, but then again, “Dog” was her first word so it’s no wonder her Huck-y goes everywhere.

The water taxi trips across the Inner Harbour were amazing. Not only did they dock at our hotel’s marina, but they sped around like bumper cars in Pacific’s chop. The girls loved our rides; it was a great way to see the boats while resting my huge, continually growing belly.

In the last photo, I see my first babe slipping forward. No longer big-baby-girl or Sweet B as we used to say. Soon, she’ll be five. Now, she makes jokes, writes in a journal and is truly a Mama’s helper. In that hat she tie dyed at the summer’s past Farmer’s Market, those glasses also named Elisabeth Rose and that teenager shirt passed down from cousin Meritt, I can see the girl she’s becoming and I’m proud to know her.

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