Eff you, winter. Seriously. Eff. You. And be DAMNED!
That was our family mantra on Sunday. We decide to damn and SHUN this Polar Vortex that is apparently going to be sticking around forever, get bundled up in our winter’s finest, and go. Just… GO! Anywhere!
After a quick search on “what to do in Toronto with your toddler when it’s -75 degrees outside”, the choice was clear – somewhere my husband had never been, where I hadn’t visited in years, and where we knew Bee was just old enough to get a total kick out of: The Royal Ontario Museum.
As my husband was rounding everything up to go, this is what was running through my head, “Lord, PLEASE, give us the strength to follow through with a squirmy toddler who’s at the tail-end of a wicked cold, a car with a cracked windshield that I’m terrified is actually going to explode into a billion pieces as soon as we pull out of the garage, and myself, who is exhausted and hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in days because the cabin fever is seriously driving me CRAYCRAY!”
Seemingly, my prayer was answered and it all went off smoothly! Bee was happy and calm, albeit a bit snotty, as we strapped her into her seat, the windshield remained intact, and, as for me, nothing wakes you up faster than being smashed in the face by freezing gale force winds.
We were going to the ROM! I was so excited! Back in my short-lived university days I would go to the ROM as often as I could, usually on Friday nights since, back then, from 4:30 – 8:30 it was free admission. Totally free! It was like living in London and being able to go to the National Gallery or the Tate or the British Museum or the V&A or every other museum in the city that was FREE! *NOTE: I later lived in London and genuinely tried to visit a museum a week because how amazing is it that the greatest artifacts in the world can be seen up close and personal whenever you bloody well want without having to shell out a penny?! I was disappointed though, to discover on the ROM’s site that they no longer offered this amazing, European-like deal. But I guess when you’re regularly getting charged $16 a pop, $10 for a Friday night is… okay.
After parking ACROSS THE STREET DEAR GOD we had to cross Bloor & University in that weather (if you’re familiar with Toronto you’ll know what I’m moaning about with that intersection – Wind Tunnel Central), we entered into the cavernous atrium and were met with a blast of warm air, and the the towering bones of a Brachiosaurus.
Bee was immediately enthralled.
We checked our coats and headed towards the atrium, officially named The Hyacinth Gloria Chen Crystal Court (ooh la LA!). As we got closer to the giant creature, Bee held tightly to my hand while pointing frantically with the other. “DIS! DIS!” (dis = this) she said. I crouched down next to her and we both looked up, “that’s a dinosaur, Bee! A dino!” “DINO!” she cried excitedly, “DINOOOO!” She wiggled her hand free, and was off. Passing underneath the mighty beast, she rushed into the grand space – with its hardwood floor and airy openness, it was the perfect place for Bee to run around and expel some pent-up energy from being confined to the blah indoors these last few weeks.
She immediately targeted a large (taxidermied) bear, sitting playfully inside a glass display case and staring right back at her. “BAR! BAAAAR!”
We knew from her level of fascination with this display that we had hit the jackpot. The ROM was already a success.
From the atrium, we whisked Bee up a grand spiral staircase wrapped protectively around a giant, red cedar totem pole – one of four featured prominently at the ROM, hand carved by the Nisga’a and Haida people of the northern British Colombia coast – to the second floor, where the real magic of our visit was about to begin.
The Dinosaur exhibit has changed drastically since the last time I visited – the collection has grown significantly, with an impressive array of fossils and real dinosaur skeletons displayed in large rooms filled with natural light. I remember it being drawn out through smaller rooms, decorated as jungles and other prehistoric-looking landscapes, the bones lit-up from above and underneath with harsh studio lighting. It was a great layout for little ones, though – I seem to recall the viewing corridors were… carpeted? Am I making that up?
The feeling of watching Bee bombing around the rooms, one dinosaur to the next, made my heart explode with so much pride. I felt so lucky to be with this tiny human as she first discovered what a dinosaur was. I mean, think about how amazing that is! Just hours before she had no idea that such creatures existed in this world, and now she can’t stop chattering about them (and by chattering I mean randomly out of nowhere shouting “DINO!“). Imagine what that would feel like? Your mind wiped of all memories of dinosaurs then, one day, walking into a room full of these mysterious, larger than life skeletons from animals you haven’t ever seen before! Terrifying and towering! What sort of emotions would that elicit from you??
For Bee, it just seemed like pure… JOY!
Look at her! That right arm swinging as hard as she could to go, “faster! On to the next DINO!” without full-on running because, I’m convinced, she just knew it would be bad form to burst into a sprint in a museum. That girl’s got manners, I tell ya. We could barely keep up with her enthusiasm, it was running as rampant as she was!
The dinosaurs were definitely the best part of our visit. We took her through the bird exhibit, but she was a bit wary of them – hanging all around in suspended animation, it seemed she was just waiting for something to happen.
After a few minutes trying to get her involved in some of the smaller, less threatening birds, she declared, “all done!” And we agreed. It was soon nap time for us all. I knew it was going to be a fun time at the ROM with Bee, but I never expected how much she would love it. How special an outing it would turn out to be.
We will definitely go back. Maybe even during this newest blast of Arctic Tundra Frozen Vortex weather! Ya hear that, Winter?? You won’t keep us down! Huzzah!
Oh, before we left though, we just had to take another lap of the atrium. Of course.