Tlellegraph: Little Tlellians, big cities

There is something special about kids raised on Haida Gwaii — their hearts are open and their minds are so curious.

'I am the Captain now!'

'I am the Captain now!'

It takes 391 Ewans to reach the height of the Empire State Building, and 483 Ewans to reach the height of the new Freedom Tower/One World Trade Center. Admittedly, he’s not a big kid at 3.5 feet, but still it’s impressive. We left the Dominican Republic with our sunburns still glowing, and made our way to New York City.

As we approached the airport in Santa Domingo, Ewan announced that Captain Ewan had to get ready, pulled his “Junior Pilot” hat from his backpack and set it firmly on his head. That hat on such a cute kid got us through all aspects of air travel with ease. It even earned him a place in the actual captain’s seat on the plane we boarded for New York. We literally left him sitting up there chatting with the co-pilot for about 15 minutes while we found our seats and settled in. After some deliberation, Ewan decided he should sit with his family rather than pilot the plane. It was brave of the co-pilot to give him the option.

The experience reminded me of air travel when I was a kid, when visiting the cockpit was a usual part of flying. Mid-flight, as we hurtled through the air at astonishing speeds, I would be welcome to try the captain’s seat. It warmed my heart that in this day and age of homeland security and extensive fear, my boy could still have a piece of that experience, albeit on the ground, especially because our destination was the city whose tragedy of 9/11 birthed that fear to begin with.

But there is something special about kids raised on Haida Gwaii their hearts are open and their minds are so curious. They inspire a friendliness and trust of days gone by. The little Tlellians were wowed by New York.

“I didn’t know there would be so many big buildings and lights and people and big trains!” gushed little Ewan. Anneke was floored by the buildings and people too, and couldn’t wait to go shopping. She did notice the darker side of urban life, wondering about the homeless people and even commenting on the fact that everyone waiting for the subway were staring at their phones. My children ran towards any semblance of a park, sometimes forgetting to look both ways as they crossed the street. They devoured escalators, elevators, moving sidewalks, and all forms of urban travel, but also enthusiastically kept pace while walking for blocks as we explored the massive city. Walking, after all, comes naturally to them.

This trend continued when we hit Montreal. Montreal is at its dirty finest just after a good snowfall starts melting away. Grime, garbage, dog excrement, and cigarette butts are everywhere. The Tlellian children noticed that. But they also noticed the amazing architecture, the artistic light installations around Saint-Catherine St., and the Montreal love of hockey. Their first taste of a live sporting event, the Habs vs. the Rangers in Madison Square Garden, had been fantastic, but their experience at the Bell Centre was dampened by a loss. Still, my little Tlellians caught the urban hockey fever by sharing that experience with tens of thousands of people in one large arena.

Two flights later, we found ourselves in the familiar position of waiting for the ferry at Alliford Bay. Breathing a sigh of relief that we would, indeed, be among the fortunate to definitely make the ferry, the kids bounded out of the car and directly into the woods.

“Look at the view!” Anneke gushed, as they boldly followed an unfamiliar trail through the salal. Instinctively, they were combatting their nature deficiency of the week prior. Those little Tlellians knew they needed the important things exciting cities can’t offer: natural splendour, clean air, and blessed quiet.