Tuesday, 15 February 2011

WHEN PATRIOTISM WAS A MYSTERY TO ME

On February 15, 1965, the grownups were buzzing about a new flag. This meant nothing to me then as I was only eight years old. I had no inkling of the raging controversy between those wishing to keep the Red Ensign and those wishing to adopt the maple leaf as Canada's new emblem. My mind was too preoccupied with the prospect of enduring my first six-month-long exile to a school for the blind in Vancouver, British Columbia to care.

In my memoir called Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), I briefly mentioned this historic day. Had I been older, it might have mattered more. After forty-six years, people in Canada barely remember the uproar the new flag caused. The following is what I remember of that day.

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Back then, I barely knew about the country I lived in. Politics was as mysterious as any other adult concern. One Saturday morning in February, I walked into the Quiet Room, expecting to watch television or draw a few pictures.

"Canada has a new flag," Mrs. Sandyford gushed as I sat at one of the round tables. When I looked blank, she asked," Would you like me to draw it for you?" My supervisor drew a red leaf on a paper. I was unimpressed. This was our new flag? I felt it was just plenty of bother over nothing.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.