Forty years, four months, and fourteen days ago, I landed at Toronto International Airport with my mother, my baby brother, and my teddy bear. My father was waiting to greet us, as he had been in the country for one month already, starting work, finding a place to live.
Thirty-five years, four months, and fourteen days ago, I marked the day that I had lived in Canada for as many years as I had lived in India. By that time, my parents had taken me, my brother, and my new sister on a Eastern Canada road trip, to the cottage, and west, almost to the Manitoba border. I had seen the strange round-topped mini-mountains of western Ontario and the dramatic thrusting granite rocks along the highway. I had seen a venus flytrap consume an errant fly in a quiet Ontario marsh. I had seen Quebec City and been enchanted by its age. I had watched the reversing falls of St. John’s and wondered how they did that, but missed seeing Fredericton (something I got to make up for years later). I had visited PEI, Canada’s pretty petite province, for the first of several times. And I had seen Nova Scotia and explored the wilds of Cape Breton Island.
That year, my fifth in Canada, my class had a substitute teacher unlike any teacher before her. She quieted us down, drew the black-out curtains across the windows nearest the blackboard, pulled down the flapping old map of Canada, and pointed out to us where we were on it. Then she traced her finger along a diagonal line up and to the left until she reached Dawson City. She told us how she had panned for gold up there, where rough men had carved out mines and a town years ago. Then she showed us her little, glittering vial of gold dust. We were enthralled, and I wanted to go.
Twelve years and one month ago, I fulfilled that dream. With the drive up that rock-spitting road between pristine white mountains to the snakes of gravel that bordered the last part of the highway to Dawson City, I saw my first Canadian territory. By that time, I had driven or flown to every province but Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, the wet and the flat. This country is my land, though I may be an immigrant; her Spirit spoke to me on that trip to the Yukon. The Spirit of the North whispered to me the beauty of Canada, both stark and pretty, her vastness that cannot be tamed and humbles us, and her potential to awe our collective spirits and show others a different, bloodless way to live. I am Canadian because my parents brought me here, but I chose to stay and became one. I cannot imagine a better place to live, and I’m glad we came.
Happy Canada Day to you all!