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travel log: Canada

{ Chateau Frontenac – Quebec City }

Chateau
Chateau

After an overnight pit stop in VT (due to weather) we made it to Quebec City. Our Hotel is absolutely beautiful, a giant old Chateau right in the heart of the old city. The entire place is decked out with tasteful holiday decor, soft warm light, complimentary hot chocolate and maple fudge. They even pump a fresh cut pine smell into the air.

Oh, and everyone speaks French!
It defiantly feels worlds away from home in a days drive, which is what I always love about a road trip!
Our room is luxurious with giant fluffy beds and regal wallpaper, tiny bottles of rosé scented shampoo and thick embroidered bathrobes for everyone. The halls are made of stone and everything has a sheen of rosy gold. There are chandeliers everywhere and grand staircases leading to the private dinning rooms. There is a cozy lounge with fireplaces and a picture window overlooking the river. The bottom floors, really the underground floor, houses several restaurants boutiques and coffee shops. You could easily spend a few days in here without ever going outside.

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Our room faces the courtyard towards the river.  If  we were one floor down we would only see into the room above but up here in the 9th floor we have an amazing view of the patina green copper pointed roof and the river peaking out behind. It is even more beautiful at night with the nearly full moon rising right above the lit up skyline.

View
View

The whole city lights up in a soft warm glow at night. It is deceivingly picturesque looking out the window, as the outside air is far from cozy and warm! The average temperature has been between 10 and 15 degrees! I know we were warned by many (mom and Chris 😉 ) that it is cold up here, and I thought we were ready but wow!! We had our nice new coats and mittens, boots and hats, but that is NOT enough in this frigid air. You must cover as much skin as possible, and keep moving! We took to wearing scarves across our faces and doubling up on pants, since we did not have snow pants (which is apparently everyday attire up here).
I had no idea what a hilly city Quebec is, but thankfully trekking up and down those hills does a good job of keeping your blood pumping!

{ Big Plans }

We had big plans of ice skating and tobogganing and snowshoeing, but without snow pants and waterproof EVERYTHING, it just didn’t seem worth the risk. Walking around the beautiful city really was enough. We arrived on Christmas even and most of the shops and restaurants were closed, but the streets were still filled with families and couples enjoying the scenery. We walked amongst the crowds down the frozen streets glancing in shop windows and taking pictures of the historic architecture. I watched as families huddled together at the edge of the sidewalk waiting for the red light to turn. Baby carriages we covered completely with woolen blankets and a transparent plastic covering, protecting the little ones from the icy air. People wore fur and rode in horse drawn carriages.
It’s strange how sometimes being surrounded by people can make you feel so alone…
I feel like my senses are heightened or maybe its just my emotions. I notice every accent and foreign language, every couple holding hands or baby crying. I noticed every red nose and every pair of fancy boots. I took note of license plates and where people were from. I watched as people walked in the world around me, never once catching someone’s eye. Never once making eye contact. Never once asking a question or striking up a conversation.
The thing I noticed more than anything was just how invisible I felt.

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{Christmas Day}

Christmas Day felt like any other, which is exactly what I was hoping for.
As we walked around the city I realized that Christmas was also the 4 week anniversary of Kai’s passing. I try not to keep track of that sort of thing, and anniversary feels like the wrong word, but I guess it is what it is…
It’s so hard to believe that it has been a month….I don’t know how I have been living a life without Kai for 4 whole weeks already…
As much as I often feel like I am standing still, I also feel that time is passing by too fast. It’s hard to accept the passing of time without Kai. It’s hard to do things and make new memories that he will not be a part of. I came here to get away, to avoid the events of the family holidays because my family no longer exists. It was a good plan coming up here, but I never really considered the fact that I will still have to pass the time in some way. I will still be doing something, making new memories without Kai. Today I can avoid Christmas, I can avoid family and kids and presents…but I am I just setting myself up for twice as much emptiness and pain next year??? Or even tomorrow? I cant run forever.
I just don’t know how to go on with him without having him here…

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While the hotel was hopping with people dressed in their Christmas best waiting for the extravagant hotel holiday dinner, we bundled up and took the 15 min. bone chilling walk to the nearest Chinese restaurant. The concierge warned that Chinese is not a speciality of Quebec City but we all know its always been the standard go to for a lonely Christmas dinner. Theres really not much choice for an un-christmas dinner on Christmas day.
We shared the cold basement dinning room with a few other quiet anti-holiday patrons. An older man, a regular, sat in the far corner behind me.  He spent much of the night talking with the restaurant owner. I have no idea what he looked like I only heard his voice. Maybe he worked there too, I didn’t pay much attention.
Next to us sat a younger man eating by himself. One dish, one plate of rice, and a glass of water. He ate with a fork and when he was done he got a bit impatient waiting for the bill. Dining in Canada is a lot different than the US. They take their time here, LOTS of time. There is no rush to fill your glass or have you pay the bill. A meal can last hours, even if you are the only person in the place. It can be frustrating if you have somewhere to be but if you can it is best to just order a drink and enjoy the time with friends.
We spent the majority of our trip eating, which really isn’t the worst thing to do on vacation!
Half way thorough our meal a couple strolled in. They sat giggling in the corner speaking French and wearing fur. They ordered drinks and eventually dinner. I don’t think they noticed the wait….they were obviously locals.

Later that night we sat in the lounge looking over the river. The previous night the lounge was full of life and music and laughter, tonight it was nearly empty. We enjoyed a seat near the window overlooking the sparkling river skyline. We order some bread and cheese and some drinks, local beer and sparkling wine. We sat there a while enjoying the view and the quiet. We were not waiting impatiently for the check or rushing off to be somewhere. We just sat and drank and snacked and it was nice….and just like that Christmas was behind us for another year.

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{ A Quiet Spot By the Fire }

The next few days of our trip were spent at a hotel on the Huron-Wendat reservation. The hotel has a museum, a spa, and a Resteraunt that serves gormet style native food. The room was dressed in cozy, animal chic decor; complete with fur pelts, dream catchers and pebble flooring in the bathroom.
We arrived just as another snow storm was hitting.  Afraid of being stuck with no food we drove into town for  supplies.   After stopping at a local chain diner (which has very prompt and friendly service by the way)  we  picked up some beer, yogurt, cheese, pastries, chocolate and water for the hotel room.
By the time we left the grocery store the roads were covered in snow so we headed back to ride out the storm.

While we explored and enjoyed all of the amenities the hotel had to offer, sitting by the fire in the lobby was my favorite part of this trip. Sitting there reading, writing, watching as the world outside became covered with a fresh blanket of white snow. This is exactly what you want from a winter getaway.

{ Montreal }

The last few days have been hard. I sort of been ready to go home but also anxious that I have nothing to go home to. Today we are in Montreal, which is  pretty big city.  A lot more people here speak English. It feels a lot less like another country.
Ashley and Joe are at a museum but I decided to take some time to myself and walk around a bit.
I had no plan and no where to go, but figured it would be nice to try to clear my head and prepare for our return.

As I walked away from the museum the first shop I spotted was a little baby boutique. I peaked in the window unsure at first of what it was, most of the signs are still in French.  As I looked a little closer and saw the cute wooden toys and games, the kind I would have bought for Kai. Despite knowing I have no reason to go in, I opened the door and went in.

It was just the kind of place I would seek out when looking  for things for Kai. It may sound silly but it was not your average toy store. It was a small locally owned place with locally made products,  worlds away from tchotchke lined tourists shops around the corner.
Moms with babies and kids filtered in and out as I circled around the little shop inspecting every little thing.

I still look at toys in terms of; is it easy to hold? Would it be good for a visually impaired kid? Does it have magnets? Is it portable for hospital visits? I think I will always look at things this way. The shop keeper was so nice explaining to me what each toy does, where it comes from and what age it would be good for.
And then she asked ” Who are you shopping for?”

She was a young girl, an associate.  I doubt she was the owner or that she had kids.  She was good at her job, eager to tell me anything she knew but I knew she wouldn’t understand.  I sensed she wouldn’t know what to do.  I wasn’t afraid to make her cry, in fact it was the opposite.  As difficult as it is to make complete strangers cry from telling them my baby is no longer able to play,  that he died a month ago Christmas, it is even harder to handle when someone doesn’t react at all…

I haven’t talked of Kai to anyone on this trip, but it wasn’t worth the risk with this one.   So for the first time I resisted and instead  told her of Kai’s Village. I told her that I was looking for toys for kids at the hospital. I told her that my son was legally blind and couldn’t play with magnets because he had a programable shunt…and that was the end of it.
She thought that Kai’s Village was great.  She asked no questions and that was it.

It was nice for a few minutes to feel like I could walk into that shop and just tell her of my baby.  Not my dead baby, just my baby.  It was nice to think of Kai and now be able to pass along the things he loved to other kids and families, through Kai’s Village.  This is the first time I have felt like this since he died.  I guess I am now a little less anxious to get home.  I am excited to continue to share Kai’s life and story to help others.  I am happy to tell the world of my baby.

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{ On our Way Home}

We spent the last night of our trip in Burlington, VT.  It’s a place I have always wanted to visit but our stay here was purely for food and shelter.  As we drove out of Montreal we headed right into another snow storm.   After Burlington there is nothing for a few hours so it worked out to spend the night there.  We ate at a nice pub in town then spent the night at a hotel right off the highway.

After a not so restful night, thanks to a convention of 20 somethings who were up all night, we hit the road.  Joe did most of the driving in Canada, and Ashley and I took turns on the long stretches on the way up so it was my time to get behind the wheel again.  The drive from Burlington to Boston is a pretty straight shot.  It was an easy drive, the kind that leaves lots of room for thinking.

The three of us had been together an entire week by this point and we had hardly talked of Kai at all,  but once I got in that drivers seat heading home he was all I wanted to talk about.  I cant remember how the conversation started but I remember feeling lost and angry and sad only able to remember all of the things Kai was not able to do.  Sometimes I find it hard to grieve because I don’t have all of these wonderful memories and experiences with Kai to look back on.  Most of his life was a struggle.  I will never know if all we did helped him or hurt him more.  I will never know what he was really thinking and feeling that whole time.   Feeling this way can sometimes make his death feel like the biggest and most important thing we did together.  The thing that made the most difference.  The only thing that really helped and freed him from his suffering.

Its hard to think of his life this way, and I don’t alway, but driving home that day it was all I could think.  I was surrounded by two people who I can say anything too,  even these sad and lonely and terrible things.  I said them and I cried driving down the highway and they were there for me.  This whole trip was leading up to this moment for me.  This release of my fears and my tears and my sadness for all of the things I could do nothing about.

In reality I know I did everything I could for him,  but it still wasn’t enough.  I could not save him or change things for him.  All I could do was be there and I was.  Driving down the highway in Kai’s car with Ashley and Joe, it was the same.  They could not save me or changes things.  All they could do was be there, and they were.  Unconditionally.  They did not try to say it was okay because it isn’t.  All they could do was be there,  and that was enough.  Just being there is enough.  It is everything.

I will alway ach for the things Kai missed out on.  I will always be hurt by the pain he went through.  And I will always wish I could do more,  but no matter what I know I was ALWAYS there for him and that is everything.

Thank you Ashley for always being there for me,  holding me up through all of the joys and sorrows of our lives.  Thank you to Joe for sacrificing your vacation and talking care of Ashley so she can take care of me.  I really don’t know where I would be without the two of you!

13 thoughts on “travel log: Canada

  1. It sounds like your trip was exactly what you needed to process, grieve and begin to heal. I’m so glad you were able to do so with such supportive and loving companions! The pictures are beautiful and your story also beautiful.

    The ‘anniversary’ days are hard. I remember the ‘number’ days (in your case the 25th) being huge markers for me that first year. Even now, 8 years later, I answer the “how many children do you have” question differently depending on how I feel and how I sense the person asking might respond. It’s true, no reaction or no interest in hearing their story is the worst.

    Going into stores where there are things you’d have bought for Kai is hard. I still find it to be a trigger although less than in those first few months. Kudos to you for doing it and for being able to say what felt right to you at the time.

    The car ride home sounds so therapeutic! I’m so glad you found the time and place to be able to release some of that emotion. It can come at the oddest times and to be able to share it and be heard and supported is the greatest gift!

    I’ve no doubt Kai is very proud of his mommy and daddy. He is with you, in you and around you in light and love and spirit. I know it’s not at all the way you hoped and dreamed and imagined it would be, but he’s there.

    I think our children gave us a tremendous gift. The things we’ve learned from our journey will help others in theirs. It’s not fair and it’s not ‘right’, but it is for no other reason than for a mother’s love.

    Peace,
    Kim

  2. Kerri God sends us angels all the time. You have that in your friends. Your trip looked beautiful but I understand your feelings about the whole thing. It has only been a month. Surround yourself with your angels. Day by day.HE feels your pain HE hears your cries. HE will not let you suffer for long.

  3. The fact that you were always there for Kai is ALL that matters. And I know that Kai will always be looking out for you now. I’m glad that your trip with your friends went well. I continue to keep Kai, you and all your family in my heart and in my thoughts.
    Sending love and hugs,
    MP

  4. beautiful pictures & a beautiful story you really should think about writing a book Kais memory will live on & has touched SO many lives ❤

  5. Some people just can’t handle honesty and open emotions…. It’s not you, it’s them. I’m glad Christmas was bearable. Sending you tons of love and hugs….. You are thought of warmly and often in our home.

  6. So often I want to leave a comment on your posts, and so often I get stuck and don’t know what to say. Just know that your words (and pictures) stay with me, as will Kai’s memory.

  7. Thank you for sharing your most precious moments and thoughts. The way you love Kai and treated him when he was sick motivates me to be a more patient, and giving mother to my girls. I think of your son often. . . . .

    Take care of yourself. Praying for you.

  8. ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL STORY ,U ARE AMAZING .U DID THE BEST AND WAS AN AWESOME MOM TO KAI AND AND I PRAY THAT ONE DAY U CAN FIND AWAY TO MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR LIFE ❤ WE LOVE U AND PRAY FOR HEALING !
    TAKE CARE

  9. Kerri, sometimes strangers are easier to talk to than those who love us the most. I have an angel in heaven too, and I have an idea about the pain you are feeling. I told many strangers my story. I cannot tell you that time will HEAL your pain but I can tell you that time will help you DEAL with your pain. I hope you find peace and I hope the day comes when you know in your heart and soul that you are a wonderful mother and you gave Kai the best you could. He is your angel, smiling down on you. I was once told that God chose me to take care of this little soul whose time on earth was destined to be so short because He knew she would be so loved. Take care.

  10. Kerri, your words are so beautiful. Kai and you are blessed to have one another. He is your perfect little angel. You do whatever you feel and know so many hearts are with you.

  11. That was beautiful..what a great trip with your friends. You were their for Kai the minute he was made until the last minute he was sent to God. Be proud Mama. You’re a good one! You will always be Kai’s Mom 🙂 & I love how you talk about Kai in the present to strangers. As you should! Tell everyone about the toys and things your boy loved and the special toys he could play with. I wish you all the love in the world!!
    Middleton, Mass.

  12. Kerri, You have such a gift with words and you express yourself so beautifully. You are a natural writer. I also think you are a beautiful mother! You and Kai have touched my heart for many months now. Kai is precious and he will always be with you as you are with him. I love what you are doing with Kai’s Village. You are such a blessing to so many. Please know, you are in my thoughts and prayers. I admire you so much; the way you talk about him is so very special. Thank you for being you…Kai is blessed to have you as a mom. Sending love and hugs, Meg

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