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Friday, July 4, 2014

Another Canadian summer begins



I remember one Canada Day years ago, when I was a teenager. I went with friends to Parliament Hill to join the biggest party in the country. We had to park south of the city and bus in to downtown. Never comfortable in the high energy of the city I was a little overwhelmed and anxious but managed to get on the right bus at the right time.
When we made it to Wellington I couldn’t believe the number of people swarming up the street to the Hill. As we passed the eternal flame I saw the throng on the grounds and thought not one more person would fit inside the gates.
Somehow we found our way in. We wiggled and squirmed our way up through the crowd until we were close to the stage, where the musicians whose names I cannot remember – likely Glass Tiger or someone – were playing in the hot sun. I looked around and soaked it in, thought ok, so this is nice, sort of. It’s a little loud, a little crowded and very, very hot. Just as I turned back toward the stage, I got thunked on the back of the head with a beer bottle. It didn’t hurt much. I had a bit of a goose egg from it – but that was it for me. We left the crowd and watched the rest of the festivities from a safe spot on the edge of the insanity. And since that day I trust my instincts. I stay away from crowds.
When I was in Taiwan someone organized a Canada Day celebration on the beach for all the Canadians. It was a bit odd, singing O Canada and waving a tiny homemade flag on a popsicle stick while the scent of barbecued squid lingered in the air. Another year I went to a pool party with a bunch of Canadian friends and we were told it wasn’t safe to go in the pool due to the recent outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease. I just kept thinking of the Bill Cosby monologue of my youth. The one where he talks about the cows getting shot for hoof and mouth. The cows are being led to a hole and as they run one cow says, “Hey. Where we goin’?” “We’re goin’ to get shot.” “What for?” “Cause we got hoof and mouth.” “What’s hoof and mouth?” “See that foam around your mouth?” “Yeah.” “That’s hoof and mouth.” Of course you have to deliver this scene in the Cosby drawl. I delivered it poolside. Not one person laughed.
When my kids were little they decorated their bikes with red and white streamers, balloons and Canada flags and had a parade through our Hunt Club subdivision. We had friends over for a barbecue and then we packed up the kids for fireworks at night. I continued the tradition of bathing and dressing the kids in pajamas to take them to the park as night fell. The only night of the year when Moms do this. As kids it upset the natural order of things and we loved it.
Every year, right after Canada Day, Dad would put us in the station wagon, hitch up the camper-trailer and head to Bon Echo Provincial Park. For the next two weeks we would get up at dawn, eat a quick breakfast and then head to the beach for the day. We chose a spot on the beach, spread out our towels and anchored them with our flip flops, books, and beach bags on each corner. We went to Bon Echo the same time every year – the first two weeks of July – so we always saw the same people. The Kozaks, the Falles. Every July we met up on the beach and picked up where we left off the year before. We swam across the lagoon to the cliff, climbed up, jumped off into the lake and then did it all over again, until our empty stomachs growled and we had to head back to a campsite to forage for food.
Early morning and at sunset, my Dad hooked the tow rope onto the back of our speedboat. We waited at the lagoon to see who would show up for ski lessons. Only as an adult did I realize how generous he was with his time and his gas money. Always a teacher, even on vacation. He gave us summers to remember.
Canada Day officially marks the beginning of summer. Let the fun begin.


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