Canada Day is coming.
I admit, sometimes I struggle with how to celebrate with my kids. I don’t really like the crowded festivals and the logistics of cramming into a space on a parade route, but we usually do every year because, you know, it’s Canada Day and I’m not a total jerk.
I’m not sure, though, that those parades, the same ones that we have for St. Jean Baptiste day or Stampede or Christmas, I don’t know that they teach anything about Canada except that here, we really like to ride old cars slowly through the streets and throw candy.
But really, is there anything more we need to know to celebrate Canada?
This week my 10 year old daughter started reading “I am Malala.”
It’s been eye opening for Drama, a girl who’s been raised in a home without want, who has gone to school without a second thought and who has never had to experience a fear for her own life any greater than that of the occasional harmless spider.
Now Drama and I are both early morning risers, I’m generally up before 6 and she’s always up shortly after. With 3 other kids in our house this summer our early mornings have offered us some often scarce alone time to chat. Lately, we’ve been talking about the book and why Malala’s experiences are so much different than hers.
What every one of her questions have boiled down to, in the end, was this one:
“Why does nothing like this happen to me when I go to school?”
“Because you were born in Canada, and Malala, she was born in Pakistan.”
I have no answer to that.
But the more I think on it, the more it becomes the kind of Canada Day lesson I hope my kids hold on to.
When I was 20 years old I sent a Canada Day care package to Dh, who was in Kandahar during the first deployment there in 2002. In it I included a flag, not sure what they could do with it but just hoping that, for a 4 man crew living in a tent in the desert, it helped them feel a little closer to home.
This is the grainy photo that I eventually got back, on a roll of film in the mail.
And in it, along with the note from his crew, I learned more about Canada Day than any social studies class or fire truck parade had ever taught me.
“Thanks for the flag, Kim. It’s nice to have a reminder why we do this.”
Since that year I will admit, as melodramatic as it sounds it’s hard for me to get through the anthem, no matter where I hear it, with dry eyes. And I think to every generation that has done what they needed for us at home.
Dh has celebrated Canada day in many different places over 4 deployments and all the rest of the travel a 16 year career in the combat arms will give you. But this year he is home. His unit is on High Readiness, and as we read the news today and contemplate where the future might bring him, it can be easy to be overwhelmed. To wonder if it’s worth it. To worry about what’s to come.
But as we plan our day for tomorrow, I’m realize the truth.
As I’m sipping my sangria in the comfort of my backyard I can feel safe because while I may not always agree with my government I don’t fear for my life because of them.
I may not love the weather every day but I send my daughter to school without thought.
I may argue policy with my town hall but I walk each Sunday to church without having to hide. And my Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Buddhist neighbours do the same.
This is our nation and it may be cold, it may have a slight identity crisis next to the USA, it may mix cheese curds with gravy and obsess over hockey, but it’s also safe.
It’s also free.
It’s also ours.
And that came at a cost.
Happy Canada Day, friends.
Enjoy your parades and your BBQs and your fireworks.
I know I will.
And when I look at my kids with maple leaves painted on their faces, and I wonder about upcoming deployments and that barrack box that sits ready in our bedroom, I’ll see that flag and I’ll remember.
“It’s nice to have a reminder of why we do this.”