Mainland Canada’s southernmost tip is parallel to Rome and although there are no ancient monuments, the ecosystem is as old as the last ice age when glaciers slid into Lake Erie 11,000 years ago. Point Pelee National Park (pelée being a French word that means “bald”) is on the 42nd parallel and it pokes into the shallowest of the Great Lakes like Pinocchio’s nose. Varieties of plants, animals, insects and birds found within its bounds are unique in the country. It’s a complex ecosystem.
To reach the Point you drive to a little town called Leamington, Ontario. Leamington is known as the tomato capital of Canada and the tourist office on the main street is housed in an enormous tomato replica – undoubtedly a beefsteak. It comfortably holds two people who peer out of its window and greet you, offer advice on what to see, where to go and how to get there.
The two women who staffed the Big Tomato were seniors and proud, long-time residents. Don’t scold me about identifying them as “senior” please. I’m married to an older man and by some retail outlets’ reckoning I too fall in that category. I think my age is pretty obvious and just so you know, I’m good with my age.
Anyhoo. I’m standing at the Big Tomato’s oraface and the woman doing most of the talking is looking me over, and then my husband, and finally our daughter who is eighteen – and Chinese. I sign the guestbook and tell her we’d like to visit Pelee Island. She says “Oh, that’s a lovely trip. It’s an hour and a half crossing and your dad would love it.”
We’re used to causing confusion among strangers with our outside-the-box family constellation. Although, since the kids reached adulthood (at least numerically) people generally leave us alone and don’t ask intrusive questions like “Are they yours?” and I don’t have to control my viper’s tongue and restrain from saying “Piss off”. But I digress.
My husband gallantly blinked away the comment. Later he said “I must look a lot worse than I thought”, but what could he say that wouldn’t lead to a longer conversation that was completely pointless and none of anyone’s business.
We speculated the Big Tomato lady thought this: Grandpa, daughter, granddaughter. Missing in action: the Asian dad.
Off we crotchety, decrepit old people went with our young daughter to Point Pelee to explore. We felt right at home roaming the ancient and complex ecosystem, hiking through the vegetation and trees of the old Carolinian forest – the last of its kind in Canada.
Eventually we made our way to the bald point and stared myopically into the murky sky.