At the tender age of five I was elected, by secret ballot, to be the Janitor/Artist-in-Residence at the Hartwood Avenue Dinosaur Museum located in our neighbour’s garage. Run by my brother, myself and two neighbour boys, the museum was a beautifully curated and awe-inspiring collection of shoebox dioramas stuffed with Play-Doh models and an assortment of figurines. Recognizing quality when I saw it, I decided we were selling ourselves short and proposed a price increase (a bold move for the janitor). The ‘board’ approved my recommendation and our admission price was inflated from a penny to a nickel. To win over visitors who were hesitant about our pricey admission fee, each was given a gift bag at the end of their visit. The gift bags contained a hockey poster (drawn by yours truly) a pen (courtesy of my neighbour’s employer) and a dime.
Patrons were surprisingly receptive to the price increase and continued to visit often. They seemed touched and impressed by the gift bags and welcomed them readily, most notably my aunt, who had moved in with us while recovering from a ruptured appendix. A renaissance woman who knew quality when she saw it, she recognized the museum as a good investment of time and money during her absence from work, and stopped by several times a day.
While my family still enjoys a good laugh over our successes and failures at the museum, the truly remarkable part of the story is the part that is never told. As ridiculous as our business model was, as juvenile as our museum displays must have appeared and as absurd as our dreams for the future were, our parents never once laughed (at least not to our faces). They sat patiently in cars while we would peer in the windows of commercial buildings ‘For Lease’. They called local newspapers to help us drum up business. They encouraged their friends to come to our museum and they devoted their garages, goods and energy to supporting our efforts. I recall my parents even agreeing to turn our family summer holiday into a road trip from Southern Ontario to Drumheller Alberta so we could see real dinosaur bones and get more ideas for our museum.
My parents couldn’t have known that some 20 years later my brother would make a career bringing arts and culture to Canada’s largest city nor that I would start a business doing fundraising and strategic development for small not for profits. What they did know was that as kids, all we had were our dreams and hopes for the future. So they took those seeds within us, nurtured them and watched as our roots took hold, and we began to grow.
During a time of harvest when we celebrate the great things that can come from a tiny seed and give thanks for the nourishment it provides us, it seems fitting to count not only our material blessings, or the people we hold dear to our hearts, but the moments in life where someone saw something within us and through gestures great or small, fostered the seeds of our dreams and helped them to grow.