You teach your children some fashion sense
And they fashion some of their own
- Gordon Downie

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ode to Puddles

Last week, we returned to school following our Spring Break. I drew outdoor supervision for the first day back, which, as usual, was full of fun. Kids wanted to tell me all about their adventures, friends made a beeline for friends they had not played with for weeks, and parents were extraordinarily happy to send their children back...

By Tuesday, however, the wheels on our happy return began to wobble. A crisis was afoot, for beneath the incredibly popular tire swings, enormous puddles had developed. We faced an incredibly difficult decision.... Do we dare shut down the tire swings until our school's version of the Great Lakes dried up?

As the Vice Principal, I decided that a proactive approach would be best. Instead of bowing down to nature, we would beat it at its own game. I took my class to the playground before recess and explained that only their ingenuity and effort would prevent a minor crisis - the closure of the tire swing!!! My true leaders emerged as we chipped ice, bailed water and moved sand to ensure the tire swings would not be shut down. I was incredibly proud of my class and its leaders for engineering a joyful day of outdoor recess.

If you know me, you will recognize that my tongue has been planted firmly in my cheek for this post. I love my school and the fact that puddles are as big an issue as we face. After all, who can resist the lure of a puddle? Even better, who can resist a FROZEN puddle?

I grew up on an acreage in Alberta's parkland. As a boy, spring held incredible promise and wonder. Only those who have grown up in the Parkland know the smell of spring amongst the poplars. As the snow melts, it releases the musty smell of leaves, smells prairie dwellers recognize from raking leaves in the fall. Spring means potholes in roads and frozen puddles everywhere. A large percentage of families make the trek to Canadian Tire, Macleod's, Saan, Zellers, Superstore, or UFA to purchase rubber boots because last year's pair is simply too snug. The trek is worth it, because, even though these boots are usually worn three or four times, they allow their wearers exclusive access to water resistance.

When you encounter a puddle, several questions rush through your head (unless you are a dog or a child under the age of 8.) How deep is the puddle? How thick is the ice that covers it? Will the water go over my boots? Is it cold? Will I get in trouble for falling in? How far into the puddle can I walk?

I grew up on an acreage next to Alberta's Highway 21. The ditches were deep and filled with water every spring. Like most kids who grow up on acreages or farms, mother nature provided us with built-in entertainment. We did not need a gaming system, PVR or extended cable. Our environment regularly provided us with levels of challenge and excitement. How deep is the puddle? How thick is the ice? How far can I send my little sister on the ice before she breaks through? What do I need to do to keep myself out of trouble on this one? One year, the melting snow next to the highway revealed a mint-condition Playboy magazine featuring Miss Nude Texas. God blessed Texas, indeed!

Last Saturday, I felt myself return to the joys of my childhood when I took our dog for a walk at the edge of town. There was just enough exposed grass and dead leaves to bring back the smell of a gigantic pile of wet leaves. Every step was an adventure. Sometimes, the snow would hold. Other times, I would plunge to the ground in a layer of white snow and dark, dank water. At one point, I walked on an ice shelf that darkened and shot water upwards with every step I took. I couldn't help but be transported back to my youth, cautiously testing the thickness of the ice as I made my way to the bus stop.

I know that some people cannot stand it when their kids come home wet and muddy. To me, though, it is a rite of spring that no Canadian kid should pass up.


  1. You've spun the common little puddle into a good story! But then I know you as a superb story teller so I'm not surprised.
    The aroma in the poplar woods that I like is when the sap first begins to run. It's my sign of spring.
    Good to see you post again.

  2. Thanks for the feedback! I enjoyed looking back through the chronicles of Hiawatha House. I had no idea Roger Miller sang about buffalo!