Box Wine in Ontario
Eight be-mittened hands clinked glasses of box wine and cheap beer over a backyard fire pit in my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, not for the first time that evening. I smiled and sat back, watching friends and family chatter around the blaze, comfortable on an early winter evening with our breath barely visible above the rims of cups. The gang had ostensibly gathered to welcome me home from 10 months of travel but, in reality, it was the Christmas season in Ontario and we’d all have been huddled around that fire without any other excuse.
The conversation drifted to a pal’s potential run for municipal politics, then, with politics on the table, talk turned to the American election. Heads shook and the mood dampened as we all pondered the Mad Max future towards which our southern neighbor seemed to be careening. It was a conversation going on around the country as Canadians jokingly debated building our own wall or more seriously discussed how to vet the inevitable tidal wave of American emigrants.
Having spent most of the year out of touch, bobbing on a sailboat in the middle of the Pacific, I felt somewhat removed from the conversation. Canadians were clearly, if cautiously, smug, something that doesn’t come naturally to us. Our progressive, poster-boy Prime Minister was pushing policies to advance the sciences, protect the environment, and improve equality. The country was stable and our international reputation was on the mend. It occurred to me, though, that we were being too quick to forget the decade-long theocracy we’d self-inflicted under our previous P.M., or the tragicomedy of the Rob Ford circus in nearby Toronto. Maybe we weren’t ahead of America; maybe we were just entering our own Obama/hope phase. Canada could easily suffer the same reactionary revolt if ‘things’ didn’t keep improving for Canadians over the current term of government.
I burped and got myself a beer, then raised my glass for another round of cheers. Political chatter ceased, cups were clinked, and friends called for another story from the road. I had traveled some 40,000 miles through 2016 and my biggest revelation was how much I fucking loved Canada. Coming back for the holiday season was a highlight on my 2016 to-do list, and I was grateful to have this circle, this city, and this country to call home.