I first came to America at 10 years old to meet my father in Washington D.C. That trip was momentous for a couple of reasons, the first being that I was finally meeting my father 10 years after he left my pregnant, Canadian mother. The other reason being that I was also meeting for the first time these mythical “States”… that’s what we call America up in Canada – “The States”. As it turned out, both of those meetings changed the course of my life forever.
I approached the relationship with my father cautiously and suspiciously. But America – well, I fell in love with Her right away. It literally was love at first sight. And now that I look back, how fitting that my first love blossomed in the capital of this great nation. Washington D.C. in the 1980′s was not like it is today. It was just beginning to turn into the “government yuppie” capital. It was still powered by government, but the “Chocolate City” was bursting to the brim with culture, homeless people and ghettos. Coming from an all white area of Canada (and I mean all white and someday I’ll write about that experience) it was certainly a culture shock to suddenly be in the presence of all types of Black folks – tall, skinny, fat, light, dark, red-haired, blond-haired, corn-rows, Afros; it was an amazing time for me. I embraced it fully. I loved how you could buy anything you wanted, anywhere! There were jobs and machines and businesses I’d never heard of let alone dreamed. There was a subway! I grew up on an island where they didn’t even have trains anymore. Eventually I moved there to live with my father full-time and the first thing I did was master that subway system, the Metro. My time with my father was tumultuous, and because we lived within walking distance of the Capital and many of the free Smithsonian museums I spent a lot of time escaping into the history of America. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was setting myself up for my future conversion from socialist liberal to conservative American. I went to see the Constitution on display at the Smithsonian. I walked the Mall, past sculptures and displays and the amazing Monument. I sat in the Botanical Gardens and daydreamed. I would often walk to the deck of the Capital building as dusk was descending and look out over the lights of the city in awe and just ponder. My favorite spot was the Air & Space Museum, which I walked through nearly every day after school. As a science fiction fan and the granddaughter of an Air Force pilot I couldn’t get enough of all the planes, rockets and capsules on display, and if I had enough money from my babysitting jobs, I’d treat myself to the movie at the Planetarium there as well.
Washington D.C. was hot and muggy and full of pain for me, but I also found so much joy there. Joy at the wonder that is America. My conversion story is much longer, and someday, dear reader, I promise to share it all with you, but for today I just wanted you to know about the time I first fell in love with “the States”. I knew then, in my first visit at ten years old, that I would be American someday. I knew I would make a life here, and every day of my Canadian life thereafter was all about when I could get back to America. I made it for good in 1992. I have never looked back. I love Canada dearly and I am proud to be from there. But America is my home. There is no doubt in my mind she has been ordained from her birth as the beacon of hope and freedom in the world. America has given me so much – an education, amazing life experiences, wonderful friends, homes, an amazing husband and my very own American children. I still look back at my life in Eastern Canada with a sense of incredulity. I cannot believe I have come so far from that life. But here I am. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to America and our Founding Fathers. I am Canadian, and this is my American Dream.