When I think about this land, I compare it with other countries where we have wintered. We are travellers so living three months in a foreign land does offer a rare reality check.
My dominant memory is mentioning to our new neighbours in Thailand, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Nicaragua or Mexico that we are Canadian. Amazed by their warm reactions, we see spontaneous smiles and hear wistful comments like: I’d love to visit/live there; or Can I go back with you? Those moments make me proud to be Canadian.
And when we lived in Ohio for five years, our Canadian friends asked us time and time again, what is the difference between Canada and the U.S.? Our answer: Canada seems more gentle, more civilized.
Still, time has wrought definite changes.
Living in Ottawa during my teen years, I attended Lisgar Collegiate, a high school located close to the Parliament Buildings. It was natural for my friends and me to walk freely into Parliament after classes and watch the House of Commons in session from the visitors’ gallery. Sadly, you cannot do that today.
Because we lived in the capital city, we attended special Canada Day celebrations with thousands of others on Parliament Hill. On one occasion after the planned program, then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien walked unaccompanied on the front lawn through crowds of spectators whose friendly shouts and outstretched arms offered a rousing and enthusiastic greeting. He continued to walk alone among the throng along Wellington Street where we, along with a crush of others, shook hands and chatted with him face-to-face. No Security detail was visible….it was merely a spontaneous people mingling event probably not possible today.
So the emotional joy at returning to this great country is my personal glowing platitude, nay---my sincere salute---to our incomparable Canada.