I finished 28th in the Cross County Finals. While I wanted to do better, I know that I still can.
There was more than enough big events on our radar this week and they were all things we were really looking forward to. On Tuesday, we had the Cross Country finals for Emelia which she had qualified for a couple weeks prior. And then, on Saturday we were headed to Toronto to see the Dream Serenade benefit concert put on by one of our musical favourites Hayden, to help raise money for parents and families of the Beverley School—a school focused on kids with special needs in Toronto. But amongst it all, also was Danielle’s birthday too!
I was able to switch around my days off this week so that I was able to see Emelia run in the finals like last year. But the added bonus was Danielle also in conjunction with her understanding and great daycare families, was able to take the afternoon off so she could come cheer her on too! So once the kids were on their way home, we were off to pick up Poppa so he could join us in cheering her on. We were in the park and ready to watch her race, in plenty of time. She was happy to see us all there, though I am not so sure she was happy about my homemade shirt to cheer her on.
In the end she finished further down (28th) than last year (14th), but she still was first for her school by 23 spots and also knew where she could have done better. We were super proud of how she finished and especially how we saw her move from the back of the pack at the start up to 28th, blazing past about 8 girls towards the end of the race. And, as she and I talked about it, we agreed that it was good to know that when you didn’t finish where you want to, that it was also good to know there are things like having a slow start and having the ability to do that better, was much more positive than having given it everything and finished where she did. Overall, she did better than last year with her results, but she’s excited to take what she learned in these finals and use that for Track & Field this spring and cross country next year.
The rest of the week, the focus was on two things: Danielle’s birthday and the Dream Serenade concert. These two events coincided with reason. Back in April, when this concert was announced and some of the lineup and date announced, Danielle immediately told me that it would be suitable – all lack of surprises aside – birthday gift. We both agreed and tickets were bought. The closer we got to the show and the more details revealed, it just kept getting better and better. The headliners are one of my all-time favourite bands Broken Social Scene and also was Dan Mangan – one of Danielle’s all-time favourites too. And there were all sorts of rumours abound of special surprise guests like Feist who has shown up at these shows in the past. But the surprise guest of the night, no one would know about until the actual show, and both Danielle and I would be floored and moved beyond words in that moment.
After Emelia’s swim class wrapped on Saturday, we dropped her off at my parents for a sleepover as we’d be getting back way too late. And with that we were off to Toronto in the middle of the afternoon to do a little window shopping and to have a nice dinner before the show. We chose our favourite place near Massey Hall in Salad King to have a nice Thai dinner before the show. It was our second time in a month eating there, but our tummies were full with a great meal as we got to walk around downtown Toronto before the show. Once we got into the hall, it was clear that we were in for another magical night of music. We got to our front row, first balcony seats and soaked in the amazing vantage point for the show.
When Hayden came out to introduce the night and talk about the program for the evening he dropped a bombshell on the audience that left sold-out hall gobsmacked by the news. Gord Downie, in the middle of treatment for his terminal brain cancer, and the midst of his Secret Path tour, was a surprise special guest to open the night up playing some of the songs from his Secret Path album! We were floored to say the least! We had tried to get tickets for the final tour of Tragically Hip when it was announced and were shut out. We had tried again to get tickets for Gord’s short, intimate tour of his Secret Path project and again were shut out. Here we were sitting at concert we were already delighted with the lineup, and we had the opportunity to see Gord play finally for the first time and for such a great cause. That surprise – on Danielle’s birthday no less – couldn’t have been any better or more fitting for my sidekick in all things in life—most notably at concerts and festivals!
The show moved Danielle and I beyond words on more than a few occasions and as it went on it just kept getting better and better—a hard thing when you consider it opened with Gord goddamned Downie! And as I sat there all night I kept coming back to the fortune I feel in this life. Amongst all the challenges and struggles we feel, and the people meeting very life-threatening outcomes head-on, I sat there knowing that I met, dated and then married my best friend so early and have already at 45 and 44 respectively more memories together (ups and downs, included) then some people get at twice our age — pushing 100. And fittingly as Hayden covered Gord’s song Ahead By A Century, I couldn’t think of a more fitting song to encapsulate this place I feel I am so lucky to be in with my best friend. We’ve lived and done more than our years show, and we have tackled every challenge we’ve met the only way we know how: Together.
So, I hope this birthday was special Danielle. And I suspect it was because it was spent the way we do everything else. And music was the thread that brought it (and us) all home. Happy Birthday Danielle! Here’s to all of the ones to come being just this good.
I have to say this birthday was the best I have ever had, and that is saying a lot because I have had some pretty amazing birthdays. It was not about presents it was about experiences and being moved beyond words as an experience of a lifetime.
Before I get to my birthday I want to talk about a pretty big event in our girl’s life. Emelia has taken to sports as a way of really come out of her shell. As an athlete she is naturally strong and has a strong ethic to never give up. She has really taken to running which of course we love. She worked incredibly hard and did really well the day of her race. Thanks to my amazing daycare families I was able to close for the afternoon to be there to cheer Emelia on. Although she finished lower this year in the standing she worked harder. She was at the back of the pack when she started and pulled herself to the top 30. She worked hard, never stopped running and really pushed herself at the end. She was disappointed at first but when we told her how amazing she did and how she pushed herself harder than she has ever done before she turned her disappointment into pride. We were so proud of her!
The rest of the week was more of the same, we her activities, school and on Friday the monthly school movie night. We got a tired girl home and off to bed to get ready for the next day.
Saturday morning after swim class we brought Emelia over to Poppa and Grandma’s so John and I could head to Toronto for a night we had been looking forward to for a long time. A few months ago John told me about the Dream Serenade concert in Toronto. The benefit had an absolutely amazing line-up, not only were they showcasing some of our all time favourite musicians it was a benefit for an amazing cause. Working with children as well as having an aunt with severe developmental issues growing up has given me a passion for working with all children to give them the best care possible to make them grow as people. The Beverly School is an amazing school that gives support, love and education to children with severe developmental needs. The entire night was emotionally moving and we knew that it would be a night that would forever be in our memories.
So with the line-up being out of this world it was overwhelming when Hayden started speaking of an amazing Canadian musician that not only impacted our country with his music but his passion for the mistreatment of native children and the residential schools. And with that the night started out as a dream – Gord Downie walked on the stage to share music for his passionate project The Secret Path. The story of a boy who died 50 years ago this week as a result of his escape from the residential school that imprissoned him away from his family. The boy tried to walk home and died from exposure. It is a dark time in our history that Gord is passionate about making sure every Canadian is educated about. As a man he is remarkable, and the fact that he is fighting terminal brain cancer and still performing against all odds to assure that his message reaches as many people as possible. I was moved beyond words and will cherish that this birthday was the time after all these years I was able to finally see Gord Downie perform.
The rest of the night was equally moving, each musical act put on the performances of their lifetimes and brought so much passion to this amazing cause. From Dan Mangan, to Broken Social Scene, to Barenaked Ladies, to Amy Milan with Feist, to Hayden (who gave a heart wrenching performance of Ahead by a Century that left the whole audience in awe), to Gord Downie it was a night I will never forget. Needless to say this will be a birthday that will be almost impossible to top.
So not only did I get to enjoy this night of incredible music I got to do it beside my best friend, soul mate and partner in crime. Thank you to John for making this the most incredible birthday. 44 seems pretty amazing so far.