“The Way We Were” is undoubtedly the name of a good movie, and the song that Barbra Streisand sings so well. Like all good songs, it evokes a certain kind of nostalgia of the early 1970’s which left its mark on a young, Indian bride, who had stepped with fresh excitement onto Canadian soil. Of course, it was a far cry from the noisy Bombay, India metropolis, as the blast of a January winter welcomed the new immigrant. The weather however, did not cool the fire of hope that burned within.
As I sit poised in 2017, Canada to me is my home, safe from the wars that rage around the world.
I arrived when Pierre Elliot Trudeau was Prime Minister of Canada, and today another Trudeau is our PM, his son, Justin. To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday is to celebrate the diversity of Canadians, multiculturalism as it is called. There is a richness in the patchwork quilt of a nation with much to offer its people and the global village.
Skipping through the years of being Canadian, is to watch the changing patterns in the kaleidoscope of Canadian life. Before I landed, I was told that it was “the land of milk and honey.” That I found to be true as I traveled through the vastness of a country that boasts the majestic Rocky Mountains, the ever stretching Prairies, the Maritimes with a charm all its own, the Calgary Stampede, and the honeymoon capital, Niagara Falls.
I soon learned that ice hockey was THE Canadian sport, and to ignore it was to become “a hockey widow.” So, I received a crash course in being Canadian, and yet celebrating my roots. Then came an education in the rules of playing baseball, and basketball, not to forget soccer, which I used to know as football!
You’re not Canadian if you don’t enjoy that freshly brewed Tim Hortons coffee that beckons to all, or that breakfast of waffles and pancakes dripping with pure Maple syrup! How about poutine, the French Canadian delicacy of French fries, gravy and cheese curd? Today, the Canadian palate for exotic food stems from the fact, that new Canadians have brought with them the tasty flavors of their homelands. So the smorgasbord of food from Italy, China, India, the Middle East, Greece, Viet Nam, Korea......are very much a part of the Canadian diet.
Canada is bilingual, French and English, but walking through a mall or supermarket will tell you that Canadians speak many languages dependent on their country of origin. What makes one feel blessed to be Canadian is the affordable health care, and the opportunity to worship freely and rejoice in that fact. The downsides are the long winter months, and for the newcomer, the struggle to get a job when faced with the question, “Do you have any Canadian experience?”
Yes, I now do, because Canada has offered me a variety of experiences especially as a high school teacher welcoming ESL(1) students, and showing them the Canadian way of living and learning.
In the process of becoming Canadian, it has been interesting to watch politicians, artists, sports people, musicians grow and evolve. They stand out, like Terry Fox, whom I saw run in downtown Toronto on his cross country trek to raise money for cancer research. Then there’s colorful Mel Lastman, once mayor of Toronto, who actually called in the army to help during a winter storm, and placed the Canadian moose (artificial, of course) at strategic places in the GTA (2).To visit countries around the world with a Canadian passport, is to receive a warm welcome. People sometimes smile, connecting you with Celine Dion and her song “My Heart will go on” from the movie “Titanic.”
And I could go on talking about being Canadian. It is sufficient to say that my childhood notion of Canadians being Eskimos living in igloos has long since disappeared, because I am Canadian, I belong. So, as I wave the Maple Leaf, with a few loonies (3) jingling in my pocket, I happily sing,
O to be Canadian
now that the playoffs are here,
O to be Canadian
sipping cool Molson beer.
The Big hope is that in this celebratory year, a Canadian team will win the coveted Stanley Cup!
(1) ESL – English as a Second Language
(2) GTA – Greater Toronto Area
(3) loonies – Canadian one dollar coins