Good Friday dawned reluctantly; a soggy mess of rain and hail, intermittently turning to snow and accompanied throughout by a cutting wind. It looked like it would be dark and gloomy all day, but our plan was to visit the Draggins Car Show in Prairieland Park (indoor, warm, dry). We sloshed through the streets of Saskatoon, feeling very disgruntled about the fact that it looked exactly like a dismal November day in Ireland. We arrived to a packed car park, and after eventually squeezing our way into a space, ran shrieking to the entrance, trying to hop over gigantic puddles (unsuccessfully) and avoid some of the bigger slush piles (marginally easier). We arrived breathless and damp, and plunged into a world of immaculately restored and maintained custom vehicles.
The colours, the chrome, the general shininess and sparkle of them all; we oohed and aahed and tried to decide which one we liked the best for the ballot form. There was a gigantic purple Mack truck, and a pink glittery motorbike. There was one display of very old and rare motorbikes, which swallowed Michael up for while, and a number of child-sized racing cars that involved entering and exiting through the roof. “Can I do motor-racing this year”, asked an over-excited Benjamin. “No”. “PLEASE? Instead of ball hockey?” “No”. Ad infinitum….
The University of Saskatchewan had a race car attached to a large screen, and this was the biggest hit of the day. Rebecca couldn’t even reach the pedals, but grim determination won out, and she steered her way around the course while standing on them. Nicholas could barely see over the steering wheel, and the boys all crashed and walloped their way around in their eagerness to be the fastest. Isabel, on the other hand, sailed serenely around at 100km per hour, never even nudging one of the circuit walls. “Slow and steady”, grinned the University student, as the queue lengthened and the boys willed her to crash so that they could have another go.
Every stand had a basket of small chocolate eggs or lollipops, so sugar levels were rising steadily. Rebecca was systematically working her way around the hall, eating one, pocketing one, eating one, pocketing one…. Every so often a particularly shiny car would catch her eye, and she’d admire it for a split second before looking for the requisite basket of goodies. We got some food and sat down to eat and be entertained by the band for a while before heading off to the next Hall of exhibits. “Where’s Christopher?” I asked, counting four out of five and scanning the hall for a glimpse of his blue jacket. Naturally, nobody had the faintest idea. “I’ll find him and follow you over”, said Michael, and so the rest of us trailed over to the other side of the centre, visiting a police car and motorbike on the way. He rang about thirty minutes later to report a blank. “Did you try the washroom?”, I asked, trying to stop Rebecca from throwing a chocolate egg under a car. “I’ll check on the way through”, he said, and we continued our way around the exhibits, eventually arriving back at the police car. Michael appeared about twenty minutes later, flustered and Christopher-less. “I’ll have a look”, I said, abandoning him to the getting-Rebecca-off-the-police-bike tussle and set off into the hall again.
Up and down the aisles I went, eventually arriving at the washrooms at the very back. Wondering whether Michael had noticed them, I lingered at a respectable distance for a few minutes, hoping that Christopher would appear. No joy. Two young men arrived out, chatting, and I accosted them with a big smile on my face. “Hi!”, I said brightly. “I’ve mislaid one of my sons, and I wonder would you just go back in and call his name for me? It’s Christopher.” They looked at me blankly, so I said it again, a bit slower and clearer this time. One of them turned back in, while I stood there awkwardly with the other guy. Out he arrived. “Yep, he’s there. In the last stall”. “Oh, great!”, I said, surprised. They headed off, and I hung around for another few minutes to no avail. “Christopher?”, I called, standing right at the door. “Are you ok? Christopher? CHRISTOPHER?!” Silence. I lost patience, and stalked in. The washroom was much bigger than I thought, and so I marched the length of the stalls, still calling his name and only getting a resounding silence in response. I arrived eventually at the last cubicle, the only one with a closed door, and was just opening my mouth to bellow at the occupier, when I spotted his feet under the door. Definitely not Christopher. I froze, realising that the ubiquitous gap around Canadian toilet doors was creating a rather embarrassing situation. I whirled around and started for the exit, only to meet another man on his way in. He stopped, alarmed. “Don’t worry, you’re in the right washroom”, I snarled at him, and kept going, my temper deteriorating rapidly. I sensed him following me out and craning his neck anxiously to see the sign outside. I muttered my way around the rest of the aisles, wondering what the hell the two lads in the washroom had been smoking. No sign of him.
Back to the exit, where Rebecca was still trying to persuade the policeman to start up the bike and the other three were weary and complaining. We were all tired and grumpy, and so I collared the nearest official and asked him where we could get an announcement made. “For a lost child?” he said, steering me through the crowd. “Yes”, I said, and then tempered that with “Well, not a child, exactly. He’s eleven. And we haven’t seen him for over an hour now.” He brought me over to an officals’ table, where two elderly men were instantly on the case. One pulled out a form and pen, and the interrogation began. Name. Address. Date of Birth. Last seen. Description. “Well, he’s wearing a bright blue jacket”, I said confidently. It was sweltering in the Hall though. “And a grey stripey top underneath”, I continued. “Pants?”, said the man, pen poised. “Of course!”, I said indignantly. “Oh, sorry, pants, yes – he’s wearing black tracksuit bottoms”. Blank looks all round. I racked my brain. “Sweat pants!” I said in a moment of inspiration. “Anything else?”, he said hopefully. “A blue hat”, I declared. “A blue hat that he’s very unlikely to take off, as he has hockey hair, and it would need to be combed endlessly in front of a mirror before he’d appear in public with it”. “Hockey hair?”, mused the man. “As long as yours?” I considered this. “No, a bit shorter, I think”. We got to the end of the page, and he checked back over the details.
A flash of blue wandered by in my peripheral vision. I swung around, and spotted Christopher wandering by the entrance into the Hall. “THERE HE IS!”, I shrieked and dived towards him, followed by one of the men. “CHRISTOPHER!” we both yelled, as heads swivelled towards us and Christopher looked alarmed. I grabbed his arm and frogmarched him over to the table. The men contemplated him carefully. “Great description”, said one of them admiringly. I preened. “Show us the hockey hair”, said the other, and I whipped off the hat. They nodded appreciatively, Christopher was scarlet and speechless. “Well, wasn’t that great service?”, said the first man. “We’d only finished filling in the form and there he was!”. “Amazing”, I agreed solemnly, and we all laughed. Except Christopher. I hauled him off, whispering grim nothings in his ear, and rejoined the rest of the family, who had all descended into silent exhaustion. The car was So Far Away. We gritted out teeth and plunged out into the whirling snow, arriving drenched and freezing at the car. By the time we got home, the city was dressed in white again, and our lovely yellow-attempting-to-turn-green lawn had disappeared. There are just no words anymore for this attempted arrival of Spring. Fran just announced on Facebook that “April showers bring May flowers”, and so I’m heading across our parking lot/lake now to deal with her. It won’t be pretty.