Canada Day, Parliament Hill. Yeah, I know. We don’t do it often, but sometimes we’re suckers for patriotic suicide. This was only our second time attempting this, and we hadn’t had any major problems previously, so we thought that not much could go wrong, other than fighting the massive crowds out of the downtown area after the fireworks. But our troubles started with cigarette smoke.
While wading into the crowd, our Girl began feeling discomfort, and her eyes started to tear up. I noticed her red, puffy eyes, asked what was wrong, and she choked out, “The smell of cigarette smoke is making me sick.” She seemed to be better once she distanced herself from those smokers, but the problem returned a few minutes later, near another smoker. To make a long story short, we were escorted by some kind volunteers to the first aid tent, where the Girl’s breathing seemed to have normalized, only to have us face a new problem: Probably due to the attention, the crowd, the sun, and maybe a bit of hunger, she was now hyperventilating under the eyes of all of us, and saying that her chest hurt. After about 15 minutes of lying down on a cot, and practising some deep breathing into an oxygen mask with the Red Cross member, she felt better enough to go back out walking, and not require further medical attention.
So we left shortly after the big evening concert had begun, and we thought that that would be the end of our adventures on the Hill. But here’s the surprising thing: She wanted back on. After our supper at a wonderful Indian restaurant (and really, nothing says celebrating Canada more than consuming ethnic food), she was just the slightest bit hesitant, but ready to tackle that crowd again.
Of course, I worried. Of course, I could have said to her, “As your mother, I feel that it would be irresponsible to let you try this again.” But she seemed so determined to get back on that horse and give it a try, perhaps partly for everyone in our group who wanted to get into the centre of the action on the Hill for the fireworks, and perhaps partly to prove something to herself.
“Please, Mama. I’ll be okay.”
“Are you sure? Because the moment you feel any negative reaction, you just pull on my hand, and we’re out of here.”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
So we headed up, and stayed on the Hill, just on the fringe of the crowd, but close enough to feel like part of the exciting pulse that defines Canada Day celebrations in our country’s capital city. And you know what? She was fine, and she loved it. In a very short period just after encountering her worst ever bout of allergic reaction/mild panic attack, she was able to identify her level of strength, and desired desperately to conquer her weakness.
This incident made me realise a couple of things on this memorable Canada Day: First off, Red Cross/first aid volunteers are wonderful, highly under-appreciated people at any of these massive, crowded events. And secondly, celebrating all that is good about your country right now sure gives you the warm fuzzies . . . but nothing compares to seeing your child strong—physically and mentally.