By JANICE HARKLEY
When I was 13, my parents drove across Canada with me mostly in the back seat of our new sauterne gold Ford Galaxy 500 XL.
I remember that in Regina the water came out of the tap so orange that I would not drink it. I remember hours and hours of fields of waving golden wheat, then finally reaching the lake district of Northern Ontario. I remember the incredible beauty of sideways-sheared rock, and then several days later seeing richly glowing paintings by the Group of Seven of that Canadian Shield in the National Art Gallery.
I remember that I was in charge of handling the daily food budget of $5 per person. I don’t remember there being many, if any, McDonald’s, but I think we ate at a lot of A&Ws.
I remember arriving at our destination, Montreal, and staying near the Rue Côte-des-Neiges in an apartment above a famous deli that sold Montreal smoked meats. I remember having to actually use my school French to communicate with the daily maid. I remember taking my first subway ride on the Expo line, where the advertising promoted you could shop underground and never have to surface. From Expo 67, the pavilion that I can still picture in my head was from Czechoslovakia, with its icy glass structure and containing sparkling cut lead crystal bowls and glasses and ornaments.
On the way home, I remember that at a gas station at Dinorwic, near my dad’s hometown of Sioux Lookout, Ont., I went in to use the washroom, and came out, only to see my parents driving away. They were many miles down the road before they realized their quiet, bookish, well-behaved only child wasn’t in the back seat.
Partly their guilt over that combined with a welcoming aunt and uncle resulted in my staying in Sioux Lookout for the rest of the summer and working in McKenzie’s Shoe Store, my first real job. I remember being admonished to not go near the town liquor store, because there could be “Indians” (not the politically correct term, but the term of 1967, shades of Joseph Boyden) hanging out there.
I remember coming home by myself by train, having to negotiate changing from the Canadian National line to Canadian Pacific line in the middle of the night in Winnipeg. I remember Dad reminding me that when eating in the dining car, just start at the outside of all the utensils and use them in that order as you work your way through the various courses.
It was the summer of love and there were flowers in the streets. Not in my home town of Calgary, but in the music of Scott McKenzie. It was the year of Canada’s 100th birthday.
That was a magical year for me, and I am asking your help to create a little bit of magic on Salt Spring this year by planting flowers in the colours of our flag to acknowledge and honour Canada’s 150th birthday. It’s something easy that we all can participate in, visibly linking together to celebrate a country that has the collective mindset and decency to provide health care to all our citizens, that makes room for people from war zones, that tackles Truth and Reconciliation, and that truly promotes a culture of making love/peace and not war.
The writer is a member of the Salt Spring Community Economic Development Commission and co-owner of Salt Spring Mercantile.