I correspond with a small group of Canadian women. There are six of us. We exchange stories, news and encouragement in facing the vicissitudes of daily life. We look at each other as sisters; sisters by choice rather than by birth and blood. I am honored to belong to this group, and, if asked, claim quasi-citizenship in Saskatchewan South. After all, I live barely a hop and skip from the border.
My Canadian sisters celebrate Canada Day on the first of July, and we on this side of the line celebrate Independence Day on the fourth. Fireworks boom and bang on both sides of the border.
Just yesterday, Arlene up in Watson, Saskatchewan, wrote, “Kiss a Canadian tomorrow.”
“I’d have to drive up to Climax to find one,” I wrote back. “But the picking might be better in Shaunavon.”
“Uh, I meant us do the kissing, not you,” said Arlene.
“What do you mean? What are you saying?”
“Well, Sondra, we watch your television programs. We see your country ramping up for another election. The political ads are appalling. Everybody is attacking but nobody says anything positive. On the whole, it is great entertainment. Sort of stupid, but funny at the same time. Still, it is a bit frightening, eh? I hate to be the one to say this, but before we invite you to kiss a Canadian, we’ll need to know if your countries’ negative politics are contagious, you know, like swine flu.”
“Yesterday I was one of you,” I responded. “So what am I today? An untouchable? I am not amused. A lot of us down here don’t pay attention to that stuff. We hunker down and consider those attack ads to be bullets flying over our heads. We study the issues. We study the candidates and we cast informed votes. We don’t all bleat like sheep on the path to the polls. I thought I was your friend. I thought I was your sister.”
“You are our sister. Calm down. I was just afraid you might have become infected by all that nonsense. Just consider this like a security check at the border.”
“Yes, well, my feelings still hurt. I thought you knew me better than that. So you all laugh at us for our political shenanigans, huh? I already knew that. Sometimes I can laugh too. But often I cringe.”
“It’s not just your politics and slimy politicians,” she said. “Our news is full of your news. Your TV seems to be mainly about violence, disasters and the love life of movie stars ... .”
“And sports heroes and the obscene amount of money they make,” I interrupted. “And wars and rumors of wars. I’m scared half to death at where we seem to be heading. My solution is to block it out and focus close to home. All around me I see good people doing good things, helping one another and working to build a strong community. These little things make up our local news but rarely land in national headlines.”
“I have to admit, I often get afraid too,” said Arlene. “We have many of the same problems you have. You just make a bigger splash. You hang it out for everybody to see. We tend to be more discrete.”
“So now can I be your sister again?”
“Of course, silly woman.”
“You are always our sister, no matter what,” chimed in Sharon, also in Watson.
“Then is it OK if I kiss a Canadian?”
“I’ll loan you my Canadian for a kiss,” offered Sue from Vancouver.
“Next time you visit us, stock up on kisses,” suggested Renee in Saskatoon.
“Kiss a Canadian and enjoy the fireworks,” said Bonnie from Alberta.
Wanted: One Canadian of the male variety who is amenable to a kiss from a mouthy Montana woman. Will also accept a Yankee-Doodle Dandy. Be prepared for fireworks. Reply immediately.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little different. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)