This past weekend was our first long weekend of the summer here in Ontario. On the Monday before the 24th of May each year, we commemorate the official birthday of Queen Victoria, who reigned Great Britain and the Commonwealth (of which Canada is still a part) from 1837 to 1901.
When I was a kid, “Victoria Day” was the only time when we got to enjoy large firework displays. I guess because we had yet to embrace our own unique nationalism, this was our big national holiday. Our National Flag at the time was the Canadian Red Ensign with the Union Jack, the flag of Great Britain, very prominent in the upper right corner, and one of our two national anthems was God Save the Queen.
Years later, when I became a young married woman, after the great flag debate and the adoption of our current flag and the repatriation of our Constitution, a shift in attitudes began. Some communities decided to move the date of their fireworks from May 24th to July 1, which is Canada Day. Also at that time, we began to refer to the weekend as May 2/4. Yes, you’d be right if you guessed that moniker refers to what we call a case of 24 bottles of beer up here.
Victoria Day is similar to your Memorial Day in the U.S., in that we consider it the unofficial beginning of our summer. Although our Elementary and High Schools here don’t let out until about the 25th of June, this weekend marks the beginning of a new season—more than spring, less than full on summer.
Mostly, in my neck of the woods and in my experience, this weekend was considered the beginning of planting season. I can recall that many Victoria Day weekends found us out planting the veggie and flower gardens.
My mother had a large vegetable garden, easily a quarter of a block long and 30 feet wide. We lived in a rural area, and the farmer from down the road would bring his tractor each spring and plough, and then disc it for her. She also had a large square flower bed at the front of the house, and round ones that surrounded the flowering crab apple trees we’d given her one Mother’s Day.
Then, when my children were young, this weekend became remarkable in that we always took them to the park, where there were carnival games and rides, and fireworks. Many a time, we had to bring blankets to snuggle them under, because sometimes Mother Nature liked to make the temperature dip close to freezing. I shivered through many an evening but counted it as good, because the kids always had such a great time.
I’m older now, and not necessarily missing either those shivery pyrotechnics or those half-inebriated get-togethers. This year, once again, I’m content to just enjoy the weather and the activities of others from a distance.
Just a couple weeks ago, the woman who owned the house across from us on the north-east corner of our intersection (we live on the north-west corner) moved across the side street to the south-east corner, leaving her grown son and his girlfriend in her former residence.
On Saturday, the younger ones began make the place their own as they set out to take down the 40 foot tall pine tree next to their house. My husband and I watched, wondering if this was one of those moments when we should have our video camera in hand, while simultaneously looking up the submission instructions for America’s Funniest Videos. Fortunately, the young men managed to bring the tree down in stages without any injuries or accidents.
We left the house about the time they were breaking out another 24, on our way to the grocery store. It was then I noticed the truck they used to pile some of the tree limbs in, a truck that bore the logo of a local tree service. I made a note of the name.
Since the young men went about their task without any PPE – not a hard hat, work boot or pair of safety glasses had been in sight – I decided these were not the people to call in the future, should the need arise.
My DH and I just looked at each other, shaking our heads. We didn’t have to voice the opinion which I knew we both shared. Once more we’d been given proof that God does indeed look after drunks and fools.