MORRISBURG, ONT. – I’ve lived in big cities and the burbs and a hundred-acre farm, but I’m a small-town girl at heart, so I was pleased that Miss Jillian’s first road trip was to Morrisburg, where Mel was headed for her annual art retreat. I spent a lot of my growing up years in this county. It smells like home.
Mid-April is an awkward time of year here: too late to spy huge flocks of Canada geese, too early for fun attractions like Upper Canada Village. Thus, 5-month-old Jilly and I spent our Saturday exploring a few quiet streets in tiny Morrisburg.
The main road in to town, old Hwy. 2, is like any other in North America. The most exciting bit is the Fryer Truck chip wagon. Besides that, there’s a strip mall with a sub-par dollar store, a liquor store, a McDonald’s. The ubiquitous Timmy’s. We ditched all that to amble through more residential neighbourhoods.
The houses here are a lesson in architectural history. There are the plain, war-time buildings beside stumpy, one-storey homes with shingled roofs and large front windows oozing ’70s style. Now and again a more American-style house, tall with white siding and more than one veranda, windows with shutters, maybe a tower or widow’s walk. Red-brick houses – easily found anywhere in southern Ontario – are the homes of my heart, whether they have gingerbread or not, whether there are planters beside the stairs or lacy curtains in the windows. One day I will live in a red-brick house.
The road we took snaked down to the riverside, past the golf course where carts carefully navigated around geese. We passed a boy playing street hockey alone while a melancholy poodle wearing an Elizabethan collar watched him wistfully from a nearby window.
The wind picked up the closer we got to the narrow rocky shore and by the time we made it to water’s edge the fresh air had put Jilly to sleep. The boardwalk is a paved path; beside it is a small green strip, maybe two feet wide, that drops off into the water, lined with chunky rocks. If not for the stroller, I would have walked on these and let the river tease the soles of my boots.
We watched a ship glide eastward toward Montreal or the ocean. A man was exploring between stones with his young granddaughter. The grandmother smiled at us as we walked by. Another couple called out, “Good afternoon!” as though we were friends they hadn’t seen in weeks. A dog-walker apologetically kept his little white mongrel from kissing Jilly’s hands. We turned back when we got to the gazebo – we’d been gone for an hour and about a mile and half. We could have cut up, wandered through more streets, but I was reluctant to leave the water and so we followed our own path back.
The poodle in the collar was at the window still, looking sad and like he’d rather have been strolling with us.