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.