American Independence Appreciated Via Six Great Days in French Canada in 1989

Back in 1989, a few kids from my 5th grade French class and I headed to Montreal and Quebec City for six big days of immersion. I was 5'9", eleven years old and ready to take on the world (if not just North America). So, when our tour guide squealed out with glee that she'd landed us tickets to the circus, I could only roll my eyes. Been there, done that, I thought. My god, I'm eleven! 

Well, the circus was Cirque du Soleil. The original. The one that hadn't traveled to America and wowed millions of tourists in Vegas. It was still local. A true Canadian thrill - and possibly the best thing I'd ever seen. I smiled for the next two days, reliving every human origami-esque moment - until the tour guide exclaimed, with similar exaltation, that we would be going to see "some amazing fireworks." 

Nice try, lady. This will never beat the show that they put on over Holmes Lake in Lincoln. I'd watched those spectacular explosions from Grandpa Pete's back yard every 4th of July since I was a baby. The people in Nebraska sure knew how to blow things up. No one could top that. 

Well, when you challenge the Canadians, the Americans, the Europeans, the Asians and all the other -ans (and maybe even some Nebraskans) to the world's top prize in pyrotechnics, the skies manage to light up a bit. It was the Montreal International Fireworks Competition. (We had one heck of a tour guide, in the end).

But while the action above blew my mind, it couldn't live up to my memories of what should happen on the ground; Canada just didn't smell like fireworks - the mix of petunias and sparklers and hamburgers and Skoal and Old Milwaukee's Best. I so miss that scent and Grandpa Pete and that really nice light brown hair color I had at three when I didn't know about napkins. 

Happy 4th of July, everybody! I hope you all get a strong whiff of petunia, meat and cheap beer, the best odeur in the entire world.


  1. Karena says:

    Hollister isn't it wonderful how those certain scents bring back the most special memories!

    Happy 4th to you and Porter!

    Art by Karena