Monday, June 30, 2008

CAUTION: may explode and emit showers of whining

You're going on vacation. You make a list of everything to pack, and check it twice. You get it all packed, check off everything from the list and stuff it all in the car. Fifty miles down the road that nagging feeling of having forgot something just wont go away. You go over your list again and wrack your brain trying to figure out what it was that you forgot. Everything on your list is packed and in the trunk, and yet there's still something, something unwritten on your list that won't let you travel along the road in peace.

Have you ever had that happen to you? I know I have, more times than I can count. Sometimes I realize what it was that I forgot, and other times I never do. More often than not I've simply resigned myself to the idea that even though it feels like there's something not quite right, there's nothing I can do about it anyway, and I just let it go.

For me, this is sort of what it feels like to be homesick. Of course I knew 10 years ago that when I packed up and moved to Canada, I couldn't take my mom and gma with me. I couldn't stuff the Puget Sound and the scent of saltwater into the trunk, and I knew I wouldn't be able to take Candy Cane Lane at Christmas or our local state part on the 4th of July. They just don't make u-hauls big enough to take it all with you when you go.

Illahee State Park War MemorialTwice a year I get more homesick than any other time, and the 4th of July weekend is one of them. For many years our family had get togethers on the 4th weekend at Illahee State Park. Even as we got older and family attendance dwindled down (as many of the kids moved away and some of the older folks weren't around anymore) we adopted that tradition as our own and still went to the park with the kids. The faces were different, but the old stomping grounds were still the same and it just felt "right" to be at Illahee on the 4th of July. The way the sunlight danced through the tall trees, the smell of grilling burgers and being in the woods, and the sight of kids with giant watermelon wedges running around the playground... the kids playing on the old mounted cannons at the war memorial at the entrance to the park, and running my finger across the old etchings in the cannons that I had seen since I was a little girl. Kids and teenagers had always left their "mark" on the cannons and often with the date they carved their names there. I knew the etchings so well, that I could always spot the new ones with each visit. I'd seen them every year for so many years, that just being there was a marker in my own life.

The end of the day almost always consisted of too much sun as we spent the afternoon down at the water, feet sliced up by barnacles on rocks (that we shouldn't have been stepping on anyway - or at the very least had our flipflops on to protect our feet) catching jellyfish in our bare hands, and coming home with lots of sand in the car. All with the undercurrent of anticipation and excitement, knowing that in a few hours we'd be lighting off fireworks to celebrate Independance Day. In my world, the 4th of July was always a day for families to be with families, rich memories that last a lifetime, and lots of fun. Coming from WA state, it also meant it might start to rain just before you were ready to light fireworks, but that was okay too. Being a native from western WA, we have an unwritten rule. If you can't have fun in the rain, you can't have fun.

In Canada, the Canada Day weekend is pretty much mapped out in the same ways. It's a time for families, a time for burgers and beaches, and a time for fireworks. Some folks head up to cottage country and spend it on the lake and being eaten alive by mosquitos (and loving every crazy minute of it, and doing it every year), others use the holiday as an excuse to party (as do many Americans for the 4th), but for most Canadians, it's a family-friendly event, packed with good times that make up the memories of their childhoods.

The thing is, even though we do all the "things" associated with family-friendly Canada Day, and even though most of those things are the same things Americans do, it's just not the same for me. In some ways, it sort of feels like spending your own birthday watching someone else open presents and blow out the candles on a cake. It's a very strange feeling, even after 10 years of doing it. It's the same feeling as if I've forgotten something on my trip. Of course we all have fun with the kids but that nagging feeling never goes away, as much as I try to ignore it. Yesterday it became a bit much to take the good-natured ribbing of a few friends about my alleged, questionable Canadian status, and it actually made me cry. I know, I'm a big baby.

It did make me stop and consider why it bugs me as much as it does however, that I defend my nationality the way I do. It's not as if I actually have anything to boast of, I didn't plan my own birth in the USA, God did. Maybe I just have underlying, unresolved American pride issues that I've never considered before? It's entirely possible. It's also entirely possible that I just miss my mommy and my family, and being "home" where things are as familiar as the back of my hand. Again, I am in fact a big crybaby, and I have no problem confessing that.

Intellectually and rationally I know it's a waste of time to spend any amount of time being homesick. I can't do anything about it so why allow it? Spiritually, I know most folks would likely say I'm being unthankful, ungrateful and disobedient. Not that I set out to "be" any of those things. I know I'm supposed to be content in all things (situations, circumstances, events) and I really do try to be. It's a process, I guess, and I'm on the road toward the City of Being Content. In more ways than one, I suppose.

Most Canadian families celebrated Canada Day throughout the weekend. Public fireworks displays go on for 3 days in various places, but we did ours last night in the yard. How funny is it, that the goofy "nail it to a tree and watch it spin" firework that NEVER spins and always seems like such a dud, is the ONLY firework last night that I got a great shot of? It just goes to show ya, never say never.

yay, things that blow up and emit showers of sparks!

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