“Do you want to move to Canada?” I will always remember my dad asking me that question, over a crackling phone line, years ago. I was studying in Southern Finland, and living in a dorm.
This was before cellphones and internet. I was using the phone booth downstairs, and I was running out of change.
“Where?” I asked. ”British Columbia, Canada.” my dad replied.”But I thought you were moving to Sweden?” I said and sat down slowly. I was stunned.
“Plans have changed. You can come with us, or you can stay here. We will leave you the house and the car. It is up to you.”
The line went dead. I hung up the phone. I looked out the window, but I barely noticed the beautiful birch trees that surrounded the dorm. There was not a cloud in the sky. A dog was barking in the distance. Time stood still.
I had a good life in Finland. Up until this surprising conversation with my dad, I thought I knew exactly what my future would look like. Everything had been falling into place so easily.
I was studying journalism, and working for a newspaper. I had a nice boyfriend who was a competitive skier and a yacht builder. I had great friends and a wonderful family.
How could I leave everyone and everything behind? would we find happiness and a place to belong somewhere on the other side of the world? how could I say goodbye to my beloved grandmother Agnes? it would break her heart. I was her only grandchild.
The thoughts swirled in my mind and my heart raced. I had not expected to receive these type of unsettling news during my weekly call to my parents.
I did not know anything about Canada. I always thought I would eventually travel to the US, but Canada had never crossed my mind. The winters in Finland were long and cold, but were they not even worse in Canada? and why was the province called British Columbia? what would I do in Canada? could I actually speak English well enough to get by and find a job?
I had a few months to think it over. I finished my studies. I wrote my last article for the newspaper. I told my boyfriend I would be leaving. But I waited to tell my grandmother for as long as I could.
I read up on Canada. I travelled back home, and found my parents busily selling everything they owned, except the house. They had decided to rent it out for a couple of years, just in case they would not like Canada. But before they signed the papers, they asked me one more time if I was sure I did not want to stay and take over the house? my life could continue on that course I had set out for myself. If I chose to. I was at a crossroads.
My childhood home was a large two-storey house built in the 40′s and set in the country side surrounded by endless acres. The house was completely renovated, and a beautiful place to call home. My dad had grown up there, and so had I. Never in my wildest imaginations could I have foreseen that my parents would leave this house, and everything safe and familiar for an unknown future in Canada.
Everyone kept asking us the same questions; “why are you leaving?”, “where are you going?”, “when are you coming back?”.
My dad had all the answers ready; “it is time to see something else”, “we are going to Canada”, “we are not planning to return to Finland”. He had made up his mind and nothing, or no one, could stand in his way. He was breaking free.
We arrived in Edmonton on a summer evening. I thought it was a beautiful town. I was fascinated by the highrises, and the vastness of the city. I knew I would not be returning to Finland, ever. As I closed my eyes, that very first night in Canada, I felt I had come home.
Over the years, I have lived in Northern BC, but mainly in various places in Lower Mainland. I have never looked back, or regretted my decision to move here. Life certainly turned out differently than I had expected, but so far it has been a life full of surprises and no dull moments. I am still finding my way.
My parents ended up settling in Sweden, but I hope they will move back here one day. They visit me every year, and we spend a lot of time on Skype.
Canada is turning 145 years old on July 1. It is such a young, vibrant country. The possibilities are endless here. Canada is vast, beautiful, powerful and completely unique.
I love Canada, and I love being a Canadian. Will I always live here? that remains to be seen. This year, I will celebrate Canada Day with an eclectic group of friends who all originate from somewhere else, but have chosen to make Canada their home. We will cheer for Spain, or Italy, in the Euro Soccer Cup Final, and we will also cheer for Canada.
This Inukshuk statue can be found on the water’s edge in English Bay, Vancouver. The traditional meaning of the Inukshuk is “Someone was here”, or “You are on the right path”.