It’s your birthday today, Old Lady. You are officially 146 years old and I mean, dannnng girl, I don’t know how else to say it: You look good.
For almost thirty years you’ve been my constant, my home, my true North strong and free.
You have laid at my feet a backyard of lush forests and lapping oceans and cool lakes, and although, deep in the throes of the angstiest of teen angst, I once described your formidable mountain range as a “stupid shitty pile of rocks”, know now that I take back those words and replace them, every time – every SINGLE time I come around the bend and witness their stature and stillness- I replace those angry sullen words with a sharply inhaled breath, a reverential silence.
“Dammmn girl. Damn.”
You taught me the beauty of sprinkling cheese curds over fries, and then outdid yourself by slopping a generous amount of gravy over the entire thing so that the cheese curds melt onto the fries and the fries get soggy with gravy and we as a nation consider it our patriotic duty to sit there with plastic forks scrapping with our husbands for the last bite and it doesn’t even matter that I’m trying to eat healthy or that I’m a vegetarian because this monstrosity has a name and its name is Poutine and it is practically our national dish so I HAVE TO EAT IT, IT’S CANADA DAY!
You taught me to say sorry. Always. For everything. If I bump into someone obviously, but also if someone bumps into me because who knows! Maybe I was walking wrong! Maybe they are from the UK and are used to walking on the other side of the sidewalk! Maybe they are balls-deep into the transcendental afterglow of a Poutine Coma. Sorry, eh? So sorry!
You taught me a deep and abiding love for this world of nation states, and a deep and unrelenting pride for the place we hold within it. Our reputation for peace and tolerance, for assistance and refuge. You taught me, in eight-grade Social Studies, the difference between a mosaic and a melting pot and I was so glad, and so proud to be one and not the other.
You taught me to stoke the fires of a small, and good-natured rivalry with our big brother to the south. It is written in our constitution that we must gently exploit his innocence of our country and our virtues whenever possible.
By telling him we live in igloos year round.
By telling him that our national animal is the mighty Timbit.
By telling him that we call chips, “Mouth Potatoes”.
You gave me freedom as a woman in a world that doesn’t offer it often.
You gave me the vote and independence and autonomy in a world full of women who daily do battle to seek the same.
You gave me a year with my daughter, to know her and care for her and lady, I cry a little bit with gratitude every time I think about it.
You have spoiled me, lady. And I take you for granted. And like Mother’s Day, one day is not enough – one day will never be enough, but I offer it up anyway. I will wear red and paint my face and sit in stillness watching fireworks as your National Anthem swells around me.
Oh, Canada. With glowing hearts, we see thee rise.
Our true North. Strong and free.