Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians! And to my American friends, Happy Fourth of July for this coming Saturday!
Today is a statutory holiday throughout this land of Canada—and this year, it’s smack dab in the middle of the week—so no long weekends for us this time. Though generally considered fairly conservative in our displays of patriotic devotion, we Canadians tend to celebrate our national holiday in much the same way as our neighbors to the south will be celebrating theirs in just a few days: with parades, picnics and pyrotechnics.
On Canada Day, my thoughts always go back to the past, and my brother. When I was a kid we called July 1st Dominion Day, because this was, then, the Dominion of Canada. And when I was very young—I’m thinking four or five—I thought all the hoopla was because of my big brother.
You see, the day that is our nation’s birthday is also his—and he’d convinced me that all the parades were in his honor. Yes, I was very naïve (and some today would question my use of the past tense in this regard).
I don’t know if I’ve ever told you much about my brother. He is ten years and twenty days my senior. While my sister and I were never really that close, I grew up worshipping my brother.
Looking back, I really don’t know why that was so. He was a prankster, and some of the pranks he pulled on me were downright mean, by today’s standard. Hell, by today’s standards he’d likely have been charged with child abuse.
There was the time when he grumbled about nothing to eat in the house—and then spying me looking up at him, got this maniacal look on his face and declared that he would have a sister sandwich!
I laughed, of course. I was only five. I laughed when he took me by the arm and brought me over to the kitchen counter. I laughed when he put margarine on my wrist. I laughed when he followed that up with mustard, and salt, and pepper. I think I stopped laughing when he took a slice of bread and wrapped it around my wrist.
I know I screamed bloody murder as he raised my bread-wrapped wrist to his wide open mouth.
Then there was the time, as I accompanied him into the city to pick up our mother from work (I would have been about eight), that he told me he’d had enough of me and had come up with the perfect solution: he was going to take me to the blood bank and have me drained.
I laughed, because he was such a kidder. And I kept on laughing, right up until he didn’t follow the usual route to the hospital, where our mom worked as a registered nurse. I know I was a little curious when he pulled into a parking lot of a building I’d never seen before. But I could read the words, Canadian Red Cross just fine. And I was pretty clever for eight; I knew this is where people went to give....blood.
He turned off the car’s engine, got out, came around, opened my door, and grabbed me by the arm. “Come on, let’s go!”
I’ve always had really good timing. I screamed my head off just as our mother came out of the building.
Mother, God rest her, was not impressed with her first born.
Two major pranks that I never forgot that were just elaborate jokes. So by the time he fashioned that “noose” above my swing in the side yard under the willow tree, I was willing to let the whole joke play out. I think I was nine at the time.
This time, however, it was my mother, doing dishes in the kitchen and looking out the window, who screamed bloody murder. I had lost my footing on the swing and the noose actually worked. Of course, my brother came running. I don’t much recall what happened after that, but I do believe it was the last prank he ever pulled on me.
Our mother had a way of really impressing her displeasure upon us. It is entirely possible that my brother—even though he was likely about nineteen at the time—didn’t sit down for a week.
The good old days? I know y’all are likely shaking your heads but yes, they really were.
My brother turns seventy-one today, and despite the ups and downs and the inevitable disappointments of life, he’s never lost his sense of humor. And that really is not a bad thing at all.