Grade Nine, eh? 

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We were driving down the Sea to Sky Highway (do I ever do anything else?) on Labour Day, my son and I, with the aim of hitting Park Royal Mall in West Van by 1:30 p.m.

Originally, it was meant to be 10 a.m., but long weekend unpunctuality is not a new experience to us so we weren't bothered by it.

We were bathed in late summer sunshine, the sailboats and barges were dotted along Howe Sound. I didn't look — I was driving after all! — but I could sense they were there.

Ok, I looked. For a nanosecond. It was gorgeous.

Liam was singing a made up song about food because we hadn't had lunch yet, and counting his bruises from sailing school on Alta Lake last week. One in particular was a source of pride.

"It's a rope bruise," he said, raising it into my peripheral vision. "See?"

I reminded him that I couldn't look. And I didn't look, even for a nanosecond. But since he'd shown me several times since getting it last week, I already knew what it looked like.

Last week was one of those incredible late summer weeks, with perhaps a little too much rain, but as I sat in the office digging at the journalistic coal face, it was nice to know someone I was related to was blasting across the lake with new friends to play soccer at Lakeside Park, getting dumped in the water accidently and on purpose, and learning how to race pirates (the boats not the seafaring raiders).

Let me rephrase that last paragraph: It was one of those incredible late summer weeks that only seem to happen when you're a nearly 14-year-old who is free, fed, learning something new like sailing, and all is well in your world.

Apart from — or including — some excellent bruises.

Thank you to the teachers at the Whistler Sailing Club. He had a great time and I was happy to think of him spending time on the lake where Myrtle and Alex Philip paddled their way into establishing what became Whistler.

Now onward for Liam, to Grade 9.

We were driving to West Van to visit Staples, and a bookstore, and a sporting goods store, etc. etc.  I don't drive all that way with anything less than a long list. A baby due to very happy friends in four months now has a present, Liam bought a novel he wanted (a graphic novel), and I bought him one (The Boy With the Striped Pyjamas) that I wanted him to read. He has a new sweater that we both actually like, and new soccer boots, hallelujah!

And we loaded up on school supplies.

Whenever people ask me Liam's age, I will state it and then follow it with "It's a good age..." and invariably they will agree.  They did when he was nine months old, when he was three, six, 10, and so on. Because it's true, when it comes down to it. It is great when you have opportunities and challenges and support; with an open and positive attitude towards whatever is new behind the next door, experiences good or bad, learning at that age that it will only help you grow.

I suppose I am musing this way because for most of August Liam was gone, visiting his father's family in Ireland. I was so happy for him to be there, it had been four years since he'd last seen his grandparents in the Republic. They took him to Belfast to see the Titanic, he saw a jail in Dublin where republican prisoners were shot by the British after the Easter Uprising in 1916, he went on the Shannon River, which is the artery of the country, in a houseboat, and he spent precious time with his family.

I missed him terribly.  He came back taller, with lots of stories, a better understanding of his father's country and Irish rainfall, and was full of da craic (fun).

And this was immediately followed by sailing. Not bad.

So the kid has had a full and happy summer. I'll admit I did a little vicarious living through him, because I wanted to hear about every opportunity and discovery.

I remember going into Grade 9 myself. I loved my friends and I loved having time to be on the open Prairie (where I grew up), and though I recall not feeling this way at the time, I can now recognize that life is relatively free and uncomplicated at that age. You're at the brink of so much experience and knowledge, and bill paying and responsibility. In that zone where Liam now lives responsibility is light. It is a great age, indeed.

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