Crossing Borders

As a young boy, who was raised in Ontario, I remember taking multiple family vacations “to the west” to visit my grandparents in Lacombe, Alberta. On one of our trips, my parents decided to traverse the continent mostly in the US, taking in some sights along the way such as Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone etc.

However, one of my most vivid memories of one of these trips was when we were pulled over at the Alberta/Montana border because my dad confessed to the fact that my younger brother (who shall remain nameless) bought a tonne of fireworks on the trip (remember when that was the cool thing to do?). 

Border Guard:  Do you have any firearms in the car?

My Dad:  (while turning around and looking in the back seat) Son – what’s your answer?

My Brother:  Well…I only bought a few fireworks.

My Dad:  (turning back to the border guard) Sounds like we have some fireworks in the car.

Border Guard:  You can’t go into Canada with them in the car.

My Dad:  What do you propose we do?

Border Guard:  You have two choices:  first you could turn them in to me and be on your way or second, you could turn around and find a place to light them and enjoy them.

My Dad:  (without missing a beat) We choose the second one!

We pulled the car over to the side of the road, right at the border, asked my brother to fetch his fireworks out of the trunk and set up a lighting station. Then we all pulled out the lawn chairs of the camper and sat back in astonishment and nervous joy as my dad set fire to a 20 minute fireworks show. We attracted a crowd as people delighted in watching the lights dance into the early evening sky. There were booms and cracks and it was extravagant (at least this is how I remember it!) I recall that it was right around July 4 and it didn’t seem abnormal to be lighting them. At first, we were a bit embarrassed that my dad chose to do this, but as the crowd grew larger, there was this sense of satisfaction and admiration as we enjoyed the light show that was happening.

This became “the” event of the vacation and to this day, as siblings, we reminisce the day that our dad decided to light my brother’s fireworks at the border! 

Poutine or Apple pie?

Obviously, crossing the border today is much different than it was 30 years ago or even 15 years ago—things have changed. But our stories remain and there is always a border crossing story that trumps the last one!

Crossing borders is something that Heidi and I and our family have done a lot of over the years of living in Abbotsford; it’s become a part of life for us. As a Canadian who married an American, crossing borders in the metaphorical sense has also been a way of life. After having been raised as a Canadian and living in Canada, I lived in the United States for 16 years before moving our family back to Canada 10 years ago.

As an American and living in the US for the first four decades of her life, Heidi has now crossed the border and “become” Canadian (you’ll have to ask Heidi how she actually defines “becoming Canadian”). Our kids were born in the US and are Canadian citizens making them dual citizens. We are living proof that Canadians can “get along” with Americans and vice versa, even amidst this latest political cycle in the US. We aren’t the only ones in our community where an American and Canadian have agreed to marry (and stay married 🙂 ), there are a lot of us and we have a unique perspective on the differences between each country and their cultures.

Crossing borders truly is a way of life.

Growing and going beyond

I love it when I see and hear stories about students who are “crossing borders” at school. Students who cross borders are students who gain a perspective of the other side, the other culture, and other people. In turn, this helps them gain better empathy, a better perspective, and in many cases, a clearer understanding of who they are in the context of “the other.”

I think of our Hands Team going to Nicaragua at the secondary level, or our service project work and environmental stewardship improvements at the middle school and our reading buddy programs and community service work at the elementary. These, along with a whole host of other programs and projects, bring our students beyond themselves and across borders and I get excited because I know that we are coming closer to attaining our mission of Engaging Minds, Nurturing Hearts and Shaping God’s World.

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1 Comment on "Crossing Borders"

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Nancy Humphries
Great story about the fireworks! We have almost an identical situation to you in our “cross border” marriage. It does give you a unique perspective on the two cultures, both the similarities and the differences. It did cause a bit of confusion for my youngest son when he was about 4 years old and crossing the border with his American grampa (my dad). After being asked the typical questions about citizenship as he crossed into the US he turned to grampa and asked “is God Canadian or American?” When I told my ACES principal the story(25 years ago), he said… Read more »
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