Proud To Be (Part) Canadian
Indulge me, if you will, while I spew out a little missive on Canadian National Pride, the lack thereof and my own experiences with this affliction.
Unless you’re Canadian, or part Canadian (like me!), and have lived abroad, you’ll never know the expatriate pride that comes along for the ride of your life. Canada itself is a drug and should be qualified, and regulated as such by whatever board y’all deem appropriate. It’s not one of those ‘instant fix’ designer drugs, like ecstasy, or cocaine, or pot, or even heroin. No, I liken it to LSD. If you’ve ever dropped you’ll understand. It starts slow and builds to a hysterical crescendo, and sometimes it can be fun and other times quite nightmarish. At either rate, being Canadian, or taking acid, is an experience that never truly leaves your psyche.
Full disclosure: I am an American who lived in Canada (east coast, and damn proud of it!) from the age of 9 to the age of 24. When I was 18 I took a trip down to the American Embassy in Toronto and registered for the draft, which is something our government makes ex-pats do should you want to remain a citizen. “Make a choice, Dammit!!” Now, the whole draft part is kind of silly, truth be told, and especially so as this all took place in 1986, but for a while there it was like a little badge of honor, something I’d tell future candidates for the position of Mrs. Balentine in a pathetic attempt to prove my masculinity. It didn’t work. Ever.
I am 45 now and when I do the math I am startled to find that I only lived in Canada a mere 15 years, one third of my life thus far. I say startled because, truthfully, I feel more Canadian than American. I suspect I always will, too. Perhaps it was the time frame in which I lived there, my ‘formative years’, as it were. I went to school there, I partied there, I worked there, I watched SCTV there and I bought my first Rush record there. As a matter of fact, I had a lot of ‘firsts’ there. At any rate, I have very vivid, very fond memories of my time spent up north.
My Mom (“Mum”) is 100% Canadian, born and raised in a teeny, tiny town called Exeter, near a bigger town called London, in Ontario. Her Dad, my grandpa, was a real honest to goodness small town family doctor, black handbag and all. Her mother was a prim and proper lady that was always buttoned up. An example: we had to say, “I am replete, may I leave the table?”, as opposed to what I allow my kids to say, which is “I’m stuffed. Can I go?” Grandma would have had a stroke.
Canadians, while I was living there, anyway, didn’t seem to have much in the way of national pride. That was especially true of kids my age. As a matter of fact, when I was living there, I told virtually everyone who would listen that I would eventually move to California. I couldn’t wait, I said, ‘cause I hate the snow, or the government, or the taxes, or whatever. This was, in hindsight, an especially egregious case of The Grass Is Always Greener syndrome. I know this now.
So I did. I moved to San Diego, about 20 years ago, which is an absolutely gorgeous town, met and married a girl, had two beautiful kids, worked my way up career wise, and here I am. My time in the states, both pre and post Canada, has been great. I’m a fortunate man. But here’s the rub: I am Canadian in more ways that I am American, I think. You Yankee Patriots, do not get me wrong. I am fiercely proud to live in this country and enjoy all the freedoms it provides, but your sense of humor is way too obvious, and ironically serious, for me. There has never been, or will ever be, I suppose, a funnier, more groundbreaking and criminally ignored sketch comedy show than SCTV. Their self effacing/lacerating, brand of humor flies over most Yankee heads and splatters on the wall behind them, unfortunately. So there’s that. It’s a real pity that Bob and Doug have been relegated to a mere comedic footnote here. For shame!
I run into other Canadians living abroad here from time to time, and they’re always incredibly happy to talk to a fellow Canuck. When I see a Canadian flag bumper sticker I always smile. When I see a Canadian actor on TV I’ll always exclaim “He’s Canadian, you know!” to whoever will listen. When it snows I’ll always compare the pathetic levels to The Winter Of ’77. When I see people pulled over to the side of the road and putting snow chains on their tires when there’s a quarter of an inch of snow I always chuckle a bit. I’ve lost my Canadian accent, except when I drink. That’s the only time the ‘oot and aboots’ and the ‘eh’s give me away.
It’s a shame that it took moving countries for this fierce pride to come to the forefront, but that’s OK. It’s here now, and I’m glad it is.