Monday, August 15, 2016

2016 Canadian Vacation: Why We Drove 1000 Miles to Canada (or something like that)

Every so often Daniel will inform me that I need to write a blog post because he doesn't know what has been going on in his life. Ha! 

Last week I took a hiatus from blogging and somewhat from social media, Instagramming a daily collage of what we had going on but nothing too time intensive (#mohausfamilyvacation2016). Afterall, we were on vacation and I wanted to soak in the slowness of it all, enjoying the great outdoors and my family. 

We have been home for two days now, so I guess it is time to share about our recent travels (for the future us, and anyone else who follows along here).

I guess I'll start at the very beginning. For those of you who don't know, and for my kids who will learn these histories later, my mom is from Canada and about two-thirds of her family currently live in Canada. 

Growing up, I briefly lived in the United States (kindergarten through second grade), but prior to that time I lived in Papua New Guinea, and for grades 4-6 I lived in Canada (I skipped the third grade). 

The summer before seventh grade we moved to Arkansas to be closer to my dad's mom. My grandma was alone and parents felt called to be closer to her to help her with my grandfather who was dying at the time. They ended up staying in Arkansas all of this time... my grandma died earlier this year, almost 25 years after that decision to move south.

After we moved to Arkansas, we would spend a portion of every summer traveling up to Canada to spend about two weeks with extended family. It was the only "vacation" I ever knew. When Daniel and I were married we didn't understand each other's idea of vacation. 

To me, vacation meant driving a long way and cramming in as much visiting with my huge extended family as possible. To him, vacation meant a trip to the beach or Disney World where his family might spend the week doing their own activities. Neither is right or wrong, just different. During the course of our almost 14 years of marriage, we have had to learn to compromise on this.

As a child those 18-hour trips to Canada every summer are seared in my memory. I don't remember specifics about the trips, certainly not the long hours in the car or sleeping on the floor in cousin's rooms. But I do remember the sense of family, and hearing my mom's mythical stories from when she was a kid – floating down the river where she lived, skating across lakes, being tied to a tree by her brother and his friends, among many other crazy stories.

My own time in Canada (age 8.5-11.5) provided a period in my life where I did the most exploring and coming-to-age type of things. My best friend and I would climb out of her bedroom window (on the second floor) and drop off a low roof onto the ground in the middle of the night. Just because we could. We would wander around the neighborhood, enjoying the silence. Once we cross country skied down the street. Another time we climbed onto the roof of our elementary school. We swam in the St. Clair River and did the silly things that pre-teens do. These stories, and others, are what I think of the most when I think of my childhood.

The last time we made this drive to Canada was for my grandpa's funeral 3.5 years ago (Jack and I flew up for a cousin's wedding three years ago), but we haven't been back for more than a few days since 2013. I really wanted to attend an impromptu reunion last summer, but Isaac was practically a newborn and Daniel was working crazy hours, so I told Daniel that this would be the summer we would go back. I needed to reconnect and I felt like it was time.

I also decided we should drive through the town where I lived when I was in elementary school. The stop added extra time to a significantly long trip, but it was important to me, so Daniel acquiesced.

We crossed at the Blue Water bridge that links Port Huron, Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario. I had forgotten how blue-green the water was. I reminisced about my families weekly trips across this bridge to buy gas and groceries in the States. I remembered swimming in Lake Huron and the St. Clair River. 

We drove through Chemical Valley on our way to the small town of Corunna. It didn't smell anything like it did when I was a kid. Forty percent of the chemicals produced in Canada are made here and we lived right down the road. Not something to be proud of but definitely something burned in my memory. I remember trying to hold my breath whenever we drove down this 15-mile stretch of road.

I showed Daniel my elementary school, now shuttered. It seemed much smaller than I remembered. 

We went by the ferry that takes you to the island in the middle of the St. Clair River. A friend of mine had a grandmother who lived on the island and we would visit her in the summer. We would go to the tip of the island and float from one end to the other.

Daniel and I also went by the townhouses I used to live in and the spot across the street where I was hit by a car when I was 10. It was strange to see as an adult. The townhouses are now rundown. We also took a moment to drive a section of my paper route and I shared how I used to race on my bike, in the winter, to see how fast I could complete the route. I became quite adept at riding on ice and snow.

So many memories. My kids didn't care so much about my stories (Daniel shushed me through some of my stories, I guess he doesn't want Jack to get any ideas). It's been almost 25 years since I left. I've never been back.

I am Facebook friends with a few of the girl's that I went to elementary school with. They probably don't know it, but those years, the good and the bad, they are all wrapped up in my psyche. My memories from this place are the ones most dear, the ones I think of when I think of coming of age and my childhood.

I'm glad we made the stop, even if it made our long trip longer. So, that's it. In a nutshell... Why we drove to Canada. Why we made a stop in my old town. Why I figured taking two kids under the age of five, and a dog, and a bunch of gear 1000 miles north made perfect sense.

Daniel says that my family and these epic trips to Canada aren't normal. Actual vacation posts in the days to come.


  1. Pshaw! Perfectly normal! I'm so glad you got to visit your home town. Aaron and I drove by Murray Street School a couple years ago and I was saddened to see it so abandoned. I have many fond memories from that school.

    1. I think the teachers at Murray Streey were some of the best I ever had! I was definitely sad to see it abandoned :(

  2. That's the only kind of vacation trip we have ever made. Connecting with distant family was so important to us.


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