Every year there seems to be more and more Canadian patriotic paraphenalia out there in consumer land for our purchasing pleasure most of which makes me laugh...especially the Moose motif stuff. Gotta love our gangly Moose.
My son and I were in the local dollar store the other day to stock up on a few of these items so he can take them to Costa Rica when he attends a CISV village in late December and use them as traders with the other kids who will be there from around the world. We stood in front of the HUGE display which ranged from hilarious hats shaped like leaves to dancing beavers, maple leaf key chains, tatoos, frisbees, squishy footballs, stuffed moose, neck ties (FOR A BUCK!) and were in fits of laughter over the tackiness of the lot. Of course, we were determined to grab the best kitsch we could. Let's hope he's allowed through customs with that Canuck craziness in his suitcase.
When I was a kid, the annual fireworks were lit on Victoria Day in May. This was the tradition. We all saw it as the beginning of summer.....the first long weekend. Of course as members of the Commonwealth, we all understood the seriousness of celebrating Queen Victoria's birthday in style.....er, I guess...... by blowing off little checker firecrackers and running around with abandon holding onto a sparkler, also known as a piece of wire on fire.
Though we still have the long weekend in May, and the Monday of it is still recognized as her birthday (funny how it changes dates every year). But, somewhere along the line, our country's fireworks celebration moved to July 1rst, Dominion Day.....the day we recognize as the anniversary of our national status within the Commonwealth. Maybe we switched because it was easier to make a cake in the form of a maple leaf flag than the head of a sexually inhibited sourpuss? Or maybe we began to embrace our own sense of pride, separate from another country?
Obviously it wasn't an overnight thing.....one day we scoured at any display of patriotism and the next day we adorned our homes in all things red and white? No. It was a gradual, albeit swift turn around. Even now, I would wager a bet that most Canadians feel an attachment to this vast and magnificent wilderness we call home more so when we cross its borders? But there is definately a different feel to our celebration of our "home and native land...." Hence, the desire to don a goofy leaf pointed hat, pull on a Moose motif t-shirt and go with the flow of our known sense of humour while sucking back a few pints and singing off key?
Did you know Canadians are a very funny lot? Absurdity is in our blood. Satire swims all around us. We crack each other up! And it turns out we do a pretty good job exporting our finest comedians. I think it has to do with choosing to remain on this freakingly cold tundra in February and go about our daily routines like it was just a little irritation to start your car when its -40 degrees and a wind chill? You gotta LAUGH! You gotta bundle up too or you will die!
Then of course there is a that wonderful myth created by the late Pierre Berton who stated that you know you're Canadian when you can make love in a canoe. Ask any Canadian if they've accomplished this feat and they will affirmatively reply, with a sly smile and a look in their eye that tells you..... wouldn't you like to know how this is done? Ah, its all in the balancing between the thwarts. Its in the melodic movement of the gunnels....its how you hold your paddle.... Is there any other country who defines their patriotism through such a lens? We crack each other up.
There are definately benchmark events which foisted us forward into a more contented place. It wasn't so long ago when our national past time was a collectively navel gaze..... where the cry of the "True north strong and free" wasn't an anthem we now sing loudly at sports event and instead was "Who are we? How are we different than our neighbours to the south? How do we define ourselves...." Such nervous nellie self absorption is finally disappearing. We have grown up a bit. We've won our fair share of international hockey tournaments. We gave the world Celine and Shania.
Dominion Day. In 1982, the same year the Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights was signed, Dominion Day was renamed Canada Day. Hindsight makes me wonder if this was the turning point. Before this significant moment, maybe we were allowing someone else to make our beds? Whatever caused us to stop feeling so damn inferior and to care so much about that fact that the rest of the world doesn't really give a rat's ass about our identity, I'm glad. Why? Because what matters most is how we have come to terms about our own selves as multi cultural individuals who call this place home. The confidence felt is new to us. But it will be our growing confidence along with the accumulative stretch marks from eating the most recent national food concoction...."poutine...." (dont ask! it's gross! I'd rather smoke pine needles) that will allow us to shine on any international stage. Or not.
When I was 18 years old, I flew across the pond for the first time with a backpack on my back and a much searched for Canadian flag patch stitched on the outside of it. I had to look high and low for it. For one thing, there were no dollar stores around, and I didn't live in the middle of a tourist hotspot like Niagara Falls where touristy kitchy gift shops were at every corner. It was a different time. Patriotism was kept under wraps. Patriotism was frowned upon as a tacky display of emotional wanking best left to the flag waving country below the 49th parallel. But, I found one, and proudly sewed it onto my backpack. And I'm glad I did. Because every time someone saw that little flag, they would ask me questions about my home....my country, and I would have to think about how I would describe it's beauty, it's strength, it's people......its history.
Like many of my neighbours, we learned our patriotism....and our heart filled fondness for Canada by leaving it's borders and looking from a far. At age 18, I began to see just how lucky I was to proudly state that I am a Canadian. Though, it was said in a tentative whisper compared to my open flag waving loud anthem singing boldness of today. OH, who am I kidding?? I may be wearing my very best moose t-shirt today, and I will definately take part in some of the Canada Day celebrations this afternoon down on the beautiful Green along the Saint John River. Fireworks are in the plans after a big potluck at a friend's house. But, when it's time to sing O Canada? My boldness will quickly evaporate and my silly red pointed leaf hat will be lifted off my head. My heart will fill with gratitude.....and I will lose my way in the meaning of the words. I'm too much of a softie...... and our anthem always leaves me choked up and in tears much to the embarrassment of my family. It's a good thing they're used to it.
This place I call home......? I loveitloveitloveit.....
Happy Canada Day.....with a glowing heart from me