Family photoLionel and Michelle and their children in the early days.
Over the past 15 years, as we have been building our magazine business, we also have been raising two children, Aubrey and Maggie. We decided to homeschool them as long as we could so that their schedules would be flexible and allow us to travel together. As a result, we now have two great teenagers with whom we are very close and we enjoy our time together.
But I'll never forget the reactions we sometimes received when we showed up for business meetings as a team of four—snacks, crayons and colouring books in hand. It didn't really matter to us how high level the meeting was. Our feeling was that we had our kids with us all the time anyway, they were well-behaved, so what's the big deal?
One time in particular, we were driving west to visit family on Vancouver Island and thought we would contact our salesperson at Quebecor in Vancouver to see if he had time to see us. Ian (introduced in last month's blog) always greeted us whole-heartedly and gave us the very best treatment. He invited us to join him for lunch on our way through.
We arrived at the Quebecor office to announce ourselves. In brass lettering on the sign in the foyer it read "Welcome Lionel and Michelle of September House Publishing." Wow, I guess they all were expecting us...
The receptionist took our names and let Ian know we had arrived. After hanging up the phone, she says to us, "Sounds like you are going to Seasons for lunch." We smiled politely and thanked her. We rarely ate fast food and I was relieved that we were not going to McDonald's—little did I know...
When Ian arrived in the foyer, looking dapper in a well-tailored suit, we greeted each other with hugs. We had just travelled across the Rockies and were rather dowdy by contrast in our sneakers and jeans. Ian said to follow him to the restaurant in our van.
The road into Queen Elizabeth Park was narrow, lined with trees and beautiful. We marvelled at the route Ian had chosen to take us. It wound its way up and up until we arrived at a valet station. Ian hopped out of his car and tossed his keys to the valet. It was at that point we panicked. We can't hand off the keys to this jalopy! We've just been practically living in it for three days with two kids under 5! There's left over chip bags, beverage containers—junk everywhere! And it smelled a little funky. Oh well, can't turn back now...
We didn't look back to see the expression on the valet's face, but rather were gawking at a plaque leading into the restaurant indicating that Clinton, Gorbachev, and Mulroney had met there in the previous year. It was at that point we realized that our little family was not routine clientele at this place.
As we passed by tables of sophisticated diners, they took long, hard stares at us, wondering at our audacity in bringing our toddlers to such a classy joint. The kids were oblivious to the attention we were getting and stared back, wide-eyed and with smiles, open for conversation—we are a classic Saskatchewan family, after all.
Ian always gave us the best and never with an air of pretension. It was obvious after one quick scan over the menu that macaroni and cheese was unavailable. Aubrey leaned toward me and asked if they had Roy Rogers mocktails. I didn't want to start asking for anything special and said he would do fine with juice. Ian, on the other hand, heard the special request and immediately asked the waiter if they had Roy Rogers. The waiter stuttered a bit (he obviously had never worked at Boston Pizza) but said they could accommodate and thus a round of Roy Rogers were ordered.
We modified a few dishes from the menu (dropped the caviar and scallops on the pasta and substituted cheese with a small piece of smoked salmon) and pulled together some kiddie meals. A second round of Roy Rogers were order and we were on a roll. As the view of Vancouver was spread before us from this highest point in the city, we soon forgot how displaced we were and began to laugh and enjoy our host's company fully.
Now that the kids are teenagers, they have a colourful youth to reflect on. They have been served snacks and treated like little business people by well-known personalities from the world of music, sports, and politics—among others. I suppose they are as much a part of Prairies North as we are. Who knows where that experience will take them in the future...
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