A Limo and a Super Fun Trip Down Memory Lane

by | Oct 16, 2018 | Uncategorized | 17 comments

A Trip Down Memory Lane for a Birthday
Merchandise is Here!

My mom firmly believes in creating memories by giving our family super fun shared experiences.

She’s at that age (I think I’m allowed to say that!) when she wants to be more purposeful with what she does. And she decided this year, for her 75th birthday, that what she really wanted was to take the family (including the two sons-in-law) to Toronto to show everyone our old haunts–where I spent my high school years; where we spent time with the kids when they were babies; where we all created our first memories together.
So that’s what we did. On Saturday, she rented a limo for the day, and we all set off from Belleville to downtown Toronto (about a two hour drive) on a very deliberate trip to make some memories!

All of us ready to go in a big limo!

Just so you can understand the context, in 1984, my mom and I moved to a condo in downtown Toronto, right across the street from Maple Leaf Gardens (where the Toronto hockey team played and where there were tons of concerts). I actually worked there in my high school years. After graduation, I left Toronto to attend Queen’s University in Kingston, where I met Keith. When he got matched to a residency program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, just a few blocks from where my mother still lived, we ended up renting an apartment behind Maple Leaf Gardens. You could just cross the street from my mom’s building, walk through the hotel, go up the escalator, and you’d be in our apartment lobby.
We left Toronto for good in 1998, when Katie was 1 1/2 and Becca was 4. My mom followed about two years later.
So we went for a drive down memory lane in this limo! First up, we passed my high school and the park where Mom used to take the girls. Then we drove down the street to Riverdale Farm, an actual working farm in downtown Toronto. I used to take the girls there in the stroller once a week when the weather cooperated. They loved feeding dandelions to the goats!

Katie and Keith Then and Now: Looking at the Chickens!

Next we visited my mom’s old building (where I lived too). Karen, who has been friends with my mom for 40 years (she used to babysit me!) still lives there, and she gave us a tour of the roof gardens where Mom used to take the girls, and the pool and other common areas.

Rebecca on the third floor roof, blowing bubbles–with Maple Leaf Gardens in the background

I insisted that we cross the street and go up that famous escalator. Rebecca at 3 was a pro at using the escalator by herself, because I was always trying to balance the stroller and Katie. We had LOTS of talks about escalator safety when she was little. Then we moved to Belleville, and in the whole city there was only one escalator (which is now gone). She couldn’t understand why there were no escalators.

Rebecca was a pro at riding this escalator!

Next up: Allan Gardens, a beautiful greenhouse gardens that we used to frequent.

Rebecca always loved the catcuses (cacti?). By the way, the green tam and sweater she’s wearing were knit by my grandmother (Mom’s mom). They’ve kind of come back into style!

Will it hurt?

For lunch we headed to Chinatown (and of course we got bubble tea after lunch, too!)

Eating lunch on Spadina in Chinatown

and then to the Art Gallery of Ontario, which my mom loves. We were each given instructions to find a painting in the Thomson collection that we loved the most, and then we got together to show our find to everyone else. So we all scattered, chose our painting, and shared it with each other.

Katie loved this Emily Carr painting!

We’re all Group of Seven fans (Canadians will know what I mean).

Mom explaining why she picked this Lawren Harris one.

Afterwards, Mom insisted on Dufflet’s pastry (their motto: Eat More Cake!), because she used to take Rebecca there on each trip to Toronto. Boy was that good!

Finally, we stopped at the St. Lawrence Market (my favourite place in Toronto) to buy some stuff for dinner to eat in the limo on our way home.
And then, during that drive back to Belleville, we watched Ishtar. Many would say that Ishtar is the worst movie ever made, and they may very well be right. But it’s so bad, it’s actually good. And it’s become our family movie. In my twenties we used to watch it every Christmas. We subjected Connor to it several years ago, but David got inaugurated into Ishtar this weekend. And he’s still singing the terrible songs from it.

The brothers-in-law in the limo, under one of the screens where the movie later played (there was a screen on the other side, too).

All in all, it was a terrifically memorable day. My mom has decided that she really doesn’t want any more stuff in her life ever (because she has no room for it), and so for Christmas and birthdays she just wants experiences. Sometimes (like this weekend), she’ll even pay so that the family can all be together. And I think that’s really fun.
I just wanted to share that with you, as we get ready for Christmas in a few months. Maybe, instead of a gift, there’s a trip down memory lane you can create with your mom or dad! And let your kids in on what life was like for you when you were little, too.
Have you ever “shared an experience” for birthdays or Christmas instead of a traditional gift? Tell me about it in the comments!
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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Becky

    We decided pretty early in our firstborn’s life that we wanted to include experience gifts as part of our celebrations. So we’ve been doing 3 gifts at Christmas for the boys, one of them being experience. Since they were both 2 or less last year, we bought a state parks annual pass to be their shared gift, and it’s been great to have something that we can use all year! My husband is also getting very much into minimalism, and therefore hard to shop for, so I gave him concert tickets for his last birthday. So we got a fun date night, and all we brought into the house was a page in the family scrapbook, so everyone wins.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s lovely! And I totally agree with minimalism. There comes a point where stuff is just stressful. I’m thinking of an experience for Keith’s 50th this year, too!

  2. Phil

    Hi Sheila – We did a family vacation repeat experience if you will. This past summer we came up your way. We did a full loop around Lake Ontario. The trip started out as an invitation to my cousins place on Lake Cranberry – He has a retirement cabin there. It ends up his place overlooks the exact same spot I stood when I was 5. My Dad wanted to go some where besides Kansas where we went every year. So he hatched a plan to loop Ontario. It turned out to be the last family vacation we had before my father passed away. I have the pictures from the trip in 1978. My Cousin was at our house the day before we left at a picnic. The next day we are in the needle over looking the Thousand islands.( You Canadians like needles – Are they knitting needles?) LOL Then we are at Melody Lodge – where my Cousin’s place is. Apparently my Dad was not into the city and we drove right through Toronto with no pictures and went to Niagara. My family actually did this exact same trip except we did it in the other direction. I took a million pictures plus and part of the objective was to get repeat shots of the pictures my parents took from the trip. So we have some pretty cool shots of my family posing in some of the same spots and same positions me and my brother were in etc etc. It was fun for me trying to figure out what angle or spot my parents were standing in when they took the pictures. It was a ton of driving…much different from relaxing on the beach but well worth it. We all had a blast. My oldest told me that when he is in his 40’s he is going to take his family on the same trip and try to get the same pictures we took. I am going to organize all the pictures that match up with the Polaroids (yes Polaroids) and put them into a book on shutterfly for fun family memories. I hear everyone on the stuff thing. That is the direction Grace and I are headed too with gifts. We have been doing it for each other for special events and the kids birthdays for the most part but not Christmas so much….we need to get there. A picture of a memory is so much more worth a stuff.

    • Phil

      oh and we went to Toronto – how could you not? My favorite place was the Spaghetti Factory.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s where we were going to have dinner, but David had to get back home because his unit was going on an exercise early the next morning, so we opted for an earlier night. But we love the Spaghetti Factory!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That would have been an awesome trip!
      By the way, we live right by the Thousand Islands. I used to sail them with my aunt and uncle as a kid. 🙂 And there are inexpensive dinner cruises you can take out of Kingston in the summer that we often do as date nights with friends! It’s truly a beautiful part of the world.

      • Phil

        My old neighbor from PA moved to Wesley Island and he manages Uncle Sam Boat tours, the resturant and the hotel on the US side. We have had a few freebies. I appreciate the tip. A bit of long drive these days but love that area up there. The thousand Islands are beautiful. Now I’m thinking about how I can get someone to watch my kids so Grace and I can get back up there. Sounds like a good Christmas present 😁. Hmmm

  3. Chris

    Keith looks like a high school sophmore in that one picture!😀

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I know! He had such a baby face in his twenties! It was hard, too, because he was dealing with life and death situations at work and had to get parents to trust him with their kids.

      • Chris

        Right! They thought they were dealing with the real life doogie howser.

  4. Cynthia

    I love the idea of giving an experience like that! We just did a big family trip to the Laurentians north of Montreal and visited the spring beside my geandfather’s old chalet – lots of memories.
    Speaking of memories – we also lived in downtown Toronto while my husband did residency, so we sometimes show our oldest where she lived until she was 3 (Bay and Gerrard). Lots more condos now, but you lived right around our old area so those pics brought back memories for me too.

  5. Mary Pat McDonald

    Hi Sheila, For two years I’ve given my husband lessons for Christmas – art the first time, and pottery last year. He wasn’t particularly interested but willing to try. Now we call his office ‘the studio’! And our wall space is shrinking with his paintings hung everywhere. He isn’t a great master but that wasn’t the point – he has a satisfying creative outlet that he loves. The pottery lesson was a success too, but now art is his main hobby.
    PS I’m a knitting friend of your mother’s.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Mary Pat! I love that (and I know who you are, too!). I’m glad your hubby has his own artistic outlet, too.

    • Elizabeth Wray

      Thanks, Mary Pat. As we know, collecting yarn for knitting is always allowed and seen as a good thing, even in a minimalist household! For the rest, experiences with dear family and friends always wins over more ‘stuff,’ no matter how beautiful the stuff.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, mom, but we still have to buy neutrals. too much purple yarn in this house! 🙂

  6. Rachel

    Love it! My husband is very much a gifts person, so unless it’s a movie ticket, he just really loves getting technology and stuff like that.
    I, on the other hand, am trying to get more experiences as gifts! For my birthday this year we booked a high tea where I invited some of my friends and I counted that cost as part of my present (even though many would simply consider that a party!). This year my husband and I decided to each keep a few hundred dollars from our tax return (we’re in Australia; not sure if other countries have this??) to spend however we wanted and he promptly went out and bought himself something; however, I am hoping to be able to go and visit a friend and have a weekend away to myself!

  7. Diane

    My grandbabies are just that, babies. But I think your Mom is a smart lady. I am the youngest in my family of 5 girl’s. This year the 4 of us that are left started getting together 3 times a year for our birthdays. Once in Feb/Mar, once in July, Once in Dec. It’s fun going to different spots in our home state of Florida.


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