Monday, November 30, 2009


America’s attic, Alaska’s babysitters, the land of 1000 Jim Carreys - Canadians are like the Pillsbury dough boys of the western world - no matter how hard your jab, we’ll smile, laugh too hard, and probably apologize for Celine, SARS, and the fact your boyfriend watches too much hockey.

But beyond our passive-aggressive excuses/thinly veiled criticisms, our collective lack of a national self-worth is spawned from our brief and disparate histories. Arnold Edinborough said that “Canada has never been a melting-pot; more like a tossed salad,” and while I always chalked up my heritage to some basic European country, it wasn’t until today that I unearthed a manuscript detailing the history of my family.

In a scrapbook of meticulously hand-written pages and sepia-tinted photos, my grandmother has outlined the pedigree of my mother’s side of family. It’s a mélange of Clerics and Doctors, marriages and second marriages, children lost in infancy, births, deaths, and even a distant cousin who, by sheer coincidence, was baptized with the exact same name as my sister; their stories are all set to page in her impeccable scrawl.

It’s not a distinctly Canadian history, but it’s these small details that made me feel more attached to this hateful wasteland of frozen tundra than ever before. Frankly, I never cared much for the stories of the settlers, or the fur trade, but suddenly knowing that H. Nelson Jackson, my (to be determined number of greats) grandfather was the first person to cross the continent in a car (nicknamed Vermont) means a whole lot more than how we torched the White House in 1812.


  1. I LOVE this post. I feel like I'm dealing with these same discoveries - we are amidst selling my grandparents' home --- it's this strange realization about nature, nurture, Self, pastlives, loss - preservation! your grandmother is a fine preservationist! dreamy place to be lost in, no? all the while directly connected to you who sits and dreams!

  2. "hateful wasteland of frozen tundra" is pretty much the best line I've read all day.