Tag Archives: Kids

There’s Only ONE Dancing Gabe

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Dancing Gabe signing autographs during recess.

We were wrapping up our I Love To Read event with the Grade 3 – 6 students. One of the young students raised his hand, eager to ask one more question. His eyes lit up when I noticed him, approached with a few steps to ensure I would hear his query, and invited him to ask his question.

How many Dancing Gabe books are there in the whole wide world?” he said.

I returned to the microphone and repeated the young man’s question to ensure everyone else assembled in the school’s gym would hear it. A gentle hush had fallen on the students who were even more attentive than they had been during the previous forty-five minutes.

Well,” I said, “that is a very good question. There are more than four thousand Dancing Gabe books in the whole world today.” My answer, much to my surprise, was greeted with a collection of cheers, screams, and applause from all those assembled. They liked my answer.

I looked over to Gabe. He too was clapping and beaming, pleased with the answer, pleased with the joy he could see in the eyes of the students. He was the reason for this happiness.

Buy Dancing Gabe: One Step At A Time on Kindle.

 

Training Wheels

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To be the proud owner of a new bicycle—one’s first brand new bike—sparks feelings that had been unknown up to now. Few events  will evoke such an overwhelming sense of freedom for a child. I still recall my first bike was a plain red CCM, equipped with a wire basket, that my mom had purchased with Gold Star stamps (an early incarnation of today’s more sophisticated customer loyalty traps, uh, I mean programs).

My first two-wheeler! Actually, it had four wheels when we were first acquainted. You’ll surely remember the two small wheels added to the rear axle to provide stability to the vehicle, and confidence to its rider… Their sound seemed sharper and louder than any fire truck or ambulance siren and thanks to them, your friends could hear you coming for miles. The bugle announcing the charge of the cavalry: “Look! Here he comes with his baby wheels,” usually followed by much pointing and jeering. The noise created by those two metallic discs rolling on the pavement, each with its own rubber outer belt designed to dampen the sounds, was deafening. They seemed to have been a design engineer’s mean way of inflicting deep shame to new young riders. At the time, I was convinced that the geometry was totally wrong: why would the two training wheels never touch the ground simultaneously? I figured it out soon enough.

Not surprisingly, young riders quickly learned to do without training wheels. A matter of pride and survival. A rider old or capable enough to do away with a tricycle soon learned that one more wheel simply would not do—not for long anyway. I soon learned to use my dad’s crescent wrench to loosen the bolts and remove these rackety accessories, although I had not mastered the tool sufficiently to avoid scraping my knuckles on the spokes as I tightened them back. Never mind, I was free! I could now join the two-wheeled “biker” patrol. Time to make a different kind of noise.

Soon, a much sought-after roar replaced the clatter of the training wheels. We fastened hockey and baseball cards, and even attached inflated balloons, to the bicycle’s forks using clothes pins in such a manner as to contact the spokes when the wheel turned. Children proved their imagination and capacity to innovate, replacing wet, mushy, worn-out cards with colorful waterproof pieces of plastic. What elation to feel like a rebel; what joy to ride in formation up and down our normally quiet street and around the neighborhood, rumbling, from street to street. Neighbors heard us coming. Our rolling thunder sowed panic and fear in the hearts of the kind folks who asked only for a little peace and quiet as they enjoyed their afternoon tea on the balcony. We were ready to conquer the world. Well, seriously, not really. We were just being kids.

Today, I chuckle at the thought of using my hockey and baseball cards to such an end. Surely I never used my Montreal Canadiens or Expos cards for my bicycle’s noise mechanism, but more likely doubles and triples of players from teams I did not care for.

Take those training wheels off and ride!

Days Grow Longer

There were days I loved the snow, and the cold–no I don’t think I ever loved the cold–of winter. Of course, memory has this way of playing tricks with one’s mind; embellishing the not-so-glamorous parts, or darkening the somewhat ordinary moments.

As children, we waited at the door, like thoroughbreds at the gate, mere inches and moments from the freedom to bolt, while mom wrapped and tied itchy woollen scarves around our heads and over the hoods of our snowsuits. Temperature mattered not when fresh snowbanks awaited. Anticipation! Action!

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I still recall the blinding reflection of the sun on the snow as I stepped outside, which made me sneeze, and the first breath of cold air that tasted like the wool of my musty old scarf, which made me cough. My feet barely touched the front landing. In an instant, I found myself waist-deep in the fluffy stuff, thrashing about, struggling to hoist my small body to the surface, every move sending me a little deeper in the snow and further from the house. I always imagined this was what quicksands would feel like… just worse.

Eventually, the scarf loosens, exposing cheeks and nose to the biting wind. On we played… I don’t think we talked much when playing in the snow, only screamed, and laughed, and cried, but mostly screamed. The snow on our faces melted and mixed with what flowed from our runny noses, creating this ever-present salty taste on our lips; the once warm and comforting scarf on our mouth now icy, heavy and inconvenient.

The fun and games would continue until our toes or fingers got too cold, or mom called us in. Usually the latter. Mom always seemed to know when it was time. The frosty adventure lasted maybe an hour, just as the pain and tingling of our thawing appendages would. Scarves, mittens, toques, and boots were put to dry during that time. Lunch and hot chocolate were followed by a nap before everything began again until such a time when the children grew up.

Thr167039_128709693860310_4445209_nashing about in the snow–although at times still entertaining–eventually took a back seat to hockey: street hockey, pond hockey, and skating. Bright winter days when dad was home were the best. On those days, I considered my dad a kid, just like us. “Do you kids want to…” Yes! We never let him finish; we knew he meant to take us skating on the ponds by the track behind his Esso service station. He would load the snowblower in the back of his “petit bus” (what we called my dad’s steel blue Ford van). He also loaded a few shovels, our hockey sticks and a good supply of hockey pucks. If you’ve played pond or street hockey, you know that pucks seemed to vanish once they left the playing surface and entered the snow.

Those days are gone. I still enjoy bright sunshine on white fluffy snow, yet I think of winter as mostly a succession of long nights and short cold days, only interrupted by brief moments of activity (sometimes excitement) when the courage to step outside outweighs the inertia of hibernation. Winter is the assailant that knocks me down, and instead of fighting back, I turtle, I roll into a ball, waiting for the beating to end or to finish me for good. Every once in a while I lash back at the frigid season, only managing to touch innocent bystanders. Snap out of it! Go outside! Get some fresh air!

Days grow longer; the sun’s rays warmer. Just in time. Always. Thankfully.