Walking along the boardwalk with Mairead Lavery, one can see children suddenly ecstatic with joy; even adults almost inevitably break into a grin, or at the very least a smile. Many stop to take photos. It’s impressive how the simple act of making bubbles can bring smiles to the faces of so many.
“Kids love any bubbles, even the stuff from Walmart,” said Lavery, who enjoys seeing the reaction from adults even more. After all, it’s the kids who tend to have the reaction of wanting to pop all the bubbles.
“Most of them just want to break them, which kind of takes some of the fun out of it,” she said. “I try to keep moving, because sometimes it just gets crazy.”
Not all children react the same, however; many just watch the large, iridescent bubbles float across the Beach landscape. Lavery believes the reaction may be connected to whether the viewer is an introvert or an extrovert. “Some kids just become entranced, which would be more my style as well.”
Despite the heavy winds on the day we walk the boardwalk, the special formula Lavery orders from a friend in upstate New York works its magic, with slightly smaller bubbles than usual – although they’re still gigantic and long-lasting compared to those made by the more traditional dish soap in water. The formula is, of course, completely biodegradable and non-toxic; she still takes care, however, to avoid birds and any other wildlife.
“He’s just about got it perfect by now,” said Lavery of the bubble formula.
The bubble process does work better in lower winds, however.
“Usually there’s somewhere in the microclimates around the Beach where I can play with it,” she said.
Air quality is another determinant of how successful a bubbling session will go – humidity is a necessity, but too much pollen, an overabundance of insects, or even a cloud of cigarette smoke can burst the bubbles before they reach their full potential.
Lavery is an artist, whose partner, Steve Polansky, many Beachers may recognize as a regular kite flyer on the waterfront. He often flies a four-line kite, custom painted by Lavery, carrying a teddy bear as an airborne passenger. The pair started playing with bubbles over two years ago, after searching for something to do outdoors when the wind dies.
“This is the best place in the GTA for wind, hands down,” said Polansky. However, when there’s no wind, “bubbles take it in a whole other direction. You begin to discover characteristics of the wind and air.”
Lavery prefers summertime for bubbling, if only because she’s able to wade in the water while practising her craft. Due to the special formula, the bubbles can float along the surface for quite some distance before popping. She recalled timing one for four minutes during a session last summer before that particularly tenacious bubble finally popped.
She also recalled seeing a great reaction from a particular dog while bubbling in the water last summer. While some dogs ignore or are oblivious to them, others, like some people, seem intent on catching the temporary aircraft. On a warm day last summer, a husky began chasing the bubbles, and at one point leapt entirely above the surface of the water trying to catch one.
Back to the present day, one dog along the boardwalk on a cloudy January day found a bit of fun in chasing a few bubbles, at least until he was distracted by another puppy. The dog’s owners, however, were a bit more enthralled with the floating bubbles, and like many who encountered Lavery and her bucket of liquid magic, thanked her for taking the time.
In the end, that’s really the main reason for bubbling, said Lavery. “They make me happy, and they make other people happy.”