It’s a sunny but cold Tuesday in December, and I pack Ender, also a lunch that consists mostly of oranges, into the car. Maggie the runty Boston Terrier I don’t really love—but oh, Ender loves her and she loves him too, they are littermates—jumps into the car with us. Fine. It’s not so cold that she will turn into a dog icicle when I leave her in the car while we explore the Reynolds-Alberta Museum. And she loves car rides. Also, she loves Ender, and he already has his arms wrapped around her. She’s coming.
I trudge back into the house for some pillows and blankets, make them a nest. Have everything? Child, dog, lunch. Water bottle. Ender’s wearing his rainbow crocs—I toss a pair of winter boots into the trunk in case we get stranded on a rural Alberta road and have to walk somewhere. The car’s 12 years old and plucky, but still. December on the prairies. Snowstorms come, ice sneaks up on you, cars flip.
Final check… child, dog, lunch, water bottle, winter boots.
The Reynolds-Alberta Museum is 246 km, or two hours and twenty minutes, away from Calgary, in the metropolis of Wetaskiwin. It’s dedicated to the spirit of the machine, and it’s full of tractors and vintage farm equipment, old cars, and also, planes. And that’s really all I’m going to tell you about it, because this is not a museum review.
I like the cars. They remind me of Cuba.
Ender likes the planes best.
On the way there, Ender snoozes most of the way, Maggie in his arms. I listen to Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet, and bemoan that I am now the kind of person who listens to books like The Joy Diet. Remember when I used to be the kind of person who just enjoyed living her life? Where is she?
She’s at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, taking a selfie in a tractor with her 10-year-old son. Hello, me.
He’s very, very happy.
Did I mention he likes the planes best?
When I brought Cinder here—I think I brought Cinder here? Surely, I brought Cinder and Flora here when they were younger—he was fascinated by the insides of all the machines and spent hours playing with the hands-on gears, pulleys, inclined planes, and levers.
Ender pokes at all of them with mild interest, and returns to his aesthetic enjoyment of the vintage cars. He likes the colours, the lights, the moving parts, the things that go—but he’s not particularly interested in their insides. Me neither. Let’s just look at shiny things.
Look! The workshop! A welder!
We watch the sparks for a while, but neither of us, to be honest, is interested by the science behind the process.
We spend a lot of time in the airplane hangar. As I’ve said twice before—he really likes the planes.
And they are rather magic, if you think about it. First production-style automobile—1885 or so. First manned flight, 1903. The Ford Model T didn’t roll off the assembly line until 1913.
And before the end of World War I, humans were killing each other from airplanes.
The first country to use [airplanes] for military purposes was Italy, whose aircraft made reconnaissance, bombing and artillery correction flights in Libya during the Italian-Turkish war (September 1911 – October 1912). The first mission (a reconnaissance) occurred on 23 October 1911. The first bombing mission was flown on 1 November 1911. (Source: Ferdinando Pedriali. “Aerei italiani in Libia (1911–1912)”(Italian planes in Libya (1911–1912)). Storia Militare (Military History), N° 170/novembre 2007, p.31–40, via Wikipedia)
I do not give Ender a history lesson. But I tell him a little bit about the speed of these inventions. He doesn’t really care. He’s starting to get concerned about Maggie. Wants to know how long she’s been in the car.
Too long, he decides. Also, he’s done with the museum. We trudge outside, across the prairie field dotted with melting snow, so very well suited to being a rural airport. Car. Dog.
She bounds out of the car like a crazy person—er, animal?—and runs around the empty parking lot. Pees on a clump of snow.
Ender tries to give her some water to drink, but she’s too excited. Runs a few more loops. Then leaps back into the car.
“Is she cold?” Ender asks. I shrug. It’s not pleasant, despite the still-shining sun. The winter winds on the prairies are brutal. But, although she is definitely a creature of comforts—she’s convinced the electric blanket on our couch exists for her pleasure—she is, above all, a pack animal. She’s not taking any chances on being left behind.
We drive back as the sun sets. Maggie snoozes in Ender’s lap. He gazes out the window for a while. Then pulls out his iPad and watches a show. Falls asleep with headphones on, the dog in his lap.
I listen to The Joy Diet. Don’t really hear much of anything. Through the rearview mirror, I see Ender’s happy face.
He had a good day.
So did I.
This is a very prolonged happy moment.