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)


Ellen said...

I watched the Hockey game last night (we had taped it since we had been out of town)....I may be from the USA but I could tell from the 1st quarter that Canada would win gold. They were so much more focused and on fire! This is coming from someone who does not watch hockey (or football) but I wanted to be with my Love who wanted to watch it...Congrats to all Canadians!! Congrats to all Olympians!!!!

Your snow babies looks so cute all bundled up with rosy the photos....and isn't it sweet that even with lots of gadgets and noise makers that the branches of trees blowing with the breeze is so much more an attraction...

the b in subtle said...

Thank you, Ellen. YES INDEED! Congratulations to ALL Olympians - and the United States took home the largest tally of medals (37)! WOW! So congrats to all our friends down to the South of us. It was a very close game, the way it turned out! Yes, I love that he was mesmerized by the trees over his exersaucer. He is one very special child. His names all come from the natural world, so he seems especially attuned to it - loves snow, loves water, loves trees!

Brian Miller said...

and then you abused me on sounds like you had a fun time this weekend. love playing in the snow with my boys. national pride is good and heartwarming, while we are a nation together we are divided on many idealogical points, especially these days it seems, but that is nothing new to the US. i was happy for the hockey team, it was a good game, canada won...all is right in the world. smiles.

cute pics!

the b in subtle said...

thanks, Brian. yeah. couldn't help myself! HA! it's true what you say - differences clearly exist up here with the vote being so close. I hope there won't be another referendum but I'm sure there will be at some point. I'll be holding my breath and clasping my hands (if you don't find me out on some overpass with a flag myself).

järnebrand said...

Cute post and nice photos. Your sonshine seems to be my kind of guy...! I sometimes actually even prefer trees over people, at least some people... :) I am not a sports fanatic (at all) but I have been watching the Olympics too. I think Sweden took home 18 or 19 medals, which is good considering only about 9 million people live here... *not exactly beaming from national pride however...* :)
Take care, and stay warm. Love/ Jo.

Ciara said...

What a heartwarming post, Nancy!
Gorgeous pictures. But especially that picture of your little guy with his prettiest of girl cousins is adorable. The expression on his face is priceless!

There is something so moving about those mental snapshots we take as we move through our lives, the ones that stay with us, no matter how fleeting. Thanks so much for sharing this one with us. I was right there with you in your car as you drove under that underpass... sniff...

Land of shimp said...

Aw...and many congratulations to Canada on both being a wonderful host city, and performing so very well!

I think it's lovely to have these times to just love a country, a place, the place that went into making you, and those around you, who they are.

I like Canada, I like many Canadians, it's a lovely country, with a better social conscience than we here in the U.S. are taught to have.

I'm glad Canada did not divide, for the sake of the people that love the country so, and for the sake of the rest of the world, too.

Candidly, we here in the U.S. are having a lot of trouble resolving the differences in our political leanings. I'm a liberal/progressive, and just recently found that evidently that's akin to being evil to some conservatives. I don't know how this can be resolved in our country, our divide keeps deepening...nothing can get done lately, there is no meaningful discourse and the divide grows.

I don't know where it will lead. I read your post, and I've read such lovely, glowing things from so many Canadians of late, particularly in the wake of a grand performance at the Olympics.

I'm so happy for Canadians, that you feel this way. I think I used to feel that about the U.S. ...I still love my country. I'm worried about it, though.

Cam said...

I love the photo of all the little ones bundled up in the snow!

We saw only a few flakes this year, since moving to a warmer climate, and I do believe it is the first winter that we've missed out on sledding. No fun!

Congratulations to Canada!! I understand pride in your beloved homeland. My grandparents used to stand during a song that was played every 4th of July at a venue we enjoyed a fireworks display. Even as a young one, I stood right alongside them. They remember harder days, and what luck we all have to be so fortunate. I'm afraid that young people just don't understand that concept anymore. So sad.

Okay, all these snow pictures have made me want for a cup of hot cocoa! haha! Be well...

Anonymous said...

Your Sonshine is puffy-suited flower of cuteness! He is growing up so fast, so joyously.

As the hockey-Olympics-national pride, I salute you. I salute my Canadian cousins (literal and figurative, as half my family lives throughout Canada).

I freely confess that I might be the only person (short of Norio Matsumoto) who did not watch any facet of the Olympics on tv. I heard many excellent stories, and some horrific ones. The eyes of the observers tell the tale long after the flame is extinguished.

Anonymous said...

...evidently, my typing skills are severely impaired. Conjunctions and pronouns, too numerous to enumerate, are missing-in-action from that previous comment.

Good grief. I need (more) coffee.

監控 said...


Dreamfarm Girl said...

I'm delighted to have found your blog, through Milkmoon Not surprised though, that Ciara would have led me to another thoughtful writer. I live in Texas and rarely see snow, but I have a fascination with my northern neighbors. Lovely country! and creative people.