Thursday, September 23, 2010

On Being Canadian.

This morning and afternoon I baked, first tarts then a pie because the bought crust wasn't halal. I applied make-up, put on jewelry and put on dressier clothes than my normal jeans and superhero t-shirt. Putting my baby on my back, we walked to the school. As we walked, we spotted another family headed the same way, dressed in their culture's best all shimmery, shiny. Suddenly my dress didn't seem so pretty.

The school gym was covered with the student's artwork celebrating different cultures. Flags of many nations hung from the ceiling, each flag representing the birth places of the students there. Families of all ages and sizes came dressed in their cultural clothing. A girl walked by clad in bright orange and green accented with gold jewelry. When she walked or danced, she jingled. Zane's teacher, from the Hmong people group, wore a long beaded tunic with coins that jingled as she walked. A girl brushed by, wearing a stiff red and white robe/kimono/outfit. She carried a poster board about life in Korea. There were clusters of turbaned men, speaking Punjabi. Some nodded and smiled, some greeted us in accented English, others in perfect English. Scottish dancers took to the stage, while some staff mingled wearing the tartan. My friends greeted me and then turned back to their conversation in Mandarin, while the mother from Laos smiled distractedly as she tried to keep her children in view. My little one ran wild, perfectly at home in a gym full of people.

The food line stretched out the door. Tables were spread with curry, springrolls, perogies, enchiladas, rice dishes, noodle dishes and of course pizza. There were Indian sweets, rice pudding and a variety of Canadian desserts. We sampled and savoured, discussing what we liked and what we didn't try. I went back for dessert, but ended up getting more of the savouries. My friend talked me into trying the mushrooms. They were surprisingly good!

The tables were full, so I stood with my friend. Me in a long jean skirt and a brown blouse, she in a flowing sequinned, beaded peach blouse(the long Indian type that I can't remember the name of) overtop of loose grey trousers with a beaded grey scarf draped around her neck. Her oldest wore a similar outfit in black and silver and her youngest wore one in red and gold with beautifully beaded and embroidered sandals. They were beautiful! I felt plain. I wondered if I didn't have a culture. Too many of my forefathers buried their culture because of persecution, so I am left being "just" Canadian(and American).

But then this is my culture. My ancestors were hardworking plain people. They came and worked and survived and thrived. We have stories and legacies and just being here, being Canadian. I wish I had fancy outfits to pull out of the closet, or exotically spiced dishes to eat or even a skin colour other than plain white. Instead I have something different. I have a legacy of peace, of food on the table, warm clothes in winter, a country where I can shop, sleep and worship in peace. I live largely without fear, without justified fear anyways. I may long for something other than this amalgamated identity, but in the end, I am better because they left, they came, they sacrificed. For me, I will wear this dream of peace, of a better future, of freedom and pass it on to those who come and join with me in being Canadian.


  1. grace, you make me proud to be canadian, and proud to be your friend. you are beautiful, and you shine. love to you, dear mama. thank you so much for linking. peace, e.

  2. What a beautifully written tribute to your heritage!

  3. It's good to encourage cross-cultural celebrations, but sometimes we're so preoccupied with that we forget that we each of us have our own culture and heritage. Let's celebrate us, we too are special. Thank you for a beautiful read.