Happy Canada Day!

About Canada Day: On July 1, 1867, Canada was officially born when the Constitution Act joined three provinces into one country: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada province, which then split into Ontario and Quebec. However, Canada was not completely independent of England until 1982. The holiday, called Dominion Day, was officially established in 1879, but it wasn’t observed by many Canadians, who considered themselves to be British citizens. Dominion Day started to catch on when the 50th anniversary of the confederation rolled around in 1917. In 1946, a bill was put forth to rename Dominion Day, but arguments in the House of Commons over what to call the holiday stalled the bill.

The 100th anniversary in 1967 saw the growth of the spirit of Canadian patriotism and Dominion Day celebrations really began to take off. Although quite a few Canadians already called the holiday Canada Day (Fête du Canada in French), the new name wasn’t formally adopted until October of 1982.

My story: Both my parents immigrated to Toronto, Canada, in 1952 from Nottingham, England (by way of war-torn Germany/Yugoslavia, now Poland/Serbia), and became citizens as soon as their five years was up. They quickly adopted “Canadian” customs, like celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December, vs. Christmas Eve, as is done in Germany.

My mother learned to read English by reading stories to me (I remember Heidi being a particular favorite). My father did crossword puzzles with a dictionary—but always with a pen, and never a pencil. Is using a dictionary cheating? Not if that’s how you’re learning the language. There were no ESL programs in the 1950s. (And to this day, if I’m reading a book and there’s a word I don’t know, I look it up in the dictionary, just the way he made me, all those years ago.)

Not content to continue working in a factory, my father went back to school to learn about blueprints and other technical things I don’t understand. Soon after he got an apprenticeship as a Sheet Metal Worker, a job he proudly worked at until the day he died of stomach cancer at the far too young age of 42. (Those of you in the Toronto area: he and his co-worker built and installed all the ductwork in Yorkdale Shopping Mall.)

My mother (who, truth be told, never did acclimatize to Toronto’s hot, humid summers, and cold, snowy winters) left her job as a retail sales clerk at Zeller’s Dept. Store, and started working at a local branch of the Bank of Montreal as a teller. She was soon promoted, and eventually worked her way up the ladder to join the International Banking team, a position she loved until the day she retired. I can remember meeting her for lunch one day in downtown Toronto and thinking, “Wow, she looks so PROFESSIONAL!”

As I was growing up,  my father would always tell me how lucky I was to be born in such a wonderfully inclusive country, a place where there was opportunity for anyone who was willing to work hard and follow their dreams.

My father was right. I took a long, meandering road to get here, but today I’m living my dream of being a published author.

Thank you mom and dad.

Thank you, Canada.

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11 responses to “Happy Canada Day!

  1. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Carol. We are lucky indeed! Happy 150th 🙂

  2. Thank you for posting such a “Canadian” story! Your father was right: we are lucky to be living in Canada! I am so proud to be Canadian! Wishing you more dreams come true.

  3. Judy Penz Sheluk

    And to you Kristina!

  4. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Grace and Joanne. I’m glad it inspired you both. Happy 4th to you Grace! And Happy Canada Day to you, Joanne.

  5. Hi Judy, Thanks for sharing your inspiring story! I felt myself tearing as I read through the challenges faced by your parents. You’ve made them proud. 🙂

  6. Grace Topping

    What an inspiring story. It goes to show that both our countries benefitted from people immigrating from other countries–my husband from England and my grandparents from Italy.

  7. Kristina Stanley

    Happy Canada Day!

  8. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Micki, my dad never fell for the old “how can I look it up” routine either! The only danger was that if there was a word I discovered, I’d want to use it all the time. I remember going through a stage where I used surreptitiously a lot!

  9. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Sheri for your continued support. It means so much to me.

  10. Happy Canada Day! What a wonderful post. Your parents sound lovely. I’m sorry you lost your father so soon.
    My grandmother was the same way with a dictionary. Sometimes I would ask her how to spell a word and she would send me to the dictionary. I tried the ol’ “How can I look it up if I don’t know how to spell it?” excuse– to no avail. I always managed to find it though. Thank you for prompting a happy memory for me.

  11. eightpawswriting

    Happy Canada Day! Loved reading about your memories. Wonderful story! And you should be so proud of your writing accomplishments. You made your dream come true!

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