The Maple Leaf Forever

You never know what you got 'til it's gone - it's surprising what we miss.

Canada Day is perhaps the only day when Canadians feel entirely comfortable with enthusiastic public displays of patriotism. Maybe it’s part of our Colonial legacy, or perhaps we shy away from the exuberance of our neighbours to the south, whose patriotism can be somewhat OTT, or “over the top”, as they say in Britain.

Funnily enough, it was while living in Britain that I truly came to appreciate how much being Canadian meant to me. I’d always been proud of my country, of course, proud of its beauty, its people, its accomplishments, its worldwide reputation as a kind and generous and welcoming place. But I didn’t know how proud I was, and how much I missed my country, until the night of Aug. 3, 1996.

I’d been living in England for four years. There had been the occasional trip back home, but days, even weeks, could pass without me seeing a mention of anything Canadian anywhere. On the night of Aug. 3, however, I was up late watching the Olympic Games from Atlanta. Against all odds, the Canadian men’s 4 x 100 metre relay team took the gold medal, and I was ecstatic. Indeed, I couldn’t have been more proud if I’d been their coach, or my brother had been on the team.

It was dark in Atlanta—and well past midnight in England—when the gold medal was awarded. I watched the men come out in their red-and-white tracksuits, arms raised, step onto the podium, and receive their medals. Then the Maple Leaf rose on the centre pole at the end of the stadium, unfurling proudly at the top, as “O Canada” started playing, and I began to cry. This wasn’t a discreet tear rolling quietly down one cheek; these were great sobs of joy and pride as I heard my anthem again, that piece I knew so well and hadn’t heard in such a long time.

I came back to Canada in 1997, and have heard the anthem countless times since then. I sing it a little more loudly now, to make up for all those times I couldn’t. Perhaps there really is no place like home. I’m so very happy that Canada was the country I got to come home to.

Barbara Roden is a guest editorial writer for the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal