The calendar declared that spring had arrived weeks ago, yet the snow kept falling every few days. Temperatures hovered well below freezing, dancing temptingly close to breaching zero every so often, before scurrying back down to miserably cold. Happiness that the snow no longer stuck so firmly to the ground was tempered by the realisation that just because we could get out more easily now, didn’t mean it was in any way pleasant to bundle up the children and endure the callous icy winds that gusted along the streets. It might be spring in Montréal, but it certainly didn’t feel like it.
Winter lingered on for an eternity. Then once more the season changed swiftly. An overnight jump to milder weather after all those never-ending wintry days. One morning we woke to find that the skies were blue and the air was, if not warm, at least not freezing cold. Optimists were discarding winter coats and boots for light jackets and normal footwear. Pessimists sweated in their heavy layers. We strolled outdoors wearing jumpers as the sun smiled down on the city and it felt so good. A mild taste of the summer to come.
A couple of days of sun were all the forecast guaranteed. We would be making the most of it. Summer hats and shades were rescued from the bottom of cupboards. Snacks to fill the fussiest of eaters were packed into bags. We lingered all day in the park after our first picnic of the year, revelling in the novelty of both sun and warmth at the same time. People spilled out of buildings and roamed the streets, enjoying the change we’d all been waiting for.
It wasn’t our first picnic in this particular park, which was still barren of the greenery we’d admired last year. But it was the debut for a now-walking toddler. The excitement and unbridled joy of stomping around in his brand new wellies was catching. Strangers smiled at his beaming grin that was even brighter than the sun, and waved at him as they passed by. His first taste of freedom outdoors on his own two legs, and he was soaking up all the enjoyment that could be found in the little ordinary things that everyone else no longer notices.
The weather switched a day later, as I knew it inevitably would, to clouds and torrential rain. It didn’t dampen the spirits of my youngest child at all. While his brother played at camp, I introduced him to the whole new world that is jumping in puddles in the falling rain. His reaction did not disappoint.
He strutted up and down gentle grassy slopes and paths, loving the feel as the ground changed direction and texture under his feet. When I demonstrated splashing in puddles he immediately took off, testing each piece of the path to learn what parts were just shiny with fresh drizzle, and which were shimmering surfaces ready to be exploded into droplets. We returned home much later, tired and wet through, but having savoured this abundance of unfrozen water teeming from the skies.
This is one of my favourite, if not most favourite, phases of babyhood and childhood. That 18 months to two years period where the world is suddenly accessible and ready to be explored at knee-height. He wobbles around the apartment staying admirably upright in my trainers or slippers. He fetches his coat and boots every time he thinks someone might be even thinking about going outdoors. A piece of dirt on the ground is as fascinating as the finest jewels. A short stroll from A to B becomes a lengthy adventure with constant stops to examine everything that can be seen.
His couple of words are slowly expanding into the power that comes with the ability to name multiple objects. He climbs onto my lap and launches into unintelligible speeches that sound fascinating, if only I could understand the still half-formed words that he speaks. I know he is telling me of all the amazing things he’s discovered. So much more yet to find, and soon he will have the words to accompany the thoughts he wants to share.
The corresponding tantrums of this age are epic and wearisome, but we know now that they come with bursts of new skills and words, as he processes all that he is learning at speed. His brother was more verbal at this point, he has always been the more physical one. In another few months it will all have balanced out and I will have two boys. The baby and toddler years will be past us for better or worse.
This will the be spring and summer where we explore Montreal though toddler eyes. I have no doubt that it will be worth seeing.