I wrote back in December that spring was just around the corner and, sure enough, here it is. Two nights ago, as I was walking home from work, I heard a cat howling somewhere on the corner of Marie-Anne and St-Dominique: that springtime mating howl that gives you chills and goose bumps because it sounds like the cries of Rosemary’s baby.
Speaking of babies, I also witnessed a moving spring ritual unfolding between two toddlers in a café in the Mile End last Sunday. Like cats and dogs, toddlers are quick to recognize one another as members of the same species – the toddler species– and to display keen mutual interest either through repeated furtive glances from behind a parent’s coat or skirt, or overt staring and noise-making to communicate the desire to make contact.
On this particular occasion, a toddler lass was accompanying her mother and her aunt for a Sunday brunch, while a toddler lad was playing in the café’s designated child area under the supervision of his father. Many toys and puzzles were available to him – little pigs and little cars, crayons, coloring books and other things I would have enjoyed playing with myself had it not been inappropriate – but he was mostly taken by a rubber crocodile which he made to ride a truck, walk on its tail and do other un-crocodile things, all under the watchful eye of the toddler lass who pretended not to see.
As the earnest activity of the rubber crocodile proved insufficient to produce the desired reaction, the toddler lad finally summoned up the courage to wobble over to the lass’ table. Words can be difficult to find in such situations – even for adults – and he probably only knew a few. But, words are not always necessary. Standing face to face with the pig-tailed female of the species, he extended his hand and offered her - the crocodile.
She was too shy to accept. Perhaps she thought it was too much or maybe it felt too awkward given all the grown-ups watching, but she blushed and turned away. The boy wobbled back to his father and the play table, which now seemed unexciting relative to the adventure he'd just had. A few minutes later, he was back, crocodile in hand, making a second attempt at contact. Once again, modesty prevailed and he had to return to headquarters. But third time’s the charm they say, and he returned once more, making the same gesture. The crocodile was accepted to mutual delight and this seemed to suffice.
The boy and his father left shortly thereafter. Perhaps it wasn’t a happily ever after. But from the somewhat jaded vantage point of my laptop and chai latte, it struck me as especially lovely that the natural instinct of unadulterated members of the species when making first contact was to offer a gift, not to claw each other’s eyes out - which cannot always be said of cats and dogs, par contre. It is nice to give: some service, some time, some dish, some thing, some crocodile.
We place great emphasis here in Montreal on the trials of winter, but far greater are the trials of spring. In winter, you can be curmudgeonly and hide behind the temperature, but come springtime, the excuses melt away and you are left quite exposed and bare. When the trees start budding and the birds start singing and the ant infestation returns to your apartment, you too have got to come out and show yourself, stand with your face to the sun and give to the world whatever it is that you have to give.