Happy Canada Day!
Many years ago I wrote the following short story from the eyes of a teen. It won first place in the Legion’s “Canada” contest in 1979.
Celebrate our country. Be proud to be a Canadian. Enjoy the land God has given you, wherever you are.
Maybe he was at the lake. She quickly slipped into her bathing suit, a blue one-piece that had belonged to her older sister, and grabbed her worn beach towel.
“Gone swimming, Mom,” she called over her shoulder just before the screen door slammed shut.
The pavement, still hot from the afternoon sun, scorched her feet. She didn’t notice as she hurried down the main street of the small town. Summer would soon end and take with it the colourful shops feeding off the tourists. It was the same year after year, generation after generation. It never changed.
Arriving at the shoreline, she saw seagulls diving through the air and ducks wandering along the beach looking for food among summer litter. The water, once sparkling and clear, was now infested with seaweed and chemicals to kill the seaweed. The large size of her hometown lake no longer impressed her. He had seen the ocean and said this looked like a pond compared with that.
There he was, sitting on the end of the wooden dock, his feet dangling into the water. He leaned back on his hands, his eyes closed. She walked along the dock and stood behind him.
He looked up at her, smiled hello, and made room for her to sit down. They were silent for a moment, watching the water lap lazily past their feet. She looked up at his tanned, whiskered face and laughing brown eyes.
“Tell me more,” she urged. A smile played at his lips.
“What do you want to hear about this time? I’ve already told you what it’s like to sleep in an igloo, fish the ocean, ride bareback across the desert, work the fields, and be alone in the middle of a city. What’s left?”
“Hmmm… what was your favourite food?”
“Oh, I guess whatever’s local. Homemade berry jam is the best,” he chuckled.
“Who were the funniest people you met?”
“Nobody. And everybody,” he mused. “I mean, you have to realize all people are like yourself, but with different backgrounds. But some of the things they do are different. Like the French. They talk a mile a minute, not only with words but with their hands. I was talking to a couple guys and one of them got going so fast he hit the other guy in the stomach.” His baritone laugh was contagious.
“In all your travels, what’s the most beautiful thing you’ve seen?”
He was silent for a moment, gazing across the lake. Finally, he pointed to the red and orange shades of the darkening sky.
“That’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. The sunset. No matter where I’ve been; in a metropolitan city, on a forest-covered mountaintop, in the crow’s nest of a ship, or up to my knees in snow, the sunset is always a most spectacular sight.”
Silence surrounded them as they watched tints of gold fade into night. She wrapped her towel over her shoulders but a cool breeze kept lifting it, playing as with the waves at her feet. He put his arm around her, holding down the towel, and she leaned closer to him. The moon was shining before he spoke again.
“I’ll be leaving tomorrow.”
“Oh,” she whispered. “I thought so. Where will you go?”
“Not sure. Maybe back to the mountains.”
Her sigh was full of envy and awe.
“Mountains, oceans, and deserts. Huge cities, tiny isolated towns. Foreign languages, native traditions and customs. Traveling sounds so exciting! How many countries have you been to?”
“Child, I have never left my Canada.”