O Canada

Tim, Michelle, Sarah, Glen and Sharyn

I’m in Mannville, Alberta, visiting my friend Sharyn. And there are new friends to meet: Glen, a jolly 95-year-old who never seems to run out of smiles; Michelle, a vibrantly intelligent single mom; her boyfriend Tim; and her 4-year-old daughter Sarah. Sharyn is either 27 or 76 … I can’t remember which.

Yesterday morning, we headed off to the metal gazebo at the heart of the village. Sharyn was appropriately decked out in red but I didn’t get the memo. My purple lizard t-shirt would have to do.

We lined up for the pancake breakfast with about 80 Mannvilleites. The guy with the microphone said something like “Isn’t it great to be in Alberta?” Not wanting to be left out, I yelled “Ontario”! The senior couple in front of me turned around and smiled. “Welcome to Alberta.”

It was Canada Day and I love my country. The microphone fellow said it was time to sing the national anthem and another gentleman came forward to lead us in “O Canada”. I belted out the words and most in the line did the same. What a good feeling.

Armed with pancakes, sausages, scrambled eggs and coffee, I found us a place to sit. The welcoming couple were already chowing down at the table. Cheryl and Doug were ranchers in the area.

I can’t remember whether Doug spoke first or me, but clearly we were both eager for contact. He and Cheryl have been married for 48 years and they certainly enjoyed each other’s presence.

Doug mentioned a dream fulfilled. The two of them had wanted to build a lodge on a scenic corner of their property, really a community centre able to host as many as 150 people for conferences and dinners. I could tell they were determined folks because Red Feather Ridge is thriving today. As Doug smilingly related the story, I yearned for an invite, but that never came. I let it go. Listening to Doug was reward enough.

Michelle and Sarah invited me over to their place for the afternoon while Sharyn had a nap. I was happy to have a kid in my vacationing life. We played three or four board games. I think it was the Candyland one that required no skill at all, just luck. So we two adults didn’t have to worry about holding our strategy skills back. We played that one twice and Sarah won once.

Next was Hide-and-Go-Seek. Sarah was hiding in the hole of a desk, with the chair sort of protecting her. I made a big deal of saying to Michelle “Now where did that girl go?” Sarah squealed in delight when we “finally” found her.

Now, my turn. By the kitchen window, there were long grey-and-white drapes that stretched almost to the floor. Perfect for hiding toes. Just a bit lumpy up top. I loved it when Sarah breezed through the kitchen on her way to probable hiding spots. After a bit, a little help from mom led to a young girl sweeping the drape aside. Such fun!

Later in the day, all of us had a fine dinner at Sharyn’s place. I sat at the table and looked around at the different faces, personalities and ages. My, my … an instant family for me. I am blessed.

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