O Canada

Today I was driving with one of the guys who's been living here at the Land, named Wes. (Yes, I was driving. I am now the proud owner of a valid driver's license) and he asked me if I ever feel like a cow being herded when I stand in line at the grocery store. This was after an interesting conversation we had about meat factories, of which I'll spare you the details. I could honestly say that I've never felt like a cow when I've been standing in line at the grocery store, but I thought back, to see whether there was a time in my life that I've felt like a cow, and realized, "Ah... then." The times I thought back to were the many days in highschool when I stood in our school's smoke pit; the place designated to all of us smokers to stand and contaminate ourselves in. There were too many of us for the small area, (there are far too many teenaged smokers in Canada) and if we scattered beyond its borders, the teachers on patrol would herd us back inside. Like cows. I told Wes about this, and talked about it with him for awhile, and this, of all things, spun me into nostalgia for the lost country of Canada.

I say lost only because it has been lost to me now for ages. I haven't been back in almost four years. I love my country of birth, fiercely. I have found a home here (as much as you ever can, on earth) but nothing can ever make up for not being in Canada, and not only that, for being the butt of the oh-so-many Canada jokes that get tossed around here. I have found that if I am quiet about it, people forget that I am from Canada, and they don't joke about it so much. (The most recent was from someone who asked my parents the other day, "Do they have pizza in Canada?" and then collapsed in a fit of laughter. Ha ha ha. That person is now in the axis of evil.)

But, as I talked about the smoke pit, and my disgusting highschool smoker's habit, I was brought back vividly. The way the cold air felt on our faces, the distinctive smell of Canadian cigarettes, our cold fingers. In high school I wore a jacket and scarf to every class, so that I could duck outside in between bells, back to the smoke pit. Which explains why I was also late to so many classes.

And it makes me think of all the other smells of Canada, the way the air smells different there. Anyone who thinks there is not a lot of difference between the two countries should spend four long years in the opposite country of his birth. They are like two different worlds to me, not even mentioning the bad chocolate here. (There have been wars fought over who has better chocolate, Canada or America.) I probably wouldn't even let myself reminisce this way if it wasn't for the fact that I finally have my Green Card, and I'll be heading up to the True North Strong and Free by next month. (Yay! A journey to write about.) I haven't even let myself think about going to Canada, during these long years that it has been impossible for me to cross the border. It's too much. It's the way Chinua feels about India, while we haven't been able to go there for so long either. "Stop talking about it," he'll say. "It hurts." We try so hard to be content.

And now, don't get me wrong. I love California. I love San Francisco, the warm ocean in San Diego. I find myself falling by degrees in love with Garberville, Redway, and even Leggett. Could I live without Trader Joe's? Without Whole Foods? Without In 'N' Out Burger? With a stretch, I guess. But soon, I'll be driving by the huge Lake Okanogan, watching the unique cloud formations in the sky above it. I'll smell the fall air in Kelowna, see mountains, shop at the Real Canadian Superstore, eat Coffee Crisp and Smarties. Talk to people who talk like me. I'll fall deeply back into my accent of birth.

I'll get to see friends that I haven't seen for years, who have never met my children. This is something I really haven't been able to think about. Chinua and I will drive out to Kalamalka Lake, the green, green lake where we got married four years ago and all of this started. We'll show our children the spot where we said our vows before my dad and God and so many friends. I can barely wait. I haven't smoked for many years now, but I'm even hoping for a whiff of second-hand Canadian cigarette smoke. There's just nothing like it.