Last full day visiting family and then I am off, back to Capestang and my little French life! My time visiting went by so fast but I did manage to fit in more than I expected. A few last minute squeeze ’em ins, and some last minute, not going to see ’ems, but over all I managed to hit all the municipalities of the lower mainland more than once.
I was driving home to Mom’s in Marpole from White Rock on the first sunny day since arriving and when I opened my window a waft of fresh cut grass hit me. I hadn’t smelled that fresh earthy smell in over 4 1/2 years and it cut me off at the knees. It took me back to my childhood living on Vancouver Island mowing the backyard in Duncan, then to my first house in Surrey beside the train tracks lying out in the yard on a lazy Sunday and lastly to South Surrey across from Sunnyside park when I strapped my baby boy to my body so I could cut the massive plot of land before Alfonz came home from work. France doesn’t have grass, not like this, and I didn’t even realize I missed it until that very moment. I guess there are moments between the endless amounts of rain that I do miss and coming home alone made me realize many things. This is my full circle moment, where I tie up loose ends and the for certain moments I need to feel.
I could not come back to Vancouver to live. Never say never, I know, but for now this is how I feel. I am still experiencing some culture shock in my old culture, that goes to say; I had forgotten the grandeur of my old life, the enormous size of things and the wide open spaces. The cake with tea after breakfast, the Starbucks coffee and cake after lunch and the celebrations all serving delicious cakes. It is the opposite to my French host culture where a bite is enough and to savour the flavours is to yield discipline. My friend Greg (aka Mark) explained this to me. It is the difference between the fine wine and cheese customs in Europe and ‘eating cake’ is the symbol of overconsumption.
He told me the story of the first Italians who reached North America and to their surprise everyone served cake, and the Americans became known as “Mangia Cakes” or the ‘cake eaters’ as a derogatory term. It put things into perspective for me on my last day in Vancouver watching people consume; the piled high carts at Costco, the shiny new cars whizzing by in the right hand lane and I see the clarity of this lesson. I know what I have gained, but don’t be fooled, I also know what I have lost.
I was going to do one more lap through South Surrey to recapture, and download the image of my old neighbourhood to a fresh new memory; the park where my kids grew up and took their first steps, my neighbours who I love (Barb and Ken) and to perhaps find one more person to surprise… but I decided against it. This will be my last time in White Rock during this trip and the realization of this thought saddened me. It comforts me to know everyone is doing well, that everyone is still plugging away, and growing and changing too. I got to glimpse at what my life might have been like if we stayed, how much we would get for our home today with the high real estate cash-ins and inflated markets, the outrageous price of food, and I got to experience the fast paced rat race again. I still have no regrets.
However the people in my play, my people who have stayed in contact with me over the years, mostly thanks to Facebook, are among the nicest in the world. They remind me that the “show” has finished its run. We pick up our conversations where we left off, but I am not the centre of this life anymore, I am more a guest star doing a cameo appearance. And I am ok with that.
Just like the smell of grass that I didn’t know was lacking in my life, my friends remind me of the amazing life I once had in Vancouver, who I was before France and they help me measure how far I have come. I thank them all for loving me unconditionally. I am grateful for these constants in my life, no matter how much time passes. And just like the best plays, we can always count on a revival. In fact I am looking forward to many, maybe even a few in the French version of the play as they make their way to see me!
In some ways it feels like I went away to University for 4 1/2 years and have come back for the holidays. While away of course I have grown and changed, developed myself in many different directions but my friends and family remind me of who I am at my core. The person that cannot change no matter how much I try. They were my push-off wall to start on this European adventure, those who gave me courage. They are a great reminder of all things rooted that stay the same; even in this crazy paced mache speed Vancouver life.
Our culture in Canada is one of connections, progressions, diversity, common ground and the necessity of the two income family template. Canada is just to a fault, constitutionally protecting our equality. Families plug away at building a life while giving the best they can to their families no matter where we are originally from.
I watch some friends drown in the pace of their life in Canada and others thrive. However, it isn’t better or worse in the lower mainland, it’s different to what I am now used to. Canadian culture is not watered down because of the melting pot multicultural society. Oh contraire mon frere. It is complex and layered, open and accepting. After all whatever Canada is or isn’t, it does create an environment to harvest nice, good, and loving people.
Some people say what culture, hotdogs and hockey? Baseball and poutine? Gun control and same sex marriages? Peacekeeping, park protecting and poverty eliminating! I say, granola-rich culture based on the great outdoors, love of our fellow man, cycling and recycling throughout town. Our freedoms make Canada open to all and a place where anything is truly possible.
Canada, don’t listen to the ones that say you don’t have culture! You do to! Hold on to it, as trivial as it may seem to you, because once it is gone, you will search the world through and will never find anything like it again. I am still Canadian.