Sunday, March 7, 2010

All Signs Point to Paris

In 2003, just after returning from my first trip to Paris the city I was then living in, Vancouver, was awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics. I was "pro-Olympic" from the start and though I moved to Victoria (Vancouver Island, a brief 24 nautical miles away) shortly after Vancouver won the bid, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the Olympics.

In between 2003 and 2010, I gobbled up all the delicious Olympic appetizers; VANOC press releases delivered directly to my e-mail inbox, first in line to purchase the adorable Quatchi mascot, learned names of obscure Canadian winter athletes, lost a day of my life trying to register for the Olympic ticket lottery, and did serious research on the going rate for vital organs to try and purchase my husband tickets to the men's gold medal hockey game.

In between 2003 and 2010, I also traveled to Paris twice more and last May returned to Victoria feeling seriously conflicted about the definition of "home". Before I met my husband I had never met someone who loved Canada as much as him. And while I have slowly become more forthcoming about my citizenship, I confess, especially while traveling, that I tend to use it as a means of identifying myself as "not American" rather than "being Canadian".

So with the arrival of the Olympics in Vancouver and my Christmas gift of hockey tickets to watch Canada play the United States - I believe my husband still has both kidneys ! - I was determined not to think of Paris while enjoying my Vancouver Olympic experience. I resolved to embrace my Canadian citizenship and all of what I consider to be its associated cultural idiosyncrasies, like wearing jeans to restaurants with linen napkins. In fact I even dressed the part, head-to-toe red with just enough official Canadian Olympic wear to suggest I could have been a rejected athlete. I proudly strutted around Vancouver, surrounded by like-dressed individuals, and felt more Canadian than ever before.

After several such struts, my reds starting to wrinkle, my husband safely tucked away at another hockey game, I stopped in front of the Vancouver Hermes store to admire their windows and hopefully steal a glance at a Birkin. Instead of a Birkin it was their sign - 7915km Paris" - that made my heart race. Seven-thousand-nine-hundred-fifteen-kilometres-to-Paris, plainer than plain, articulated to the number, the distance I would have to travel to arrive at the city, My City, that I want to claim as home.

I met my husband later that night after his third hockey game. Wearing his Team Canada jersey, Olympic tickets on a lanyard around his neck and his Team Canada tattoo seemingly glaring out from beneath his denim-clad calf, he was the epitomized blend of happiness and Canadianess. I confessed my sign spotting to him and the longing I felt; I told him it was "a sign". As usual, he took my French cravings in his stride, even returning from a later Olympic trip with a much coveted Team France polo shirt, not objecting to my lack of patriotism.

Like the majority of my fellow Canadians, I spent the rest of the Olympics on my couch. I cried often, tears of pride as our Canadian athletes persevered, won medals and showcased our beautiful country and province to the rest of the world. Last Sunday at a local sports bar, as Canada won its men's gold hockey medal, I watched in awe as my husband wept tears of joy, his Team Canada face paint running onto his hockey jersey, and had to agree with a woman at our table who described his reaction as "beautiful".

But it's my own reaction I question. After the wonder of the Olympics with its heart thumping patriotism and the national pride that engulfed my country, I worry that I still don't love my country enough to want to live in it forever.

1 comment:

Licette NJ How said...

Oh Erin - you just blow me away with the poignancy of your writing. The passion, the lead up and the final paragraph ...