Yesterday I spent the day with Jo in the mountains, the Alberta side of the Rocky Mountains, more precisely in Kananaskis and Canmore.
Let me set the record straight, I like being home, love working in my garden. Whenever I go out I can’t wait to get home. Jo convinced me to go to the mountains; she is such a patient person, I am not sure how she puts up with me.
I agreed to go providing we get support. Just last year I read about a mountain lion dragging a woman into the bush. I’m from St Kitts, we hate mountain lions actually there is none in St Kitts, we had Jack O Lantern but no mountain lions. Recently one of my FB friends told me there is no such thing as Jack O Lantern, the lights we saw in the mountain at night was guys making illegal alcohol. Don’t believe him, Jack O Lanterns are aliens.
As soon as we got to Kananaskis, we stop at the Information booth. The lady told us that there are lots of people around today so it should be safe. We should stay on the trails and make noise every few minutes. She said she had been hiking in that area and has never encountered a wild animal, but just in case you can buy ‘this Bear spray’, she handed me a canister in a nice leather pouch.
Jo and I got to the trail, there was no one else around, hmmmm so much for lots of people on the trail. I remember when I was a kid, if I had to venture off the beaten path; I always search for a stick first, it provided a bit of protection. I mentioned this to Jo, she looked around and picked up a twig and gave it to me. I was not impressed.
We did not get very far, I suggested we go back to the car and drive to another stop. Jo quickly agreed, she probably was as timid as I was.
As we drove off, I began thinking about how I got to be where I am in my life. People have always asked me why I came to Canada and the question is generally part of a weather conversation. The truth is I don’t have a good answer, I pretty much just wanted to go away.
I grew up I an era when everyone went away. It was the thing to do. In most cases it was to find a better life. You finished high school and you went away.
Canada was not my first choice; I wanted to go the USA or US Virgin Islands. I was impressed with the people that went there and came back with an awesome accent.
I wanted a new cool accent.
Remember I was a kid. I pretty much grew up with everything anyone can ask for. My dad was a great provider, but I just wanted to go away.
Wanted: new accent.
I had a couple of brothers and sisters who lived in England. I wanted to be a professional soccer player, but the images I had of England was dark and dreary, I read too many books I guess, remember I grew up being taught British History. My imagine of England was Miss Havisham a character in the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations. On Sundays I got to listen to London Philharmonic Orchestra, dark and dreary and now boring. I’ve long learned England is not like that, its damp. HAHA FUNNY STUFF.
I actually liked the image I had in my mind of the USA, I was sure that Harold Robbins 39 Park Avenue was the way I wanted to live. Also growing up with so many sisters, romantic novels was easy to come by, who does not want a white picket fence and is able to go away every weekend to a cottage. Life could not be better.
My grandmother who was born in Nevis, actually lived in Ottawa back in the early 1900’s but for me to be here she had to meet my grandfather who also was from Nevis, but they met in NY. I have been trying to figure it out for a long time. My mom had a couple of sisters that were born in the USA, but she had to go back to St Kitts to meet my dad, else you would not be reading this. Today they are in the thousands in the US, my family are very prolific.
Then there was Canada.
In case you are not aware I have at least 12 siblings, they come and go, sometimes I hate them. One of my older sister had moved to Canada a year before and convinced me to apply for an immigrating pass. I did and they accepted me, all it took was 6 months. I was not prepared, truthfully I was hoping they would reject me, there was nothing really wrong with my life plus my dad offered to put me through post-secondary school, if I promised to return home. He had worked so hard to create a foundation for his kids and one by one we left.
What was my image of Canada? One of my high school teachers thought us about life on the Canadian Prairies, Potash, Wheat, Cattle and Cod Fish from Newfoundland, that was my knowledge of Canada, oh and I had a teacher once who was doing volunteer work on the island, I don’t think she knew much about Canada.
I had heard that Toronto was a big city but living in St Kitts, I had no concept of a big city.
I did do some research; Canada had never qualified for the World Cup of soccer. Maybe I could change that, is what I was thinking, Ok wishful thinking. For experience, I once represented St Kitts against Antigua and I had helped my soccer team to two consecutive years to championships, easy peasy, I was ready.
I arrived in Toronto on Jan 10th 1971. I know when I left St Kitts the temperature was in the low 80’sF. Nothing could have prepared me for the 10F temperature on my arrival. My sister had warned me to wear something warm, but still, where do you find something warm to wear in St Kitts?
I had spent all my hard earn cash on clothes, stylish clothes. My mom gave me a suite case, we use to call the valise, it was so big, all my belongings fitted in 1/3 of it. When I got it from the plane it looked like the wind was sucked out of it. The other folks on the plane were mostly returning from vacation and their suitcases were brimming. Not a god start. The guy who welcomed me, asked me why I would trade such great weather for Toronto’s.
At the time it seemed like a good idea, I was looking for a new accent.
My first impression, ‘holly crap what a big place’, back then I didn’t say crap, and we were still on the airport. My ride home on the HWY 401, words cannot describe how I felt, the speed, the cars, the lights, it was at night, I started counting the cars, but there were too many.
I think I was going to like this place.
The next day, I went to Zellers to buy a coat and boots and a hat. Came home with a coat, there was no way I was going to get caught dead in winter booths and a hat I was too cool. It snowed a few days later and I went to Zellers to buy boots and a hat. It did not take me long to realize that even the cool dudes and the pretty girls dressed warm. I was longing for home.
Toronto was clean and big and fast and most things I had read about America and pretty soon it began to win me over. I started to feel at home, yes I had lean times, but I know if you work hard and stay smart you can achieve anything. Life has been good for us.
Yesterday as I looked at the mountains, majestic and so Canadian; Canada the place where we raised four outstanding kids, we have a great family and lots of nice friends.
I don’t recall any of my kids saying they want to leave Canada, and I’m thinking;
So the next time im asked if I like Canada, my answer will be: