Today is Canada Day and my homeland is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of the modern nation. Although I’ve lived away from the country of my birth for almost half my life now, if I’m asked, I still immediately identify myself as Canadian.
Many years ago I emigrated to the land where my ancestors came from. Over several generations they had migrated from Ireland to England and finally to Canada. For some reason I felt a strong pull to travel in the opposite direction and I returned to where they had started from. I’m happily settled in Northern Ireland now but Canada also holds a special place in my heart.
When I think of my homeland, vivid images flash through my mind: lounging in a Muskoka chair in the backyard on a summer day with a book in my hand, huddling against driving snow outside the Simpson Sears store to peer into the Christmas window display, looking up at the CN Tower while dodging the bustling crowds as I walk along a downtown street, leaning on the polished wooden rail of a ferry heading to Toronto Island with the breeze in my face, the sun beating down on me as I splash in the cold lake water at Wasaga Beach and walking along the street in my neighbourhood in the humid darkness of a summer night enveloped in the hum of grasshoppers.
As Canada celebrates its 150th year, I have all these memories of my homeland and I also clearly remember the centenary celebrations in 1967. As a young school child I diligently learned the words of ‘O Canada’, Canada’s national anthem and practiced with the school choir for the big day. At our school’s centenary celebration, barely big enough to manage it, I proudly carried a Canadian flag, leading the choir procession into the auditorium. I still have the commemorative coin each child in the country was presented with.
It seems appropriate that last week, as Canada Day neared, Tracey Warr at The Displaced Nation invited me to chat with her about my experience as a writer living away from my homeland. I talked about where I come from and how my past and present influence my writing. If you want to know more about the interview you’ll find it here.
Today I plan to take time to savour my memories of my homeland and to think about my family and friends there.
Happy 150th Canada!