Monday, March 1, 2010

O Canada

In 1995, I drove to Montreal to stay with a close friend who was studying at the National Theatre School. It happened to be Friday, October 27, the day the "Unity Rally" took place before the second Québec Referendum to decide whether Québec should become independent from the rest of Canada and separate. Approximately 100,000 Canadians gathered in downtown Montreal to celebrate Canada as one nation. "My Canada includes Québec" placards and bumper stickers were everywhere across the nation.

The coverage of the rally was all I tuned into on the CBC, Canada's national radio station, for as long as I could get its frequency along the drive. And it just so happened to be pouring rain. Sheets of it coming down. My wipers oscillated across my windshield on third speed, it was that kind of weather. Pathetic fallacy for the tumult of emotion going on that day nationwide.

And somewhere on the 401, East of Kingston, but well before Ganonoque, I approached this one overpass. Standing in the middle of it was this lone figure hoisting this massive Canadian flag. It looked so heavy, he was straining with the effort to move it back and forth as it waved. He steadied the end of its pole against his chest as though it had impaled him, right through his heart. And the rain pelted his hands, his body, his face, as he made this beautiful, poetic gesture. I don't think he could even see the cars driving beneath him. I fell in love with that guy. As I drove underneath and honked my horn in support I though, "if he asked me right now, I would marry him".

He represented to me the pure passion of what it means to be Canadian. What Canada means to those of us who live here. National pride swelled within my breast to see him waving that flag in the pouring rain, in the hopes his country would stay as one. He was everything this nation represents and embraces. I'm maybe still in love with that guy just a little. Wish I knew his name.

On the Monday the vote results were tallied as I headed back to Toronto: "Non" won by the narrowest of margins (50.58% over the 49.42% who voted "Oui"). Québec did not separate. A few hours drive from home still, I wept with relief. I cannot even imagine a Canada sans notre belle provence. I hope never to know this kind of Canada: divided.

This weekend that guy popped into my head again. 'Cause this was a weekend all about celebrating being Canadian.

Happily getting fed in his uncle's arms

We went to my brother's on Friday afternoon to visit for dinner and my Sonshine was finally inaugurated into the Wonderful World of Tobogganing, a true Canadian sport. They had a blue one small enough with a belt to clip him in for safety and he was beyond delighted with this new adventure. His rosy cheeks absolutely glowed with the excitement of it all. Ah, the thrill of the toboggan! While I was at university, we used to get the occasional snow day as a result of actual blizzards and I recall myself and some friends stealing trays from the cafeteria at university. We would park our cold arses on them and slide down hills on campus for some wintry fun!

And Canada pulls ahead (however briefly)

But following what has constituted not nearly enough snow, in my humble opinion, for a true Canadian winter this winter, we did manage to accumulate a bit more of The White Stuff during the past week and conditions proved perfect for some healthy jaunts around the back yard, pulling my wee little man behind me. We had a bit of an Olympic contest going: my brother pulling his two adopted daughters from China and me pulling my son. (Let's just say China won a few more of the relays, than er, Canada, in this particular backyard version of Olympics.)

Sonshine and his mama in our parkas

I have the prettiest girl cousins in the world

And let's for a moment talk about Vancouver Olympics 2010, in which Canada won the highest amount of Gold medals (14), not the least of which was the men's hockey versus the U.S.A., last night. (Kudos, of course, to the Canadian women who also took gold and were found drinking at centre ice in their euphoria. To them and their silvery skates, I formally declare, "Swig it, girls. You earned it.")

Yesterday, I was sat in the parking lot of my local Zehrs listening to the nailbiting 8 minutes of overtime when "Sid the Kid" Crosby scored a gold for Canada and I couldn't help honking my horn. I scared the shit out of the guy gathering grocery carts, but sheepishly explained while I unclipped my son from his carseat and ran into the store just before it closed. Maybe fifteen minutes later, I drove to pick up my take-out tandoori and two guys stood outside the local pub on the main strip gesticulating wildly to cars (okay, one car) driving by to honk its horn for Canada. Don't you love a small town? Even that made my heart burst with pride!

L'il nature lover

As I type this, my son stands in his exersaucer. It has a gazillion doodads: tooting buttons, plastic flowers, flying bees and birds, mirrors. You name it, it's got it. But what is transfixing him? He is standing still as a snowman, watching the tree branches sway, the laden boughs bowing with the weight of snow. He is mesmerized. He is, undoubtedly, dreaming of being outdoors in the Canadian wilds again.

A warm kiss in the cold snow

It's clear he loves this country as much as his mama does.

Photos: credit goes to my sis-in-law, K.

Music: Emotional Canadian Olympic Gold National Anthem (2008 Olympics)