Oh Canada


Today I’m boarding a plane and going home. While the Canada Goose is turning her beak to the south, I’m turning mine to the north. I’m off to Canada!

Canada is where my story started. There’s a warm and weird nostalgia that comes over me when I think about Canada and all things Canadian: Coffee Crisp chocolate bars, Shreddies cereal, Swedish fish, Tim Hortons coffee and donuts, Canadian Tire, London Drugs, Cheez Whiz, Nanaimo bars, Nuts and Bolts, Aero chocolate, homo milk, Beaver Tails, poutine, ordering French fries with a side of gravy, Kraft Dinner, the loonie and the twoonie, the Canadian flag, klicks.

I suppose my attachment to the Great White North is a little suspect. I’ve really only lived 15 of my 46 years there. But Canada served as a pivot place for my childhood. Although we left when I was 8 years old, Canada was where we always went back to. Canada housed my grandparents, most of our aunts and uncles, our cousins. Canada was the place of my parent’s childhoods, their stories, their romance and marriage.

Later, when mom and dad were back from Pakistan, Lowell and I would marry in a tiny church in a small town on the vast Canadian prairies. We honeymooned in the Canadian Rockies between Banff and Lake Louise. Come to think of it, those months leading up to our wedding was really the last time I lived in Canada. We’ve been married 22 years ago. That’s a very long time ago.

Although I self-identify as Canadian, and have a Canadian passport to prove it, I’m quite likely the most unCanadian Canadian you’ll ever meet. My connections are weak at best, based largely on sentiment and maple syrup. I know very little about Canadian history or folklore. Canadian politics still perplex me on occasion. I’m hardly fluent in the Canadian vernacular. My vowels are now too relaxed, my consonants too indistinct, my syllables too lazy. When I talk no one suspects that I’m from north of the 49th parallel.

I know it makes no sense but I suppose this is the crux of the TCK tale. There’s no accounting for how and when the heart feels momentarily at home. The math doesn’t make sense. Only 1/3 of my life has been lived in the True North strong and free. On the other hand I’ve lived 22 years in Pakistan and India. Only nine years have been spent here among the sunflowers in Kansas.

And yet Canada still represents something to my soul that really defies logic. For reasons I can’t explain there’s a part of me that still sighs with relief when I enter her borders. I exhale and relax just a little bit more when I arrive. This time tomorrow morning I’ll be sipping tea at my parent’s dining room table. I’ll take a deep breath and let it out slowly. I’ll set down my foreignness for a bit. I’ll be among my people and somehow that brings me a measure of consolation.

O Canada!

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,

The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada! Where pines and maples grow.

Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow.

How dear to us thy broad domain,

From East to Western sea.

Thou land of hope for all who toil!

Thou True North, strong and free!

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies

May stalwart sons, and gentle maidens rise,

To keep thee steadfast through the years

From East to Western sea.

Our own beloved native land!

Our True North, strong and free!


Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,

Hold our Dominion in thy loving care;

Help us to find, O God, in thee

A lasting, rich reward,

As waiting for the better Day,

We ever stand on guard.

Canadian Thanksgiving & Apple Picking!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all the Canadian Readers of Communicating Across Boundaries! Thanks for tuning in to CAB so regularly and may you have an amazing day of celebration and gratitude.

I have a personal connection with this holiday as for many years we celebrated it with my Canadian sister-in-law. With her move to Oxford with my brother we are wistfully reminiscent of their home and the yearly celebration of not one, but two thanksgiving holidays. Today they are celebrating in Oxford at overseas student housing with a group of friends from all over the world, including  our youngest son.

Other readers – culturally do you celebrate a day dedicated to giving thanks? If so would love to hear about it in the comment section. 

Today is also Columbus day in the United States and gives us a holiday. We are going apple picking — enjoying crisp fall weather, amazing colors of gold, burnt orange, and red, and New England’s famous cider donuts. See Fall in New England: Pumpkins, Apples, Mums and More for a look at what’s in store for us.

It’s these days that hold tradition at its best that so satisfy. They are all the more precious because tomorrow will bring about daily routine and with it the normal stress of life. But these moments of respite are to be celebrated and enjoyed to their fullest.

The best people in all ages keep classic traditions alive – George Santayana (adapted)

Better Widow Than a Wife

Fridays with Robynn – a funny and poignant piece on imagination and marriage.

I have a very active imagination.

A couple of weekends ago my husband Lowell went out kayaking. He left our place on Sunday afternoon around 6 pm. I asked him if he’d be back before dark. He thought he would.

At 8:00 he called to say he’d gone too far down stream and was slowly making his way back up-stream to where he had put in to the water. But he didn’t think he’d be back before dark. He would keep me posted.

Around 9:00 pm he called again and said he was fine but it would be awhile yet. He was having a great time but it was slow going.

At 10:00pm I called him. He didn’t answer. That struck me as odd. I called again. Still no response.

Immediately my imagination kicked into high gear!

I imagined him dead. Something had happened to him. Maybe he had a seizure in the boat. Maybe he had a heart attack. Maybe an evil doer knocked him out and stolen his boat.

He was dead. I was sure of it and I was horrified. And I was so full of grief. In my imagination, I called our Pastor and the two of us travelled out to tell Lowell’s parents. I called our immediate circle of close friends. I notified others via email. In my imagination I was composed. I was brave. I grieved graciously.

I calmly planned the  funeral. During the service I delivered a very moving eulogy. All of our friends were amazed at how I held it together.

In my imagination I helped the children process the shock and horror of it. We banded together, widowed and fatherless. I communicated with their respective schools. Teachers and classmates were kind and supportive.

We were surrounded by community who brought meals and encouraged us along the way. I had to make the impossibly difficult decision whether we should move back to Canada, the country of my passport, or if we should stay here in Kansas where we were settled. I decided, for the sake of the children, of course, that we should certainly stay.

I was a lovely widow. I suffered stoically, beautifully.

And then my phone rang!! It was Lowell. He was not dead! I was furious. Why hadn’t he answered? I had completely forgotten that the phone was in the hold of the kayak to prevent it from getting wet. He hadn’t been able to answer it. He was nearly to shore. He was having a great adventure. He was so very happy.

I went to bed fuming!

When he returned home it was 10:54pm! He came into our room to tell me he was home. I coldly asked him if he had a good time. He had. In fact he had a grand adventure! It was one of the highlights of his summer! After a curt good night I rolled over, away from him, and pretended to go to sleep.

The next morning as we talked I realized how angry I had been. I was so worried. I really had no idea where he was and what I should do. Those few minutes of waiting for him to call fueled my fear and aroused my panic. When he did call, my relief wore my angry mask. I hardly recognized myself. Even I couldn’t understand why I was so angry. Why did my emotions do a double flip? Why did I respond with such venom?

It struck me: I was a far better widow in my imagination than I was a wife in real life!

I was holier in the face of mock suffering than I was in middle of a mild moment of anxiety. 

And I suspect that pretend holiness doesn’t count for much. It’s the real day-to-day responses that matter. It’s the way I greet Lowell, it’s the grace I extend to him, it’s the joy I share at his enthusiasm.

I’m working on becoming a better wife! Even after 18 years there’s still a lot to learn….

Blogger’s Note: Communicating Across Boundaries Readers – I am delighted to tell you that So.Many.Stories has launched out of Communicating Across Boundaries. This is a site that I hope will have many authors and even more stories. Take a look and if you want to participate fill out the contact form on the site!