“This story and others written by members of the Cornwall Writer’s Society was gifted to the crew of the Polar Prince, Canada’s C3 expedition that toured the coast of this great country for Canada’s 150th Birthday. It was an much an honour to share it then as it is now”
Let There Be Love
Where do you find that thing everybody’s looking for? Check the rafters in the garage beside the boxes of old shingles where the heat burns and wind whistles through the cracks of the roof. Turn back the pages, flicking through the years and there you’ll find amidst the moth eaten curtains that once adorned the back porch windows, the eloquently stored pages of your life. Croquet mallets with matching balls with markers, both sets of javelin darts in neon colours, one softball mitt petrified from age with its threadbare soft-ball close beside.
On Canada Day each year we’d all head to the Long Sault Parkway and run along the shoreline scouting for the Goodyear Blimp, making its way from Bowmanville. Local radio stations ran contests for people spotting it on its way to Montreal. If you were really lucky and owned a pair of binoculars, you could read the messages strung along the back like the tail on a kite and we’d be waving our arms-screaming, trying to get its attention.
During heat waves we’d run under the sprinkler in the shade of that huge willow tree only to have Mum surprise us with the biggest bowl of snow which she’d saved in the freezer all winter to make maple candy. Nothing anywhere, beats a maple syrup moustache on the hottest day of the summer in Canada!
All those ritualistic camping trips with our cousins on Snake Island. With fires crackling-embers glowing and marshmallows burning off sticks. Damp bedding…woollen blankets smelling of home, dragging us off to slumber.
Coleman stoves…grease fires and anyone up for bacon? My Father snores into his towel, sleeping off his breakfast while my sisters and I walk down to the beach. An older couple turns up the transistor as her orange painted toenails sway to the beat of The Girl from Ipanema and I realize why I’ll always love that song.
Counting willow trees and Volkswagon beetles along the 401 while driving to Windsor to visit relatives. What’s worse than looking at the back of my father’s head, than 492 miles of flat open road and car-sickness? Maybe it’s having a do-over in the middle of Jackson Park, beneath the Lancaster Bomber in the humidity that was life in the City of Roses-circa late 1960’s. Lemon and peach trees growing in one’s backyard was a sight that doubted believing unless you saw it with your own eyes. These were the years of box fans and vinyl blinds that did little to stop the sweat of 12 sleeping children rolled out together on damp basement floors.
I’ve rarely met a fellow Canuck more than willing to go out of their way to help someone than my very own Father. One day the phone rang and here it was the neighbour telling my Mother there was a hobo coming down the road and to lock the doors just in case. My Dad who’d seen poverty up close as a boy, told my Mom straight away that if the man came knocking, we were letting him in.
I’ll never forget how he was able to humanize that old man in tattered suspenders and converse with him for over an hour, while my Mum scrambled to make fresh sandwiches and pack a few oranges in a lunch. Listening from a distance as the man told his own stories of life on the open road and of the many kindnesses shown to him along the way.
The look of pride and compassion on my Dad’s face gives me pause today, as the three of us watched that human being walk along the road, climb up onto the grass of the overpass and take our kitchen spoon out of the paper bag and eat those oranges one after the other. This has to be the very best example of what being a proud Canadian is.
And didn’t you know having four sisters has been the greatest gift, because of their wisdom and foresight for everything that was to come. Like telling me I’d find my voice when I turned forty, but I never told them what really happened and I guess I should’ve.
Because when it finally came I started remembering what it was like growing up in small town Canada and putting into practice all those things about being humble and kind and soon found that thing everybody’s always looking for,—myself.
I would love to have feedback from my stories … Please email me at: [email protected]
Lisa is a member of the Cornwall Writer Society, a group that meets at the Cornwall Public Library, on the 3rd Monday of each month from 6:15 to 8:15pm. For more information about this or any program at the Library, please call 613-932-4796.