No, the old dude in the old coupe is not me – d’you think I’ve just won the lottery? Canada may be a Fair Country, but they don’t just hand out the lottery money to anyone. I’ve got wads and wads of unpaid tickets to prove there is bias.
No, the old dude is just an old dude, in an old car – the car is pretty cool though, huh? – riding along in the Canada Day Parade on Pelee Island, on the first day of July 2012, four years ago. July 2012 was my first Canada Day in Canada, as a newly minted landed immigrant, or permanent resident – of more general interest is the fact that Pelee Island, where Rob and I marked that most memorable of occasions, is the southernmost point in Canada, and a lekker place to chill out for the long weekend, after you’ve made the leisurely trip across Lake Erie on the ferry from Kingsville.
The old guy could as well be me, though, if you look at this symbolically: the smile on the dial, the thumbs-up, the flag overhead, because tomorrow will be my first Canada Day as a new Canadian – a pukka Canadian citizen, with a passport and all, and a citizenship certificate. So tomorrow will be kind of special, well deserving of an open-topped sports coupe and a parade, not to mention a barbecue and loads of good vino. I am open to offers.
I find myself thinking, as I ponder all this, how much has changed in my life over the past four years, how quickly the four years have passed, and yet how long ago it all seems. I am, as I wrote recently, at home in my new country, and daily more appreciative of its quiet virtues – its peacefulness, its tolerance, its unassuming decency, which are all the more remarkable (to paraphrase Barack Obama in Parliament yesterday) for being unremarked-upon and ordinary.
My heart turns also at a moment like this to my home country, the country of my birth and land of my growing-up and much of my history, with a grievous sense, I have to confess, of how angry it is, and conflicted, a feeling of real hurt at how much it still gnaws and tears at the people – friends, family, colleagues, and citizens – who live there. This is not a moment for Pollyanna-ish optimism, but – and I have to remind myself of this – it is not a moment for despair, either, and certainly not a time to give up. A luta continua, as we used to say, and must go on saying.
Who knows, our own lives and careers may well take us back there; I would be glad to be able to pay back once more, and make a contribution. But tomorrow – Canada Day – our plan is to relax and celebrate, with other Canadians.