I love Canada Day. I’ve always loved it, since I was a little girl who understood nothing more than we get to light pretty fireworks because it’s my country’s birthday today! I’ve always been fiercely patriotic—finding myself singing O Canada to myself while I wash the dishes, finding myself in a tattoo parlour at the age of 18, figuring that of all things, a maple leaf is something I’d never be ashamed of. It’s only fitting, then, that Don and I chose to get married on Canada Day, to piggyback on the love we already feel for our country, and to capitalize on the guarantee of fireworks and a day off on our anniversary.
Yesterday was our third wedding anniversary, three years on top of the almost eight years we spent as best friends before becoming man and wife. Through our decade together, we’ve often daydreamed about what our lives would look like once we become parents. We looked forward to laughing and playing and watching our kids grow, just as we looked forward to grounding them and enforcing rules and imposing chores. We knew that we were going to be awesome parents, and when we found out we were pregnant, we were so excited for Christmas to meet our little Banana.
This time a year ago, I was just coming into my second trimester, just barely starting to finally look like I was pregnant and not like I’d had too many cream puffs for breakfast. As an anniversary gift last year, Don bought me two maternity t-shirts—one that read bun in the oven, the other, baby on board—to help clarify that I was not fat, I was with child. Last year we made our way down to the waterfront to take in the Canada Day festivities, and the two of us had a deliciously gluttonous meal at The Keg (despite my steak being cooked well and my mojito being mixed virgin) before taking in the fireworks. Much of our conversation on our second anniversary was our imaginations running wild about the baby I was carrying and what our lives would look like this time next year. Little did we know at that time of the plans Nyana had for us, or the places the next year would take us.
Yesterday morning Don and I woke excited about our 3rd wedding anniversary, excited about Nyana’s first Canada Day. We had a slow start to the day, letting Nyana have her morning nap and her noon feed before we headed out to the festivities. While she napped, the Sunshine Brigade decked itself out in Canadiana; when we finally left the house shortly after one o’clock in the afternoon, I counted six fabric flags mounted to her stroller, two Canadian flag pins pinned to the canopy of her stroller, three red Team Canada hockey jerseys (Don and I each wearing one plus Nyana’s in the diaper bag ‘just in case’), one “My First Canada Day” onesie, one “‘Lil Canuck” bib, two fake maple leaf tattoos and one real maple leaf tattoo. It was Canada’s birthday, and the Sunshine Brigade was representing.
It took us 45 minutes but we were finally out the door; Nyana and all the Misters—BiPAP and Oxygen, Foodpump and Sat Probe. We proudly strolled up the side streets towards Jack Poole Plaza, Vancouver’s newest outdoor pavilion adjacent to the cruise ship port, where there is space enough for nearly 250,000 people to celebrate around the Olympic Cauldron. The place was packed: hundreds of mums and dads and strollers were vying for space, food carts lined the narrow street, local businesses had displays set up and were doing presentations and handing out samples. Don and I wove our way through the crowd towards the indoor Canada Place, where some 100 portraits were on display in an exhibit titled Face Of Canada. The ultimate collection of Canadian faces—everyone from John Candy to Justin Bieber to John A. MacDonald and Michael J. Fox—all beautifully captured in bigger-than-life images on the canvas. Interestingly, one of the most frequent comments I overheard was, I didn’t know Matthew Perry was Canadian!
After strolling through the exhibit, Don and I wheeled Nyana outside and pushed back through the crowd towards the Olympic Cauldron, which had been lit for the occasion. We stopped for a moment to take off her bipap and put on her prongs, then Don carried her on his hip while I pushed the stroller alongside. We snapped some photos of the three of us by the cauldron in our red and white, and decided we’d about seen everything we needed to. Nyana’s morning nap had been a paltry half hour, and with so much to see and hear in the hustle of the crowd, she’d not slept in her stroller at all, either. We hoped she’d nap once we left the excitement of the festivities, and made the decision to grab a late lunch/early dinner, our first attempt at a sit-down restaurant meal with a child in tow. We pointed her stroller towards the White Spot four blocks away.
Nyana was excited and playful and happy in her stroller, and Don and I ordered burgers and split a pitcher of beer, just like it had all begun on our very first date nearly eleven years ago. Her playful coos turned into slightly whiny grunts about halfway through our meal, and shortly afterwards Don looked at me and remarked that we were living on borrowed time. Sure enough, we paid our tab and made it out to the parking lot just in time for a full-on meltdown. Prongs came off, bipap went back on, soother was inserted and spat out and reinserted. For about half a block we walked, Don pushing the stroller, me holding Suck-A-Duck in her mouth until she finally succumbed to sleep and napped the 15 minute walk home. Along the way, Don and I—wearing matching jersyes and pushing a stroller with no fewer than nine flags on it, remember—were stopped by a German tourist wanting a photo of us and our patriotism. Please someone do let me know if you see us posted on crazycanucks.com or something.
The rest of the evening passed fairly uneventfully; Nyana napped and played and went down for the night at her usual 9pm. Once she was settled in bed, Don and I enjoyed some late-night breakfast for dinner, cracked a bottle of wine and marvelled at how lucky we were to have such an awesomely amazing daughter and such a wonderful life. We toasted our marriage and congratulated each other for not only surviving the NICU, but for thriving and for coming out of it better for it. We know we’re not perfect—far from it—but we’re perfectly happy being imperfect, and perfectly happy is all we need. Don and I have always have always been insistent that when the time comes, we will be role models to our kids, ensuring they learn from us that love is a constant compromise; a continuous up-and-down of good times and bad times. That a marriage doesn’t need to be complicated or conniving; that a healthy partnership takes time and effort but is the most amazing thing to have and completely worth the effort.
Today is Day One of our third wedded year, and we’re happily lazing away the rest of the weekend—I’m puttering in the kitchen making sticky buns for our NICU reunion tomorrow; Don is happily being a Dad to Nyana, taking her out into the sunshine to run errands. I had so hoped that by Canada Day I would have been able to finish telling the story of The Karen & Donners Wedding, but life always gets in the way and Part III will be along when I get to it. As an interesting side note, I would be remiss if I did not stop and say happy birthday to my Grandma, who would have turned 99 years old yesterday. It was a surprise inheritance from her estate that allowed Don and me to have the wedding of our dreams, on her birthday on the beaches of Belize.
Hope you all enjoy a long weekend, whether you’re celebrating Canada Day or the Fourth of July. Play safe out there, and don’t forget to plan a safe ride home.