Sunday, October 17, 2010

Summer in the City

"All around you, people lookin' half dead
Walkin' on a sidewalk hotter than a match head..."

This photograph was originally in colour, but I recently scanned it in black and white because that's how I picture it in my mind's eye.

It is from our trip to Toronto in the summer of 2004; Glory had recently turned two and Fenya was five-and-a-half.  We stayed with Audrey's sister Vera as well as some friends from church.  Despite having lived there from 1995-1999, we'd already forgotten how oppressive the heat and humidity could be, although the additional moisture had a wonderful effect on Fenya's curls.

I took this picture as we rode the streetcar on Lake Shore Blvd. from downtown to our old neighbourhood in Etobicoke where we were staying with the girls' godparents.  I don't recall where we were coming from, but we were sticky and hot and worn out.  We had the streetcar practically to ourselves, so the girls made their way to the open window just ahead of where we were seated to take advantage of the breeze.  Glory was interested in the scenery drifting by, while Fenya was satisfied with closing her eyes and letting the cooler air pass over her.

The almost art-deco chrome of the dated Toronto Transit Commission seats, combined with the brick storefronts (which are far more visible in my memory than in this photo), and the way Glory's sundress strap has almost completely fallen off her shoulder somehow combine to remind me of my childhood in the 1970s, perhaps not exactly as it was, but as an amalgam of my own recollections, movies and television shows I had seen, and books I had read.

There was no place in Leduc in 1975 that looked like 'Sesame Street', or in Edmonton either for that matter.  Bus trips were reserved for school field trips or, once or twice, as Park n Ride excursions to see an Eskimos game at Clarke Field.  I took out a book on marble games from my school library that referenced blue collar New York neighbourhoods like Yonkers and The Bronx, but none of my friends had an interest in playing the ancient games that came from there, even though we all had marbles stashed in a jar or Crown Royal bag.  When I had asked Dad if we could crack open a fire hydrant on a hot summer day, he looked at me in a peculiar fashion and set up a lawn sprinkler instead.

Seeing my daughters at that photo places me simultaneously in the sticky heat of a Toronto summer and in the confabulated warmth of my own childhood memories, when going anyplace was better than being someplace, when I had to climb before sitting, and when a hint of breeze was the best thing in the world.


  1. Talk about having your camera at the right time and in the right place. Excellent story and even better photo. You're right - the B&W definitely resonates way more than if I were to see it in color.

    I only hope that we have our camera with us when a perfect moment like this happens with our girls and that it turns out half as good.

    Well done.