When I was young, my parents took us through Canada to see Niagara Falls.
The only flash of memory I retained from the trip is stepping out of a dressing room to model a cute Canadian dress that Mom had me try on. Though I generally hated dresses, I loved that one; perhaps because it felt a little less like a dress and a little more like a costume. She bought it.
I don’t remember the falls at all.
I know I was there, though, because I have photographic evidence:
(I am not, by the way, wearing the beloved dress in this photo.)
Dad doesn’t look like he’s paying a lot of attention to me, as I gaze out at the mist and roar of Horseshoe Falls—he may have been asking Barb, the tour guide dressed in blue, some fact about the water flow; or he may have been advising my brother how many Canadian coins were needed to use the telescope.
I am pleased to note, however, that Dad has wrapped his arm completely around me and pulled me close to his chest. So I think I was safe. Besides, Mom’s eye would have been watching intently through the camera lens as she snapped this photo. She had reason to be nervous, you see, because years earlier, Dad lost his balance and almost dropped my brother under the turning wheel of a Colonial Williamsburg carriage that unexpectedly lurched forward. And, once again while holding my brother, Dad was stepping onto a tour boat of some kind and lost his footing when the boat shifted in the water—again, very nearly dropping my brother into the dark, sloshing water of Charleston Bay just below.
But he was able to recover each time, and my brother survived those educational field trips, just as I avoided toppling into the crashing waters of Niagara.
Still, perhaps a deep-seated uneasiness kept me from visiting Niagara for several decades. I’m happy to report that I have overcome any trepidation with the help of the Belgian Wonder, who promised to hold tightly to the kids and me if any of us teetered next to that railing.
So after a week of family camp that ended on Friday, we headed out with passports in hand to drive across Canada to Niagara Falls.
Unfortunately, a pedestrian death caused a massive traffic jam on the QEW—all lanes were closed across the Burlington Skyway, the route we mapped out in advance. We naively forged ahead not knowing we would be trapped in stop-start (mostly stop) traffic for over an hour. Cars overheated.
In fact, the car directly in front of us stalled. The driver, agitated and seeming to get no help from her male companion who used the opportunity to step out of the car and light up a cigarette, tapped on car windows, asking if anyone had jumper cables. The Belgian Wonder jumped out of the minivan, ran back to our trailer, unlocked the door and retrieved ours.
About ten minutes earlier, we had noted a black truck with off-road wheels as the source of a deafening bass beat. The driver of that same black truck turned out to be the Good Samaritan who worked with the Belgian Wonder’s jumper cables to get the disabled Subaru running again. Shortly after, though, the car’s engine failed again and they coasted to the shoulder. The driver of the black truck pulled over and backed up, offering to tow them. That’s the last we saw of them, but the agitated driver seemed to be in capable hands. I have no doubt he stuck with them until they arrived at a service station.
Eventually we took an exit away from the QEW and skyway, proceeding to drive without a map or directions, simply “following our nose,” as the Belgian Wonder would say, in search of a highway heading east. On our little adventure, we admired a variety of Canadian neighborhoods, countryside and some small towns—not to mention several Tim Hortons drive-thrus.
We were pleased to see that Canadian packaging requires the French translation.
Our noses were failing us, however, because we couldn’t figure out where we were. We eventually stopped, bought coffee and a map, and asked for help. Happily, we were closer than we realized due to poor signage, so we quickly wound our way onto the 20 and made our way straight east to Niagara Falls.
First reaction.(Please note the grassy area on the other side of the railing, making it a relatively safe place to stand on the stone and raise one’s hands).
The day unfolded with varying degrees of admiration, astonishment, awe, curiosity, and contemplation.
And as we drove away that night, we were sad to observe the flashy, excessive commercialism just one block from the thundering majesty of the falls.
But I don’t want to end on that man-made, money-making blur.
Let me leave you instead with one more look at this convergence of power that God created and man enjoys: the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
And a close-up of Horseshoe Falls.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,mightier than the breakers of the sea—the LORD on high is mighty.
Image credits: Vintage family photo by Lynn Hopper. All other photos by Ann Kroeker.
David Rupert says
I so love this photo-blog-journey! I was totally there.
And loved the old-timey photo of little Ann!
It’s fun to share the trip with you, David. And I look at how vintage that photo is and realize how old I am! Old-timey, indeed! 🙂
Years ago, I had to go to Toronto to give a speech, and some company friends decided I needed to see more than the inside of a conference room. So they took me to Niagra Falls, and it was an overwhelming experience, late afternoon, cool, cloudy but the sight was nonetheless spectacular.
I think I need to see it again.
Hooray for your company friends–I hope you can see it again. On a sunny day.
i’m so glad to share this little glimpse of your holiday, Ann. I’ve never been to Niagara Falls, and must admit to feeling a bit of free floating anxiety as I read of your brother’s near spills! I love that photo of you–completely encapsulated in your father’s safe embrace, though. That tells a story.
Dad doesn’t show much affection, but apparently he felt nervous enough to hold tight–or maybe Mom was yelling at him from behind the lens, “Hold onto Annie!”
Sheila Lagrand says
What a beautiful series of photos. Thank you for taking us along. Funny how the guy with the overtuned bass can end up being the good guy, hmm? I love it when people surprise me like that–then I’m humbled when I realize how I take one little element of a person’s being and construct a whole personality around it, in my mind.
Thanks for leaving us with an image of the falls. My daughter and I visited Salem, MA just a few weeks before Halloween (because that’s when we were in MA) and it was as if the circus had come to town.
We were impressed with the truck-guy, yes, having noticed his preference for turning up the volume (and the bass) so loud that we felt our minivan vibrate two car lengths away from him!
Your Salem, Mass, trip sounds amazing. 🙂
um? Ann – I live in Burlington!
How can we know these things in advance, to swing by and say hello? We were sitting in that traffic for quite some time. You could have walked out to hang out as we sat there in the long line! 🙂
Seriously, I’m sorry to have missed meeting you in person. That would have been amazing! Shoot.
Megan Willome says
Wow. So much water.
Yes. And so much power.
Stephie Goldfish says
Ann, These photos are beautiful. I especially like the one with the rainbow. I’ve been to Niagara Falls three times, and I happened to capture a photo of a rainbow coming out of the falls like this one. And the photo of the boat in the water below near the falls reminds of how powerful the water is and how small we are. Thanks for sharing your journey to one of the most awe inspiring places on earth.
I’m so happy to share this event with you, especially because you know it well. That rainbow–almost a perpetual rainbow, as long as there is sun–was amazing. And we did take that boat trip. That is amazing, the boat rocking at the base of all that crashing water…
Lynn Hopper says
I had not mentioned to worrywart Daddy that you were gone, but since you are home safe and sound, I did own up and showed him the blog, which he enjoyed. I kept that little dress for years, and eventually gave it to you, I think….
Oh, golly. Glad Dad could laugh at the near-drops.
Now I have to figure out where I put that dress…
I was there once too Ann and remember very little. Thank you for sharing your travel adventures. It is just amazing. I try to imagine what a voice like many waters would sound like. I just can’t – it is too wonderful.
Ann Kroeker says
Yes, yes. Well said. Too wonderful.
Linda Thomas says
What fun to read your blog and see your photos. They stirred up so many fond memories.
Back in the early 1940s my grandfather worked in orchards near the falls and my mother, as a young single lady, taught in a school there. I’ve heard their stories of the continual roar of the falls and how hard it was to get the laundry dry when hanging on the clothes line due to the falls’ mist. My parents were married in Niagara Falls, but then moved to the west coast.
When I was 16, Mom took me and my little brothers back and showed us the falls, and then in the late 1990s my husband and I stopped there on a business trip. Both times I was there, standing right beside the falls like it shows in one of your pictures, the force and movement of the falls feels like they could pull a person right along with them. Kinda spooky. Glad there’s a fence there, and a daddy to hold onto his sweet little girl.
Ann Kroeker says
Love this story of your own family history with the Falls!
Charity Singleton says
Loved seeing the mini-Ann – what a cutie! And having go back again into the recesses of your history, digging out what makes you, you!
Ann Kroeker says
I’m from the family that almost drops its children! 🙂
Hazel I Moon says
Years ago, we took our teen age children there once on our way to one of the World’s fairs. It is such an amazing place to visit. The falls are beautiful and so powerful. You have captured the most awesome photos for our pleasure – thank you so much!
Ann Kroeker says
Thanks so much for your kind note–I love reading about the trips others have taken to the falls!
Simply Darlene says
How did you remember the tour guide’s name? I thought maybe she was a local waitress taking a look at a thing of beauty before heading home.
Do we get so see a photo of you standing with your arms outstretched, embracing the spray?
Ann Kroeker says
My mom remembered and took note of it on the back of the photo! She must have been a very good guide, and when I mentioned it to my brother, he says he remembered her, too, as a young adult who seemed kind of hip.
Which is kind of funny, seeing her looking like a waitress.
Jennifer @ GDWJ says
I love that vintage photo of you, Ann. I love how intent you are, and I am imagining what you might have been processing as you soaked in the greatness of the falls.
And the photo of you grown up, arms raised? As if in praise to the Lord of all creation. Or not “if” … But really, truly in praise.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Ann Kroeker says
The hands up, feeling the spray? That’s my oldest daughter. 🙂
So much fun here. My parents went to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. It was one of the few places my family went for vacation. We had little money, and the drive was only about four hours from our home. I remember preferring the cheesy, man-made attractions back then. I love that you incorporated the stories about your father dropping siblings. Oh, how I love me old family stories. My daughter got married in January and went to the Falls for her honeymoon. She has stunning pictures of the waterfalls encrusted with ice. Your post sparked lots of memories. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Ann Kroeker says
My friend told me that the cheesy manmade stuff has been there for years and years and years. Nothing new about that.
Ice-encrusted falls? That sounds magical. And cold.
Bill Vriesema says
Beautiful photos and story Ann!! You have a great eye for composition and telling stories through the lens!
Oh, Bill…you’re too kind. I’m such a newbie still, just fumbling with my settings and learning more what *doesn’t* work.
Encouragement and input from experts like you really does help. Thank you.
Julie Ruegesegger says
I am here at Niagara Falls tonight! We spent the day donning plastic raincoats and generally living in awe at the hand of our Creator. I, too, came as a child and am humbled to share this place with the seven whom I love. Indeed the Lord on high is mighty!
Really?? How wonderful! Are you donning the raincoats for the mist, or is it raining? It rained the morning we left–we scrambled to pack the trailer before getting drenched!
Enjoy the view, Julie…the beauty…and the seven with whom you’re sharing it.
Julie Ruegsegger says
The raincoats were for the mist–which felt more like a steady rain. Yes, indeed, we gathered to catch just a glimpse of His power. So glad to be home again now!