Monday, January 11, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: A (not so) happy birthday, Mom...

Last Wednesday morning, we took down the Christmas tree. I called my (American, once-staunchly Republican) mother just before lunch to wish her a happy 80th birthday.* After lunch, I took my shower, and shortly after 2 p.m., I settled into the easy chair with a cup of tea and my laptop to browse my social media feeds. It wasn't too much later that I saw a post on Twitter and exclaimed to dh, "The Capitol is on lockdown." He turned on CNN, and we spent the next several hours watching in horror as an insurrection -- incited by the President of the United States himself -- unfolded on live television. 

My mother is American, my father is Canadian. I was born in Canada (in a small border town) and have always identified as a proud Canadian. Nevertheless, the United States and American culture loomed large in my life -- as it does for most Canadians, I suppose. After all, 90 per cent of Canadians live within 160 kilometres (about 100 miles) of the U.S. border. We go to the U.S. to shop and vacation and visit friends and relatives (at least, we did, pre-COVID -- the border has been closed to non-essential traffic since mid-March). We grow up absorbing books, movies and TV from the U.S., often to the detriment of our own culture.  As one former prime minister (current PM Justin's father Pierre) put it so well, we're like a mouse "sleeping with an elephant." Many Canadians know more about U.S. history and politics than we do about our own. 

I got an extra dose of Americana, of course, because of my American mother & relatives and spending several weeks of every summer in Minnesota, when I was growing up. I gobbled up books about Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone ("On Indian Trails With Daniel Boone" and "By Secret Railway," both by Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft, were HUGE favourites of mine) -- and of course the Little House on the Prairie books. I took American history as an elective in Grade 11 (Canadian history was mandatory in Grade 10).  I've wanted to go to Washington D.C. ever since I read "The Bobbsey Twins Go to Washington," lol. (I would still love to go there someday -- hopefully in a calmer political climate...) 

My grandparents went to Washington D.C. for the day when they went to Baltimore to visit my Grandma's youngest sister (my great-aunt), who was living there at the time. This was somewhere around 1974-75 (and I just realized, as I typed that, that my grandmother would have been 60 in 1974 -- the same age I am going to be later this week... GULP...). My mother's cousin/Grandma's niece and her boyfriend took them into the city and showed them the highlights. They were thrilled. They had their picture taken in front of the White House, and drove by the Capitol. They sent my sister & me postcards from the Smithsonian museum with pictures of the First Ladies' dresses on them (Martha Washington's and Mary Todd Lincoln's, if I remember correctly).

I kept thinking about that, and about them, on Wednesday. Those beautiful, historic buildings, and the awe and reverence my grandparents had for them. 

They've both been gone for more than 20 years now.  I miss them every day. But I am glad they were not around to see what happened. :(  

* (After this post was mostly written, I had a flashback to emailing my sister, shortly before 9 a.m. on the morning of her 39th birthday. And then dh calling me a few minutes later to tell me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Centre. It was September 11, 2001. Yikes!)   

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.


  1. I know your birthday is this month. I hope it's not on the 20th! lol

    I didn't realise 90% of Canadians live so close to the border! But I can relate to being inundated by the culture of a larger country (for us it was a combination of the US and UK, and occasionally Australia) to the detriment of our own. (I also read the Bobbsey Twins, but I'm not sure I read that one!)

    I've been to DC about 10 times - I travelled once or twice a year for 5 years for work. It was always a treat - the city, the monuments, the museums. I often said I'd like to live and work there for a year or so. But not in recent years! I do hope you get to go - post-covid and before the next election maybe!

    1. Re: my birthday -- let's just say it's soon, and I have a post almost ready to go! ;)

      I saw several different percentages/distances quoted when I was looking for the right number, but basically, it's a pretty big majority living within 100-200 km of the border!

  2. Wasn't that surreal, that afternoon a week ago?

    I didn't realize you were one of your mother's birthday presents (albeit belated).

    I do hope you get to go to Washington DC during calmer, healthier times. I love it for the culture, but also because of a special blogger there!

  3. I don't think I realized you were half American! Sort of. Part American? What a day last Wednesday was. I can only imagine what it was like to see it through Canadian eyes. I've only been to DC through school trips -- once as a 6th grader, and then again as a teacher chaperone for 8th graders a couple of years ago. There's so much great stuff to see, and I would love to go when I'm not on a bus with 30 13 year olds...maybe I could see that special blogger then! When I last went the MAGA hats were everywhere and You Know Who was already president. I'd love to go in happier times, too! I hope your birthday is less eventful than this day.