The Naperville conversation that lasted a lifetime

I’m seeing love stories everywhere.

Like these two kids. We find them here on the Century Walk as they are making each other’s acquaintance. They are about eight years old and they are in the same Grade 3 class.

It’s funny that they haven’t met yet, since their roots in this town go so deep. Billy’s family established a hardware store in the 1800s, and Jane’s family founded Naperville itself.

Billy will be a high-school basketball star and she’ll be his sweetheart. He’ll become a civil engineer; she’ll found a kindergarten program.

What we are witnessing might be the first time they are having a conversation, but they have decades of conversation ahead of them. They will marry in 15 years, in 1941, and be together for 60 years, till Billy’s death in 2001. Jane, who spent the first eight years of her life without him, will spend the last ten of her life also without him.

They are remembered through local scholarships, and this park bench where maybe, one day, two children will start a conversation that will last a lifetime.



Where will they install the statue of you?

I would want the statue of me to be installed on a rocky beach. Not here. This ocean doesn’t move me. Attach me to the rocks on the Canadian Atlantic.

Sculpt my statue to sit on a big rock facing the waves, with one foot propped on a rock below. Balanced on a knee, a coil-ring notebook. A pen behind my ear, with hair falling around that and over my face. My shoulders should be hunched forward, my back rounded by the awkward, bent angle. When beachcombers come across my statue, they will shake their heads — there’s nothing to see here — and leave me to my business.

The monkey on Emily Carr's shoulder outside the Empress in Victoria, B.C.
The monkey on Emily Carr’s shoulder outside the Empress in Victoria, B.C.
The statue of Emily Carr outside the Empress in Victoria, B.C.
The statue of Emily Carr outside the Empress in Victoria, B.C.

Cities tell their stories with statues. So much time and commitment goes into casting a character in steel or bronze, carving them into stone. You have to hold a special part of a city’s heart to earn yourself a statue.

Saskatoon has a marvelous statue of Wilfrid Laurier meeting a young John Diefenbaker on a street corner. Ottawa’s Terry Fox memorial makes me tear up every single time. I recently discovered Jean Drapeau in front of Montreal’s city hall.

In Victoria is it Emily Carr, lovingly represented with her monkey on her shoulder and a little dog at her heel.

Harry Winston Jerome sprinting through Stanley Park in Vancouver.
Harry Winston Jerome sprinting through Stanley Park in Vancouver.

And this Olympian in Vancouver, who I had never heard of: Harry Winston Jerome. I met him as I biked at dawn along a narrow path in Stanley Park. The sky was lightening but still navy and rich and Canada Place was just a row of shapes on the horizon, not the terrible white beast it is from my hotel downtown.

Harry looks as though he is about to take flight. He could be dancing, or jumping and there is something so very joyful in him. In the 1960s, the Olympic medalist was one of the fastest men on earth. He stayed on track despite career-threatening injuries and a media that refused to love him and when he could no longer compete, he kept a foot in, working for the sports ministry and developing a provincial program that would encourage youth to get and stay active.

His story ended when he died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 1982. He was 42.