Posts Tagged ‘Sweet Mother’

Canadians have been celebrating a lot this year. It’s not that we need an excuse to celebrate, but this year is special. “What are we celebrating? “ you might ask. Well, we are celebrating the very fact that we are Canadian! Some might say we are celebrating that we are not American. Yes, 200 years ago The War of 1812 sorted out who was who. Just this past weekend my home town had a huge re-enactment.

Every One Participates at The Battle of Queenston Heights Re-enactment Photo by Robin Biggar Argenta

Every One Participates at The Battle of Queenston Heights Re-enactment
Photo by Robin Biggar Argenta

A Colourful Day at The Battle of Queenston Heights Re-enactment Photo by Robin Biggar Argenta

A Colourful Day at The Battle of Queenston Heights Re-enactment
Photo by Robin Biggar Argenta

One of the other things the War of 1812 created was the Canada/United States border – the longest undefended border in the world. In many ways this border bonds us together far more than it separates us.

Canada Us Pipeline Border

Canada/United States Border – It looks a little different than this today.
Credit: National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve crossed this border. I was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario. There are four bridges that cross over the Niagara River linking our two countries – The Peace Bridge, The Rainbow Bridge, The Whirlpool (Lower) Bridge and the Queenston/Lewiston Bridge. I’m a “border kid”. This means I have spent my entire life crossing the border to the US, back and forth. Border kids have the distinction of being dragged half-naked “over the river” by their mothers since birth, then returning home wearing so many clothes we could play Ralphie’s little brother Randy in A Christmas Story. He was the kid who couldn’t put his arms down or get up when he fell, because his mom had him dressed like the Michelin Man. Yes, we were born and raised smugglers!

A Christmas Story

Do not fall down when dressed like this!

By the time I was in high school I was a pro. No, NOT a professional smuggler! But, by then it was second nature to cross over to the US on my own. I didn’t drive. I walked. In fact, it was a favourite activity for kids my age to skip school and take off over the river. They had really cool stores and the chances of getting caught by our parents were pretty much slim to none. We were always polite and never lied to the border guards, (Our parents were another story.) After all, the border guards had no sense of humour and carried guns. On one particular excursion we walked across the bridge, arm and arm and singing, “We’re off to see the wizard …” We were asked to stop singing but they let us continue into the US.

The Yellow Brick Road

Me (2nd from the left) and my buddies headed “Over the River”

On our way back to Canada, when they asked if we had anything to declare, I held my bag up and said, “just this pot”. We were immediately surrounded and I was relieved of my purchase. It was a little ceramic pot I had bought for 50¢ at a thrift store and still have to this day. I’m not sure who was more embarrassed, the Border Patrol or me.

My Wee Pot

My wee pot – 40 years later.

As a young adult, going over the river was a must. In the 70’s, the drinking age was 21 in Ontario and the bars closed at midnight or 1:00 am. Over the river, the drinking age was 18 and the bars were open until 2:00 am in one county and 4:00 am in another just minutes away. At some point the rules changed. Now, the drinking age in Ontario is 19 and the drinking age over the river is 21 – so the drinking crossovers have changed direction.


Yes, it is that close

There was also a time when I had a business In Niagara Falls, New York and crossed back and forth over the border every day. In the summer the lineups on the bridge could be brutal and it was difficult to keep to a schedule. So, I hooked a crate to the back of my bicycle, loaded it with my briefcase, purse and heels, and rode to and from work every day. One day, one of the Customs Officials shared a story with me (one I am sure is an urban legend).

There was this fellow who crossed the bridge each day on a bicycle. He made the trip every day for many, many years. All the Customs Officials were sure he was smuggling something but never found anything on him. The man grew old and it came time for him to retire. He told the Customs Officials it was his last day, said good-bye and wished them well. One of the officials asked, “Please tell us before you go? “You’re free and clear now. “We’ve always suspected that you were smuggling something. “What was it?”

The man smiled and simply stated, “the bicycles.”

The Border

Almost there

We shared a piece of history that brought us together for a while. For 79 days during the 444 days of the Iran Hostage Crisis, former Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor and other Canadian Embassy staff, hid, protected and arranged for the escape of five Americans who had escaped from their Embassy when it was overrun. (President Reagan’s account of what happened.)
When it was finally made known to the public that the Americans were safely out of the country and that the Canadians were responsible, there appeared on the front page of our local paper a picture looking out across the Niagara Gorge to the escarpment on the other side. There was a giant banner hanging on the American side that was big enough you could read it while standing in Canada. It simply said, “THANK YOU CANADA”. I will never forget that sight. It could be because it appeared over night, or just knowing the manpower it would have taken to do such a thing. Or, could it be that it was the last time I remember an American saying “thank you”?

Thank You Canada

It was like this only really, really, really big

There was a Canadian movie made in 1981 about this called Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper starring our very own Gordon Pinsent.
You won’t remember it. I’m sure it never even played in the US. You may, however, be aware of a little film called Argo that’s making the rounds right now. This version of the story, directed by Ben Affleck, stars Affleck and is a dramatization of the joint CIA-Canadian secret operation. Of course the emphasis is on the CIA’s part in it. I suppose we should be grateful that Canadians were even acknowledged.


The big attraction for people visiting Niagara Falls is, of course, the Falls. There are actually two sets of falls. The Canadian falls are called the Horseshoe Falls and are conveniently located in all their splendor to be enjoyed by anyone who comes to Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

The American falls are called the American Falls (clever). Right beside it is a smaller waterfall called the Bridal Veil Falls. Both of these are also conveniently located in all their glory to be enjoyed by anyone who comes to Niagara Falls, Ontario. That’s right! You have to leave Niagara Falls, New York and cross over to Niagara Falls, Ontario to see the American Falls. I think this is where someone says “location, location, location”.

American Falls

American Falls & Bridal Veil Falls
(Maybe I should have stopped my car to take this one)

I still head over the river on a regular basis, even though these days I live much further away. No, there is no smuggling involved. You can’t live that close to the border and not have someone in the family marry the opposition. Now my sister lives there, my niece lives there and my grandniece lives there. That little girl is worth a trip over the river .

My Grandniece, Ellee

My Grandniece, Ellee


Silk Purse Productions

This post was originally written for a social experiment called “Canadica” and posted on October 23, 2012.  Canadica was the brainchild of Rebecca Donahue and was created as a joint project between Canadian and American writers. We had a lot of fun poking fun at each other. As you know I love our American neighbours very much, especially my American friends and family. Yes, that even means my brother-in-law, Bruce, who is a great source of amusement for me and helped me remember the drinking bits.  I have written other pieces for various blogs and recently discovered that some of those were lost because the owner of the site closed it down. This particular post was the first time (and so far…only time) I was “Freshly Pressed” so I did not want to risk losing it.

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A long time ago in a far away land Halloween was one of the best times of the year.

As a child growing up my sisters and I would trounce around the neighbourhood with pillowcases filling them to the brim with candy booty. We would walk through our neighbourhood without a care in the world and our parents never had to accompany us. We all knew each other and kept an eye on each other.

As a young adult I use to make costumes and try to fool people into not even knowing it was me. I went to elaborate Halloween parties and had a great time. When the parties stopped my favourite thing was to costume up and hand out candy to the little ones that came to the door. The kids were adorable and I could answer that door all night.  Of course there was always an adult at the bottom of my driveway waiting for their return with a smile and a wave.  When we moved I stocked up on treats and turned all the lights on and sat patiently by the door. No one came. All night … no one came. He-Who finally convinced me to turn out the lights and join him in front of the TV. Of course I brought the candy with me. I had lost Halloween.

Today a blog post arrived in my inbox that reminded me that I still have some Halloween left in me.  This post from Sweet Mother reminded me of some of the reasons I always enjoyed Halloween and that I still had some of those “moments” in my life.

A little more than a quarter of a century ago I fell in love with this adorable little boy. He was my baby sister’s first born and I doted on him. When Halloween rolled around I decided I was gong to make him the best Halloween costume ever. I am not very good at sewing and really only know the basics. I worked on his costume for a very long time.  I don’t remember ever putting that much of myself into anything.  What kid wouldn’t want to be a dinosaur? (Not the big purple one. No one wants to be the big purple one.)  Well, he hated it! He cried and cried as we dressed him in it. You can see how angry he was in the picture on the left.  I’m not sure how we finally got him to smile in the picture on the right.

Angry Dinosaur

Angry Dinosaur

The good news was that I had built that suit like a tank and there was nothing he could do to it to harm it. It was also warm so he didn’t have to cover it up. These were things he did not appreciate.  The suit did indeed last. After his little sister was born it wasn’t long before she was swinging down the sidewalk in the dinosaur costume.  She was much happier about wearing it and so were the kids who wore it after her. I still laugh until I cry every time I see these pictures.

One day last week I got a Skype call from his little sister.  She’s a Mom now and she and her little one spend a lot of time with me on skype. In fact, little Ellee thinks I live in the computer. Other people tell me whenever she sees a computer she walks up to it and calls my name. (Is that not the most adorable thing you have ever heard?)  It seems Ellee wanted to be Peter Pan for Halloween and there were no Peter Pan outfits to be found. She could be Tinker Bell, no problem but, not Peter Pan. I spent the afternoon scouring the shops in our area and they were right.  I did not find one Peter Pan costume for a toddler. It had been a long time since I had sewn anything and I didn’t have a pattern or measurements, but I gave it a shot and managed to put together my version of a Peter Pan outfit.  I drove the costume to Lewiston, NY on Sunday.  When Ellee sees me in person it is always awkward at first. I think she is trying to figure out how I got out of the computer.  I took the cover off the costume and showed her. Her big eyes got bigger and lit up as she said, “Peter Pan”.  Well, this old girl just melted.

Peter Pan

The Cutest Peter Pan Ever!

Peter Pan

Peter PanWhen I returned home I couldn’t wait to tell He-Who about Ellee’s reaction.  Before I had a chance to say anything he asked me if I had seen the picture of the newest member of our family, my Grandnephew, baby Logan.

Logan Halloween 2012

Baby Logan’s First Halloween

Today as I was reading Sweet Mother’s post I received a picture via message on my phone. One of my older sisters is the “Queen of  Costume” and dresses for every Holiday and theme you can think of. She had someone at work take this and sent it to me.

Baby Carrot

The Costume Queen As A Baby Carrot

Halloween is alive and well as long as there are people around who still embrace the spirit of the thing and the fun of it all.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

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