I am proud to be a transplanted Brit and a Canadian citizen. I belong to both England and Canada and am lucky to have lived on both sides of the Atlantic. My experiences in each country helped form who I am today, and my memories of both fill me with happiness. My memories of England are of bare-footed, innocent ramblings through ancient woods past waving fields of golden grain and post-war brick buildings separated by cobblestone streets. I remember sitting in front of a fire at granny’s house — my siblings and I still damp from the bath. The firescreen became a rowboat, tossing on treacherous waves. The clothes maiden, turned on its side and covered with a sheet, became a tent in the darkest depths of Africa. The narrow stairs to bed were mountain slopes, and each step a rocky crag that threatened to break if I didn’t make it to the next one. If I dared to peek at the window after lights out, I might catch a glimpse of the giant in the mustard shirt and blue denim jeans that hid behind the poplars on top of the hill. If he saw me peeking…off with my head! The long walk to school in my crisp white shirt and red tie with my imaginary pets, Mischief, the cat, and my little pony, Blackie, to keep me company. I would wait until the street seemed empty, then climb of Blackie’s back and gallop ’til the wind caught my hair and I had to keep checking to see if Mischief could keep up.
Short cut by a church of stone and graveyard full of dusty bones. Basket of shopping from green grocer and butcher as we walk along eating hot steaming pasties.Fish and chips and mushy peas, steak and kidney pies, Blackpool rock, and sweets for a penny. Chucky eggs and conny-onny, sweet tomatoes from Granny’s greenhouse.
My childish imagination helped create a special world that I will always treasure. Having never been back to England, my memories have remained intact, untainted by reality. I do remember some unsavoury aspects — only one bathroom with no shower for six people (unless you include the outhouse), bedroom windows glazed with ice, and hurrying to dress in the morning. The portable washing tub complete with mangle, and hanging the clothes outside to dry. Squeezing into a red phone box on the corner that smelled of urine and lead paint to make a phone call to people who were never home to answer.
We moved to Canada when I was twelve. My only exposure to Canada had been through a friend who wore a first nations style suede jacket with embroidery down the front. It seemed very exotic to my uncultured eyes and I remember staring at it enviously. When I found out we were moving to British Columbia, I imagined evergreen woods, log cabins and teepees and my mind was filled with magic. As I walked out of the airport I expected to see cowboys and Indians, horses and dirt roads. What greeted me was very different. Concrete roads that stretched from side to side, houses big and bright, beautiful mountains and clear skies, and everything so new and clean, clean, clean! People who looked just the same, but somehow bigger and more open, like the roads. I became so small and shy and quiet.
I appreciated — and still do — a bathroom with a shower, and a dryer for clothes. I jumped when the phone in our home rang for the first time and admired the brand new television with more than two channels. I slowly forgot the comfort of the row houses and the coal-fed fire, and fell in love with the warmth of the people, the unique houses and the big, beautiful wide open spaces where I could stretch and let my imagination soar even more. It took a while for me to feel like I fit in — to grow into Canada. I learned to love this country after craving my homeland for so long. Now Canada is home, and I could not imagine living anywhere else. Canada means snow-capped lavender peaks, moisture sodden air and moss-covered everything. Gray ocean depths, mountain streams and icy puddles. A myriad of cultures, races and beliefs, all people free to speak and live and love. Canada, my friendly giant, welcoming the world. And everything so green, green, green.
Happy Canada Day!
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