Jeff and I took Air North’s (wonderful) seasonal direct (well, mostly redirect, there is a 45 minute refuel and passenger shuffle stop in Yellowknife) flight to Toronto to attend a summer family party, celebrating the life of my uncle Don. Since the flights between Whitehorse and Toronto only go a couple times a week, we did a Thursday to Wednesday trip.

We headed down to Whitehorse after work on Wednesday and stayed at the Yukon Inn so we could get a few hours of sleep before heading to the airport for our 8am flight. On the way to Whitehorse, as it was growing dark, and through the billion dead smushed black flies on the windshield, we spotted some moving shapes on the road ahead. 4 bears! Grizzlies! Looks like a momma with her 3 cubs.

As we passed by them, I spotted an elk standing in the lake on the right side of the road. I bet they just chased it down there! It was right along the north end of Fox Lake. Not too often do you see 4 grizzlies at once!

The flight to Toronto was contracted out to Aeroflyer. They serve the same great food as expected and as a bonus, there is video content available to stream on your device on the flight.

By Thursday night we were at my sister’s house. Jeff got to meet his new nephew Jordan for the first time! Somehow I’ve become “Auntie Yaya” and I love it!

For a morning snack the day, Selinah and Julie made us cupcakes!

My mom was visiting and staying there too, thanks to all the bedrooms Julie has in the house she’s renting! Selinah and I got to have some craft time!

What a mom my sister is. Busy non-stop with those two kids, who are as sweet as can be.

On Friday Jeff and I headed out for a few hours over the kid’s nap time and picked up my Dad and went shopping. We were after all of Jeff’s cravings – fresh peach pie from the Mennonite pie shop in Shakespeare, smoked pork chops from the Pork Shoppe (outside Shakespeare), and fresh corn on the cob!

Wow does Shakespeare Pies smell amazing!

That night we feasted at Julie’s! Dad and his wife Patti-Jo joined us, Julie’s husband Wole had some cold Stella beers for the fellas, and I bought some cold ice teas for the ladies.

Jeff has been dreaming about his corn and smoked chops for weeks!

On Saturday morning, we all head to head out for Monkton for the party for Uncle Don. My hair was long and shaggy and Julie said, “Let me call my girl!”. She did, and she said “Come right now!”. So I did!

She was closed for a vacation, but was dyeing her friend’s hair, so she had time to cut mine while her colour was setting. She was so fast with her scissors, amazing! By the end of the visit it was decided that she was coming to Dawson City to visit and will be cutting my hair from now on! She heard me mention I was going to a party so she put a few curls in and some hair spray and sent me on my way.

We had such a nice chat and really hit it off. She was from India and talked about how Southern Ontario is really losing its “humanity”. Is it Covid? The increase in population? She talked about her first couple years in Canada living in a small town on Cape Breton Island and how they all welcomed her and her husband, decorated their house, the grocer offered to order any ingredients she wanted for her Indian recipes, and even one day she inadvertently dropped her hair tie in the street and it was dropped off at her husband’s work place just shortly after because someone recognized it was hers. She has never felt that connection since moving to the Kitchener area. Maybe it’s only a small town thing?

I quickly experienced this lose of humanity just 30 minutes later when I was in a ridiculous shouting match at a farmer’s market with a couple ladies calling us “White Trash!”. What on earth? Turns out they were waiting for the same parking spot we were and neither of us saw each other, but the car pulling out pulled out towards them and we pulled in behind. They had their arms up in the air shaking them at us. So we did it back mocking their outrage. Up here in a remote small town life, you should shake your arms like that, amplify the situation, and then get out and laugh it off with each other. Only they stopped their car and wanted to continue to argue and call us “White Trash”. Once I saw this wasn’t going to de-escalate, we walked away while the driver was still shouting “White Trash”.

Everywhere seemed congested with traffic in mid-western southern Ontario. People tailgating everywhere, passing where they shouldn’t, pulling out in front of you, skipped stop signs if they had a chance to pull out. What has happened? No one gives a shit about your experience, they are busy, they are commuting, they are in a hurry.

I spent an evening sitting in the dark a couple days later with one of my best friends who grew just down the rural gravel road from me. We were sitting on her front deck, watching a thunderstorm, chatting about old times, just a couple days after her mother died unexpectedly. Back in the day, we had “8th Line parties”. Our entire road got together for a picnic in the summer, an ice skating party in the winter, and we all supported each other. When a community member passed away, your house would fill up with casseroles and the neighbours on the 8th Line collected donations to buy a plant, or something similar, in memory of your lost loved one. Their family got not one casserole. The neighbourhood parties stopped a few years ago. The ladies who advanced so many aspects of our rural lives, quietly in the background, through their community service groups, like the Women’s Institute, and helping raise the next generation by leading 4H and Girl Guide groups, are now elderly, and their spirit of community has seemingly been lost by the next generations. This needs to be fixed! Our “social networks” have moved online and we became too busy to even know our neighbours. It is truly sad.

Anyway, rant over, (or likely just paused until next time), back to our trip recap!

Before the party, we met my Aunt Cecilia in Mitchell at the sewage lagoons to birdwatch! It was a hot sunny day, with a breeze thank goodness. Perfect opportunity for me to try out my new sunhat and sun shirt (shirt shown above!). We saw lots of birds and added several to my new life list – Lesser Yellow Legs, Greater Yellow Legs, Blue Heron, Pectoral Sandpiper, Ring-necked duck, Semipalmated Sandpiper, a Wilson’s Snipe, and the common Canadian Geese, and Mallard ducks. We also saw several turtles, two muskrat, a groundhog, and I almost peed on a little snake in the bushes after too much iced tea.

After 1pm we headed to my Aunt Maria’s place. She was hosting a big old party, just like Uncle Don used to do. No better way to honour his memory! There were dozens of fresh cobs of corn, a big cattle trough of ice with beers and drinks, and photos of from Uncle Don’s life on the wall. He’s almost been gone for a year already!? Crazy.

I spotted a picture of me in my bathing suit on the wall!!

Hah! So many good memories just from the different elements in that picture. I see the playpen so Julie must be around, so this is probably the summer of 1980 and I’m 4.5 years old with a doll (I’m guessing not Julie!? in my baby carriage). My Grandma Verkley is pictured talking to my brother Brian and my dad is on the right, and I wonder if this wasn’t the first time Maria introduced us to Don (they are behind me looking like a couple love birds).

Back at Maria’s, we had the family gather during the day and Don’s friends and customers and clients joined us in the evening. His big shed was cleared out for for the day, and they rented picnic tables for inside and out, and even a porta-potty!

The kids had a blast!

While the adults caught up.

Before long it was time to get the cauldron setup for the corn roast!

It feels like a hundred cobs fit in that cauldron!

Are you wondering how you get the boiled cobs out?

Easy! A fishing net! hahaha

There was also roast beef on buns to go with the corn, potato salad, crackers and cheese, and some desserts. Rena made an amazing apple crisp. Here’s my Dad prepping his plate:

And my full plate:

By evening it started to chill off, so it was super convenient to have our suitcases in our little rental Corolla so we could grab another layer! Here’s my siblings and I:

And our families:

And my parents:

Dad grabbed the new MEC fleece he picked out while shopping with us the day before. And he thought he didn’t it! Showed him!

After dark we left the growing party and headed to Mom’s in Listowel with Julie and her kids too.

We woke to the sad news that Wole’s Mom passed away unexpectedly over night in Nigeria. Wole had just been back in July to visit with his family for his parent’s birthday celebration. So glad he took that trip!

That morning we went to visit with Jeff’s parents. We had our third meal of fresh corn, and the best variety yet – Maple Sweet. Yummy! Followed by some pie!

We had a nice visit and sat in their beautifully landscaped backyard watching the birds and wasps and ants stealing our corn scraps and a cute little chipmunk they named Hoover. After our visit, we went to the corn crib in Area for more of this Maple Sweet corn! We drove by the mill where they are making Red River Cereal now but they were closed for the day.

That night after a feast of pizza, we blew bubbles with the kids on Mom’s back deck.

Notice Jordan’s shirt!

Everyone was looking forward to the Jello my Mom and Selinah made for the kid’s evening snack, but who knew that if you include fresh pineapple in it, Jello will not solidify! Well, as it turns out, it says that on the box, but who reads all that little print! We all had a a good laugh and Selinah ate her Jello with a straw.

We went to visit my Grandma Stock too! Going strong at age 99! We surprised her and she was so delighted!

We had another brandy together and caught up.

After that we visited with Jeff’s cousins in Dorchester – Denise and her husband Paul (who just visited us up here last month), and his other cousin Paul. As it turns out, their side of the family hasn’t all gotten together since our wedding almost 15 years ago! We had a lovely visit outside in their backyard with some fresh and cold mango blender drinks.

On our last full day, we had dinner at my Dad’s – big thick barbequed steaks and corn on the cob! All together, I think we had corn every single day, at least once? Pie a few times too!

And then back to Mom’s for one more sleep. It’s neat having two “sets” of nieces and nephews. The older ones, my brother’s kids, are getting out of their cuddly stage and entering their teens. Now Julie has given a couple more snugglies to my Mom!

We were up at 5am on Wednesday to get to the Toronto airport before the morning traffic rush on the 401.

The flight to Yellowknife was about 90 minutes late arriving due to fighting the headwinds all the way northwest, but I had a good book and a new Kindle (my first one!) to keep me occupied.

We landed, did the quickest errands ever, and drove all the way home from Whitehorse yesterday too, getting home around midnight. Long day!

It is always impossible to visit everyone we want to while in Ontario. We end up driving here and there every day. Luckily our families are with a few hours of each other. It is so nice to be in Ontario in the summer. It is so green and the horizons are so vast (the terrain is flat so you can see so far in every direction and see sunrises and sunsets and lightning storms!). We’ll never be able to visit everyone in one visit, unless we stayed for weeks! So we do what we can. If you weren’t visited this time, let’s try for next time! We’re easily bribed with pie and corn on the cob!