Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Celebrating freedom (June 30–July 4)

History, to quote the Arrogant Worms, "is made by stupid people." 

My cousin Craig was remarking on Canada Day about how the Pax Romana Period was, theoretically, the most blissful time on earth (at least within the Roman Empire and its intended conquests). That would be hard to prove, however, because compared to other more volatile periods of history, little is known about Pax Romana. There were five "good emperors," none of whom achieved remarkable fame due to the peace and prosperity of the region during their reign. 

It's like in the Book of Mormon when years are summarized by the laconic phrase, "they did have continual peace in the land." 

In other words, it was very boring. And boring, as my father-in-law has reminded me on more than one occasion, is how you want life to be. Probably because boring is peaceful and exciting is...entropic. It's danger and near-misses. It's broken arms and stitches. 

Exciting can be exhilarating, but it very often also leads to pain and sorrow. 

Boring may be boring, but it's also good. 

And so begins the reason of why we celebrate Canada Day. My father-in-law asked this question over dinner on the Fourth of July, because every American knows why Independence Day is celebrated, right? It's to commemorate the day in 1776 when the Continental Congress declared their independence from Great Britain and dramatically went about asserting their newfound freedom with the Revolutionary War. 

Rockets glared red, bombs burst in the air, there was havoc of war and confusion of battles. Or so I've been told. 

So what is the reason for Canada Day?

"Well, it's the day we agreed on a constitution," I answered.

"It used to be called Dominion Day," my mom offered. "It's when we became a self-governing dominion."

And when did that happen?

"151 years ago," Patrick and I answered readily. "So...1867."

Our history is a little quieter, a little more boring. July 1, 1867 wasn't the birth of the nation. To say so would be "an oversimplification, as Canada Day is the anniversary of only one important national milestone on the way to the country's full independence," namely when the three colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick united as a single dominion within the British Empire and adopted a constitution. 

So, like, not free...but freer. And we'd go on to solicit more independence from Britain...with boring old negotiations and stuff. 

Of course, it was nice of the United States to lead the way because I'm not sure the monarchy would have acquiesced our petitions for freedom so readily had they not had the bloody scuffle the United States led them into over the matter. Still, I'm rather fond of the brilliant boringness of Canadian history.

We celebrated our freedoms this year over the entire weekend. Canada Day was on a Sunday, which in Mormon communities is reserved for worship. So we went to Canada Day festival our old stake put on on Saturday morning and then attended the Raymond Parade on Monday.

At the festival there were a couple of bouncy houses, which my kids ran through on repeat. They'd stand in line, go through the bouncy house, and run back into the line. We nearly had to drag them away to see what else was there.

Food was plentiful, with hot dogs and pop corn, cake and cotton candy. Benjamin and Zoë kept returning to Auntie Josie for bites of cotton candy, opening their mouths like little baby birds:

There was a face painting station, which my children avoided because face paint freaks them out. But there was also this little cut out to pose with so they still got to make believe they were something else for a minute without having to wash their faces: 

They had regular thoroughfare of dinky fair games: a football throwing station, a fishing game, and a bean bag toss, which Zoë absolutely loved. Here she is tossing beanbags with Benjamin:

And here she is tossing bean bags with her third cousins Cecily and Elaina:

Zoë was still at it long after Cecily and Elaina grew bored, so here are a few more pictures of Zoë tossing bean bags with Benjamin (who'd been around to all the games and come back again):

My favourite game was where the kids had to shoot a ball at a cutout of a hockey goalie. It was just so perfect for a Canada Day fair:

At the end of the fair a magician came to entertain the children. While they were all transfixed, I got to do a little visiting with some old friends. Christine and Krista were both at the fair with their families; I don't think I've seen either of them since Heather's wedding (fact check: Christine was not present at Heather's wedding so she must have been on her mission?)!

I didn't catch a picture with Krista, but here's one with Christine:

David, Christine, Heather, and me (with Alexander)
David had driven down from Prince George to visit his girlfriend in Calgary. They both came to the Canada Day celebration (and then to Okotoks to visit the glacial erratic, and then to High River to play games) so we got to meet her. Her name is Ruth and she's lovely!

Here's a somewhat formal picture of some of us together...

My mom, David (with Benjamin in front), Ruth, Josie, and me (with Alexander)
It was a lovely little festival!

We missed out on any specific Canada Day activities on Sunday (the actual holiday) because we left High River right after sacrament meeting (missing out on fireworks over the lake) so we could drive to my aunt's house and then decided we didn't want to stay up until 11:00 for Taber's fireworks the night before we had a long drive (because we'd have to watch the show, drive an hour to Raymond, and then wrangle all the kids to bed which meant we'd never get to bed). Raymond didn't do anything on Sunday because Raymond is a Mormon enclave. It's its own stake, with a population of about 4000 divided into ten wards (or congregations). 

They split their celebrations over Saturday and Monday. So we missed Raymond's fireworks, which were on Saturday, but we did manage to catch the parade in the morning, which was wonderful. 

Growing up, attending the Raymond parade was the thing to do on Canada Day. My Grandma lived right on the parade route and all the cousins would come over and we'd watch the parade and collect candy and then have a big lunch together before watching fireworks (at either Raymond or High River, depending on when my parents wanted to drive home). 

I ran my first 5k in Raymond—and got first in my age group!—at their annual race back in 1995,  think (the race is usually held on Canada Day, though I missed it this year because it was part of Saturday's celebrations rather than Monday's).

Anyway, it was so fun to get to experience the Raymond parade again, even if I missed out celebrating on my grandma's front lawn (because her house was sold after she died) and was with my second cousins rather than my first cousins. It was especially fun to see my children enjoying it so much—the music, the horses, the candy!

Here we are waiting for the parade to begin (and freezing to death in the process):

Andrew was having a little too much fun with the camera, so we have a lot of pictures of the parade and several pictures of seagulls...for whatever reason...

Here's the very start of the parade, coming down Broadway:

It was lead by the RCMP, of course, and a lovely bagpipe band:

I was actually rather disappointed by the number of marching bands this year: 2. Ordinarily there are several (at least from what I remember). Oh, and there were no shriners, either, which was rather a bummer.

But there was a guy riding a cow, so...

Zoë's favourite part was seeing Anna (from Frozen) walk by:

"I seed Anna!" she told everyone who would listen.

She also enjoyed waving back at everyone on every float. In fact, she had waved so much by the end of the parade that she couldn't stop waving at people. She waved at every person, animal, car, and tree we passed on the walk back to Janet's house.

There are always several floats of class reunions in the parade (I remember my grandma sitting on a float for a class reunion once) and this year we got to watch my cousin Melissa ride by on her ten-year anniversary float. She was on the reunion committee and so was partly in charge of the float. They budgeted $300 for candy, hoping to be the float with the most candy...but, as her mom said, they weren't even close: "Not for only $300!"

But here she is throwing candy at us all anyway (she's the redhead):

And here's the class of 1968 (the idea of having a 50th class reunion is unfathomable to me at this point in my life, but I'm sure I'll get there):

The Raymond Parade is why I was so confused about the first Fourth of July bicycle parade my kids attended in Durham. When they said to decorate their bikes, I assumed they could choose whatever theme they wanted. I had no idea everyone would be decked out in red, white, and blue! So Miriam went as a unicorn and Rachel went as a Hogwart's student and Benjamin went in his little John Deere tractor. And we stuck out like a sore thumb.

Although the Raymond Parade does promote a lot of Canadian patriotism (it does fall on Canada Day, after all), we saw a wide variety of floats: one with a haunted house, one with kids rock climbing, one with cub scouts holding a campout, one with the Cardston temple on it, and, for no apparent reason, a flat bed semi with a goat on it...

And this guy, whose grandchildren, he claims, are cuter than yours:

Isn't that just how parades are?

Here are a few pictures of the kids watching the big trucks go by and rushing to collect candy:

Parades in Southern Alberta are almost like Halloween. A lot of candy is tossed out to the crowd and the kids are kept busy scrambling around for it. If you're lucky you'll score something better than candy. This year one float was tossing out ice cream sandwiches! 

One float this year had some candy tied to a fishing line and they were casting it out along with fistfuls of loose candy, luring children to chase their float down the street. It was quite perplexing for the children chasing the candy (who always took a little while to realize they were never going to catch it) but rather entertaining for onlookers.

Here's some of our family watching the parade:

And here's Benjamin looking very pleased about all the candy he's collected:

The kids played with the cousins for a few minutes while we packed up the rest of our things and got ready to go. Janet hosts a big family potluck after the parade every year and I really wanted to stay for it, but it was starting a little too late for our schedule. Missing it was so disappointing that I had to choke back tears as we said goodbye, but we had to get on the road. 

I did want to take some pictures of Alexander and me, because we were both decked out in Canadian shirts (as was much of Janet's family, but you couldn't tell because we all had to wear sweaters in the morning):

Canada, I think, will always be home for me, even though I've lived in the States for quite some time now. It's hard to feel like I'm from the US but at the same time when I go back to Canada I don't feel like I entirely belong there. I'm so much of a mishmash that sometimes I can't untangle things myself. Like a Sneech. I've been in again, out again, on again, off again so many times that I honestly can't tell you whether or not something has a maple leaf or stars and stripes.

For example, Alexander developed a bit of a rash on his cheeks while we were up north. I don't know if it was due to teething or the dry, windy weather or what. My cousin asked about it and I said, "It's just a bit of eczema, I'm sure."

And she laughed at me and said, "You said that like such an American."

Well, that's because I used to say it like a Canadian but everyone kept correcting me so I figured, with some degree of embarrassment, that I had been saying it wrong my whole life (to my (dis)credit, I thought the word "ensconced" was "ensconed" until, like, last year, people (like "inside a scone," en-sconed (clearly I was just wrong about that (and let's not even talk about the word epitome)))). I hadn't realized (until last week) that I was merely showcasing regional variation and instead of continuing to pronounce it ek-ZEE-muh, I trained myself to say EK-zuh-muh.

I'm turning that filter off, so if I start talking about ek-ZEE-muh again you'll know why.

There are several similar pairings in my brain that have lived there so long that I honestly can't remember which way belongs what situation or even which way is my way.

Is it ek-ZEE-muh or EK-zuh-muh?

Is that semi truck (or semicircle) a sem-EE or a sem-AI? PRO-duce or PRAW-duce? Markers or felts? Pencil crayons or coloured pencils? Roundabout or traffic circle? Pylons or cones?

When you make pizza do you put cheese on first or last?

What way is which way? And which way is what?

I've been living this dual life so long that I often have to pause before I say or do something to wonder which is the way I'm supposed to say/do that thing wherever I am. Will I do it the right way? Will I do it the wrong way (and face ridicule again)? Is there a wrong way? What way is my way? IS THIS EVEN A THING?

I read a word once (or had a dream once that I read a word once) that described this conundrum perfectly. It was a beautiful word. I can't remember anything about it, except that I think it had something to do with legalese, but it was a beautiful word. It meant something to the extent of, "I've heard it both ways," or "both ways are acceptable so leave me alone."

And I thought to myself, "This word is my life!"

And then I promptly forgot the word because forgetting things is also my life.

But if you know what word I'm talking about (if I'm even talking about a word) you'll tell me, right?

In the meantime, I'll continue to sound like a Canadian to my American counterparts and an American to my Canadian counterparts and will just have to live with the existential crisis that is my daily life. I'm settling into my dual citizenship. It's fine.

I will admit that it's annoying when my American relations consistently refer to Canada as Canadia (it's not hard to just say the name), and equally vexing when my Canadian relations refer to Utahns as Utards or...whatever...because both places are very much a part of who I am.

Both places are home. Both places are foreign. See what I mean about existential crisis?

Anyway, we left for the states on the second and traveled through Montana. We spent the morning of the third with Emily and her family in Idaho Falls and then made the final stretch home, just in time to celebrate the fourth.

We had a barbecue with both sets of grandparents and Uncle Patrick and Auntie Josie. Grilled chicken, burgers, hot dogs; corn on the cob, watermelon, jell-o salad, vegetables. It was delicious.

Zoë quite enjoyed sitting across the table from Alexander. She kept playing peek-a-boo with him, which he enjoyed (at the kitchen table they typically sit on either side of me so they don't get to see (or touch) each other).

This poor boy has been so miserable with teething lately. He often has his lips pursed together instead of smiling with a big, open mouth (but I'm sure we'll see his whole-face grin soon enough because teething, mercifully, doesn't last forever). He really enjoys watermelon, as you might be able to tell from this picture:

And here's my other cute boy:

After dinner we blew some bubbles:

And then we broke out the poppers:

Here's this poor baby, pursing his lips together again. It's like he's trying to push his teeth out or something...

We enjoyed our little popper war...

...while Alexander enjoyed a rock (the sound of his little teethies scraping against this rock was torture).

Then we broke out the big fireworks, which really aren't that big. Andrew got the cheapest pack and I simply don't understand the desire of putting on your own personal fireworks show (that's the Canadian in me coming out). That said, I think there's a little bit of a pyromanic living inside each one of us (our caveman roots coming out) so even though I don't entirely understand the motivation (or practicality) of everyone getting their own fireworks (weirdos), I can admit that fireworks in general are enjoyable.

The kids enjoyed the quiet ones, but the minute things started exploding they all panicked and ran far away. Zoë covered her ears and Benjamin collapsed on the grass.

And then Zoë took up residency on my lap.

Their reactions to our fireworks, which were definitely on the small-scale end of things, was nothing compared to how they reacted to all the aerials going off later in the evening. There were explosions everywhere. One nearby neighbour was putting on quite a spectacular (and noisy) show, so we went to the corner to watch it and I stood there with my three big kids clutching onto me, trembling with fear and fascination, as fireworks exploded directly over our heads. It was kind of intense, impressive, and slightly insane. I much prefer a general municipal display to having half the neighbourhood set things off all at once for hours on end.

But that's just me.

Look, it's Miriam swinging from a tree branch!

Here are the kids playing with sparklers (remarkably, no one got burned):

Zoë was the first child to ask if she could light a firework. Andrew surprised me by telling her yes.

Technically speaking, he did most of the lighting (you can see that he's the one holding the lighter).

But Zoë was 100% convinced that she had done it and she was so proud of herself!

After Zoë had a turn, then of course Benjamin needed a turn:

He also was just close by while Andrew did the actually lighting.

Rachel had to be forced strongly encouraged to face her fear of fire in order to light a match for me, but she managed to do it and found that it wasn't that scary after all.

She did it and was like, "Yeah, okay. Fine. I did it. Whatever."

So we took a little sparkler break again...

And then lit a few more fireworks, which was very exciting (as you can see from Zoë's expression):

Alexander was not a fan of the crackling and snapping of the fireworks' report and would snuggling into Grandma whenever a firework turned out noisy. Here he is worrying about the noise:

And here he is relieved that it's over:

Zoë adopted a rather hefty rock she found in the front yard and insisted on carrying it around for much of the evening. Here she is showing it off to Naanii:

At one point she was trying to carry it above her head (which we told her was a bad idea) and then it got too heavy for her and she ended up bopping herself in the head with it. But still she insisted on giving it a full tour of the yard and moving it around to different firework-watching places.

I don't remember what she's looking at here because we didn't have any fireworks that went into the air, but it's a cute picture, so...

Here's another one of Benjamin doing something weird:

He spent the whole time bouncing around the yard, spontaneously yelling, "FIREWORK!" and doing a great big star jump. So he was pretty worn out by the time we were finished with fireworks.

Speaking of finished, here's our aftermath:

And here's a couple more pictures of Miriam:

After we finished setting off our fireworks we went inside to put the little ones to bed so the older ones could watch Independence Day, which was interrupted so that we could stand cower on the street corner as we watched fireworks dazzle the skies above our neighbourhood.

And that wrapped up our grand week-long celebration of freedom! 


  1. Is it ek-ZEE-muh or EK-zuh-muh?

    I grew up saying the first, but hear the second on TV (medication advertisement). Not sure what folks around me say.

  2. Blowing things up is fun 😂 I used to be like you...Arizona taught me fireworks were dangerous and school taught me we were too broke to buy them but now I'm a crazy pryo and we lite the sky up 😂