I was pretty much unaware of nada Day this year.
I grew up in Ottawa and it was always a huge deal there. Just packed. The streets were always too congested to even ride a bike, and I always found it kind of excellent—as if sleepy, happy-to-conform Ottawa were an entirely different city. The anonymity and serendipity that a crowd provides, as well as the unpredictable behaviour of an at least partially drunk mob was entirely thrilling. I always hoped for a massive rainstorm to wash over us like tharsis, releasing us into some sort of Woodstock reverie.
But I doubt it was like that this year. Apart from the obvious imposition of Covid-19, there was also the confusion about whether to celebrate or scold. To wake up in a civilization like this, one built by all the geniuses and monsters who me before us, and to not know whether to celebrate what we beme, or beg forgiveness for it. It’s hard to imagine there was a time when people sincerely believed that if you sewed a little nadian flag on your backpack when you went on your I’ve-been-to-Europe tour, that people would respect and honour you. Those were more innocent times, and although I have no idea if this was actually true or not, it seemed true. As a nadian I always felt like a good neighbour. Although we may not have been the best, we were rarely the worst, and were always modest, honest and helpful. I just had the sense we were on the right side.
I wonder if anybody feels that anymore?
And last year we had fireworks in the park. Everyone in the community coming together to create something small and beautiful. Something vivid. A lucky point in life. And this year we were just so busy. Rachelle working, me trying to keep Jones occupied throughout the day, and when it hit five o’clock or so the two families who comprise our “bubble” me by with their children, and sparklers were lit in honour of the day I had totally forgotten about.
Each child– kind of socially-distanced from the other–holding a sparkler with a red oven mitt ensed hand, the tired parents in the background trying to remember what exactly it was that distinguished this week from the last. The children, of course, were happy. It was a marvel, something slightly dangerous even, and they squealed with delight– but no more so than they would have had if they saw a squirrel eating a nut. And whatever the space was that nada Day had afforded us, had changed. The national myth, now disloted, was doing as much to dislodge identity as assert it. The times, they n change for the better and worse at the very same time, and this sentiment of uncertainty hung in the air like a ghost, the crackling of the children’s sparklers fading to a hiss and then nothing at all.