Every year we’ve brought Caleb, and after she was born, Naomi, to the pen show. It’s always been hairy, and I feel like it’s probably going to get hairier before it gets…less hairy. Hairless? In any case, I’m looking forward to the day when I can send Caleb to go pick up lunch, bumping my tasks down the totem pole, but too soon after that will likely mean Caleb off in the real world and perhaps too busy to come back home for the pen show, so I guess I should embrace the hairiness while I’ve got it.
This year, with the two shops, I brought Naomi and Caleb with a Subaru-load of supplies to the show to meet half the team first thing, while the other half was with Jon, loading up at the Main Shop. It was an early morning, and while we had prepped both kids the night before with exhortations of “there’s going to be NO time for FOOLING AROUND!” and “SHAPE UP!” it was a chaotic morning with me in charge. I was also in charge of bringing the balloons, and all of helium together in one big plastic bag was a surprisingly strong lift.
This year, Caleb is 5 and Naomi is 2. Knowing that there would be crowds and our people are tiny, we got a balloon for each of them, which proved to be extremely helpful. While there is still the obvious danger of being trampled, for the most part, I didn’t have to panic every time I lost them in a crowd.
As with everything involving kids, there were extra snacks and extra books and a lot of extra napkins. On such a busy day, and knowing there were so many adults behind the tables, there was an element of latchkey kid, especially for Caleb, but the balloons also helped with knowing that the two children were bobbling somewhere down at the other end. There were no major disasters—no ink or blood spilled, no tablecloths pulled off anyone’s tables—and so we survived.
There would be no way to bring our kids to a show like this without our staff. Some of our kids’ first words were the names of our staff, and for our two, it’s become second nature to have all these extra hands and eyes around. Our kids have grown up in the shops, and have been bounced, reprimanded, read to, grabbed, fed snacks, shovelled snow with and changed by all the various staff/aunties and uncles there.
Halfway through the show, I brought the kids down to Page and Panel, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival shop, on the ground floor. They have a good selection of various kids books, along with graphic novels and comic books, and Caleb was ready to set up camp there. We stretched our legs and took a break from all the excitement, and Caleb has added to his pull list. (Just kidding he has no pull list.)
It’s a balance. Every year I gripe and complain about how much easier the show would be without the kids, and yet I know I’m just griping. I love having the kids at the show! This is such a special season of life for our family, when the kids are so young and excited to be at a pen show. And it’s a reminder for me that this is a family business.
I know a lot of people say it’s a myth, there is no balance, you tilt one way or another, but for us, in many ways, that results in a balancing act. The kids don’t get to wake up early and watch Saturday morning cartoons, but we’re building our own traditions which involve waking up early on Saturdays and setting up the shop, or our own yearly traditions that involve a crazy week packing up and planning for Scriptus, and the glorious Sunday when it all comes together.
Nothing is forever, and in this era when shops like ours that we know of personally or just have followed through social media are closing or “changing directions” and everyone is hustling and doing what they can do to survive, I am so grateful for another year at this show with our team and our family and our community. What a gift it is for us to be able to work hard and contribute to our community and raise our kids here in this shop and in this village. What a gift it is to see so many people who know our team by name and our kids and support our shop and keep us going.
It’s events like these pen shows, when it’s truly a family affair, and I can hold out hope that this life we’re building, in this land of milk and honey, with its sweet and sometimes bitter, is just what we dreamed of. I wouldn’t want it any other way.