|ROSE AMONG THORNS: Pépé, Mateus & Pete|
Last Sunday, Mateus Remy Carter Chaignet, 5, bravely and singlehandedly led both his grandfathers, (never mind their ages) on a two-and-one-quarter-hour adventure through the woods along the banks of Upper Don River in central Toronto.
Hard on Mateus’ heels, I — Grandpa Peter — and Vincent Chaignet; a.k.a., Pépé, marched up grassy hills and around a lot of fallen as well as healthy trees.
We picked our steps gingerly along narrow mud trails. We hiked high above the flowing waters of the Don and descended once in a while to the slippery rocks on the riverbank.
We climbed precipitous slopes and tailed Mateus down inclines that he warned us in advance were “wriggly” and in fact “wobbly.”
|CARRY ON UP THE DON:|
Wayne & Shuster led the way
We pushed branches and logs out of our way and remained mindful of the poison ivy patches. I mentioned to Vincent how fascinated I was as a kid by the idea of a plant that was poisonous and he said he was just as curious about bug-eating plants; even moreso, he added, he actually bought some and fed them flies, “Just like in that play, what was it called again?”
Me: “Pet shop boys?”
Vincent: “Little Shop of Horrors, I think.”
At one point, 40 minutes in, I enquired if Pépé remembered the old Canadian comedy TV series Wayne and Shuster.
Me: “They, [deep breath] did an episode, [puff], where they went [deep breath again]
looking for the Source of the Mighty Don. That’s what I, [two huffs followed by a puff] feel like.”
Fearless leader knew where he was going.
Mateus must think his grandfathers doddering old farts indeed.
As he led the charge, Mateus was forced to bark over his shoulder course correction after course correction.
Sometimes, to make life easier for his France-born Pépé, Sgt. Mateus addressed us in Canada's other official language, making me — the only unilingual member of our crew — feel inferior indeed.
At one point, in a clearing, Mateus decided we should have a quick round of a game Mateus invented and calls “Lava Monster.”
Pitifully, neither of Mateus’ acolytes could get the Lava Monster rules through their thick skulls.
Lava Monster a blowout, Mateus shook his head and resumed the long march.
For a couple of old guys who hadn’t trained, Pépé and I held our own. Also, had I known Mateus was going to put us through these paces, I would have chosen alternative footwear. Cowboy boots are not designed for hiking. The more I think about it, the more I believe old west cowpokes didn’t probably wear cowboy boots, especially ones they got at a discount store in Mississauga.
|AND YOU WONDERED|
Why he calls it a Ninja Tree.
I remember at one point, with Mateus in the lead, we were on the riverbank, about 10 feet above the cool Don, I was actually using the nearby trees as a handrail.
“I bet he read The Road Less Travelled,” I breathed to Vincent as Mateus marched us through yet another in a countless series of tangled branches and weeds.
“Looks like,” agreed Vincent.
Oh wait. I forgot to tell you about our goal.
We were not wandering aimlessly.
At the beginning of our trek and then every 15 minutes or so, Mateus reminded us that we were headed to his “Ninja Tree.”
I had never seen one and neither had I any idea how long it was going to take to get there, but who would refuse a two-hour trek through the woods on a hot May afternoon if they thought they’d see a Ninja Tree? Nobody is the answer.
After a 70-minute trek. A lone tree, sitting in the middle of a patch of grass, surrounded by a smoothly tarred parking lot half full of cars. (Yes, we could have driven but what’s the fun in that?)
The Ninja Tree.
Worth every step.
|POST-LAVA LICKS: Next time,|
he'll learn us.
Mateus ran to it. He climbed. He swung from the lower branches, hurdled the trunk, did complete flips over one of the larger arms and at one point, while perched high above his two grandfathers, attempted to orchestrate yet another round of Lava Monster.
I can’t speak for Vincent, but I suck at Lava Monster.
Mateus showed no disappointment though.
For most of the trek home, Mateus deigned to let me ferry him aboard my very own shoulders.
Little old Moi.
I felt like the extremely privileged servant whose job it was to ensure that 5-foot, 2-inch-tall Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie’s feet never dangled from the throne, which meant the exact moment His Highness sat, the fortunate servant had to very quickly slip an appropriately sized cushion between Selassie’s feet and the floor so no Ethiopian would ever see what a shrimp their leader was.
I felt supremely lucky to have the important job of being Mateus’ human sedan chair.
Blessed in fact.