PROVIDENCE BAY – Reaching the age of 80 is quite a milestone, usually accompanied by a large gathering of friends and family as well wishers travel to take part from near and far. But in the age of COVID-19 showing love to those in our lives we cherish must include a fair measure of distance. But with a little bit of work, some outside the box thinking, nothing is impossible.
“I felt like the Queen,” laughed Marg Arnold as she described sitting bundled against the morning chill in a lawn chair at the end of her driveway while a steady stream of decorated vehicles processed past her honking and waving their birthday wishes on April 14.
Her friends and neighbours managed to keep the event a complete surprise, thanks in large part to Ms. Arnold not being on Facebook. Perhaps that factor also goes a fair way toward explaining the upbeat demeanor she manages to maintain despite the current lockdown.
“My daughter showed up and told me I had to get dressed and come outside,” recalled Ms. Arnold. “I said ‘what’s going on?’ but she just kept telling me I had to go out and sit in the chair at the end of the driveway because there was going to be a parade.” Her daughter maintained a safe distance all the while.
Ms. Arnold still had no idea the parade was to be in her honour.
Soon a steady procession of vehicles made that fact inescapable—over 25 vehicles, in fact.
Many of those friends were connected to the Providence Bay Curling Club, of which Ms. Arnold and her late husband Harold were avid members.
It was a curling club member, Linda Allen, who organized the parade in honour of Ms. Arnold’s 80th birthday. “I guess I had seen something like it on the news,” Ms. Allen said. “I thought, ‘well why not?’ and called Marg’s daughter to make arrangements. I put it out on Facebook and people just started to get on board. I don’t think Marg realized what we were up to.”
On the day arranged for the parade, vehicles gathered at the bottom of Cranston Road in Providence Bay. Ms. Allen was grateful to the Central Manitoulin town crew for their quick thinking.
“When we got there, there was this great big cloud of dust; they were cleaning the streets,” she said. “When they saw what we were doing, they pulled over and stopped.”
The beeping and honking procession were able to continue relatively dust free. Later in the day five more ladies showed up on her porch to leave behind birthday cards and well-wishes.
As for what Ms. Arnold thought of the whole thing?
“There were balloons and signs, so many people honking and waving,” she said. “It is great to have family and friends.”