Shifting my celebration

I was recalling memorable Canada Day moments from my past, from childhood.
The July 1 parade always was a big deal and as a family, we came to town to join the throng lining the streets to see the floats and horses and kiddies, as well as those tossing candy to us from inside old and different vehicles.
We also lined up for tiny tubs of ice cream with wooden spoons from the dairy.
I rode in the parade the year I was 10 with my brand new CCM bike from Law’s Hardware. I wound red and white and blue streamers through the spokes.
That was 1965. Although Canada had her own flag that year, I still adopted the red, white, and blue of the Union Jack (old habits dying slowly).
I also attached playing cards to the wheels of my bike with clothespins to add a jaunty sound. And the topping of the cake was me dressed as Sir John A. Macdonald, complete with a tall beaver hat made from Bristol board.
Undoubtedly, our first prime minister rode a bicycle adorned with streamers and noise-makers. The whole concoction seemed to make sense to me and to my imagination.
Another year I rode my pony in the parade, again falling back on the streamer plan and tissue flowers adorning my pony’s mane and tail (and she didn’t seem to mind).
My sister and I had to ride our ponies into town from home because that was the only way to get there. But we thought nothing of it and had a wonderful day, feeling almost “celebrity-ish,” and I don’t think I stopped grinning through the entire parade.
I love Canada. I love what we stand for and I love that we are a country that takes notice of wrongs around the world and within, and we try to right such wrongs, even when the process of correction seems painfully slow.
I love wearing red and white on Canada Day in a demonstration of solidarity and celebration. It is 52 years since I rode my bicycle down Scott Street, and my perspective of Sir John A. Macdonald and Canada Day has shifted and I find myself whispering if only.
If only European explorers and settlers had come to this new land with an attitude of sharing and learning rather than dominating. If only the way of life these explorers stumbled upon had been honoured rather than decimated.
If only the notion of “conquering and displacing” had been left behind and instead acts of collaboration had been employed. It seems to me a sensible and intelligent strategy to learn from the skills and wisdom of those who were here first.
Setting that aside, July 1, 2017 means a shift in how I celebrate being a Canadian. It means I have the great honour of watching and learning from First Nations’ people.
The celebrations around here in Nova Scotia are huge, all of us invited to the party of what it means to be Canadian.
The talent and beauty and history and resiliency of First Nations’ people fills me with awe and inspires me, and it makes me want to listen, to open my heart and mind to hear their stories of this land we call Canada.
wendistewart@live.ca

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