Canadians. We’re best known for poutine, hockey, saying sorry and Ryan Reynolds. At least on the west coast. If I lived in Ontario, I would have gone with Ryan Gosling. Whatever. It’s the small things that make us who we are. We’re understated about our nationalism. Canada is already great.
So, when our token Australian mentioned that he was working on his citizenship application, I was (very humbly) proud. It takes some time. You have to learn history, politics and culture. There’s a written test, an interview and a ceremony.
He did the work. Satisfied all the requirements. And got a date for one week before we all boarded a plane to French Polynesia. As we were packing our flippers and snorkels, he’d be raising one hand and pledging himself to a new nation. Ours.
On the day he became a Canadian, we should have met up for beers (or poutine). We didn’t. Instead, it was texted congratulations. Probable a few emojis. But, an idea began to take shape. What if we brought a little ‘eh’ to the islands.
I would have tattooed the Molson motto on my ass right there and then. Thankfully no one had a needle.
It happened a few days into the trip. Slightly sunburned. Salty. And very silly. One by one, we disappeared below and returned looking a little less tropical. There were toques. Denim cutoffs. Even one flag, crudely drawn in sharpie on a bare belly. We made paralyzers, poured shots of Canadian Club, and waited.
It took a few minutes. He didn’t notice anything at first. But slowly, as he looked from one person to the next, it sank in. He smiled. We kicked things off with a crisp new tee. Solid red with a single, white maple leaf. As he pulled it over his head, we clapped and whistled. The whiskey was next, one for each, raised and dutifully slammed back. And then, it happened.
Quietly at first. O Canada. Our home and native land. True patriot love. In all thy sons command. It began to build. Under the stars, the sound of the ocean all around us. It was magic. No one held back. With glowing hearts. We see thee rise. The true north strong and free. From far and wide. O Canada. We stand on guard for thee.
I’ve often wondered if our voices carried. There were a couple boats nearby, an island that might have been inhabited. Did anyone hear us? Did they know what we were singing? Did they immediately stuff earplugs in and go back to sleep?
For me, it might have been the single most Canadian moment of my life. Standing on the deck of a sailboat. Bare feet, wind-blown hair, glass of vodka, milk and coke in hand. I would have tattooed the Molson motto on my ass right there and then. Thankfully no one had a needle.
We stayed up late. Talking trivia. Realizing our newly minted citizen could probably name more prime ministers than the rest of us combined. There might have been a playlist. I can’t remember. I’m imagining Drake. Dion. Adams. No Nickelback.
Between us, we’ve got a lot of passports. Italy, England, New Zealand, Australia. But we are Canadian. We have the most donut shops per capita. We declared Santa Claus a citizen. We can lay claim to the largest concentration of snakes in the world. And, only officially became an independent country in 1982. We’re an offbeat bunch. Plus one.