A Canada Day Story – July 1, 2010

My cup runneth over! It all started when I sent out an email to all of the fine women in my dragon boating organization. This isn’t just any dragon boating organization. This is a group of breast cancer survivors who paddle their hearts out every spring and summer to make sure their breast cancer doesn’t return and, if it does, that they will be strong enough to fight it again—and also to dispel the myth that post breast cancer survivors should not do upper body exercise. Abreast In A Boat, I love you!

In all my years—and, believe me, they are many— I had never seen a Canada Day Parade, let alone been in one.

And so, it came to pass that, there I was, on a cold, threatening to rain, kind of Vancouver day, meeting and greeting my fellow paddlers in hot pink crew shirts on Alberni Street. We were trying to put the hot pink dragon, Jeannie Lee, together as only a bunch of women can—with mass hilarity, panache, panic, certitude—the instruction manual was open to the right page—and some safety pins and duct tape.

The bumper of the Barbie car had fallen off on it’s way to the parade. What had arrived was a vintage yellow Corvette Stingray convertible that looked a little worse for the wear. The back end of the car was taped together so that no more of the bumper would fall off during the parade. These women are not be put off by falling bumpers. In a matter  of minutes the aging beauty was transformed with custom made, hot pink sparkling car covers. These were not custom made by the car manufacturer. They were custom made by her dragon boater mommy. The
Barbie car was born!

The parade began. Our dragon boating women were not to be outdone. They  zigged and zagged across six lanes of Georgia Street with Jeannie Lea, the dragon, over their heads. They were magnificent until they encountered a parade monitor who yelled loudly at them. ” You folks have to speed up. You have to close the gap. Your Corvette is way ahead of you. You have to catch up. You can’t run back and forth across the road.” You are bad paraders!!!! The message was loud and clear!

From my perspective, the parade was fantastical and magnificent. Running along the parade route, handing out postcards—hot pink, of course— of out beautiful crews in their dragon boats, brought home to me what this country is all about. It is about diversity, but it is about much more than that. I looked into the faces of children and mothers and fathers and the aged and the young from every corner of the world and what I saw was joy! Joy, I think, about what it means to live in a society where we can put our differences aside—not just put them aside—but, to not even notice them, because we are all joyous in the moment. We all belong here. This is about our humanity. We are truly blessed.

Happy Canada Day to all and to all my survivor friends! You truly rock!

Gail Belcher