Monday, 30 June 2008

Where it all began

Tell me this isn't a wonderful photo. That's my great aunt front and centre, with her daughter. And that wee man in the dark sailor suit? That's my dad, catching the boat from Germany to Canada when he was five years old. That's his mom, my Oma, beside him.

One of the best parts about the Canada visit was being able to sit down in one room with both sets of grandparents and talk to them about when they first arrived in the country. My Opa on my father's side came over on a contract with a farmer and worked to pay off the travel fare for which the farmer had paid. My Opa on my mother's side spent several months studying English with a colleague before taking the boat over to Canada. He was winging it - counting on his skills and language abilities to land him a job, which they did. In both cases the men went over first, worked and saved some money before sending for their wives and children.

This year my maternal family is celebrating 50 years in Canada. On my father's side we are tipping over 55 years. Their stories are remarkable, and I am so proud of our wee notch in the great history of human migration. What makes people leave all that they know and strike out for a foreign country, where they may not know the language or the customs? (My paternal grandfather spoke no English when he arrived. The same went for both my grandmothers). What would make people abandon the safety net of extended family and move to where they might feel alienated and vulnerable? My mother told me once of how she and her sister practiced saying "Toronto" so it would sound like the Canadian "Torono" instead of skipping with the heavy consonants of their native accent.
Tomorrow is Canada Day, and it is also my Oma's birthday. Tonight I am baking Maple Syrup muffins to bring to work, where I will spend the day wearing my Canada pin with the blinking lights. Hopefully no one with epilepsy comes into the shop.

And in other grand news, despite still being in hospital, I have reports that my little Omi is on the mend. This makes me happy.

2 comments:

your new best friend said...

um, were you being sarcastic? if not: uh, helllllo miss denizen of the uk

Purest Green said...

It's different for me, I think. I had help moving over here, and the language is (mostly) the same.