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Family Day

Family picture, 3 women, 1 young manYesterday was “Family Day” in a handful of Canadian provinces –– a statutory holiday first celebrated in Alberta in 1990. At that time, February was the only month without a long weekend, so the premier created the holiday, noting that it was important for Albertans to take time for their families. Over the past decade or so, a few other provinces have added the provincial holiday. Ontario, where I live now, adopted it in 2008.

I had a full day planned –– sewing, Olympics, try out my new MiraCurl to see if it could defy my hair’s natural straightness, and Scrabble, followed by the last four episodes of House of Cards Season 2 on Netflix.

After Scrabble, and before dinner/House of Cards, I sat down with my laptop to write my Tuesday Author Note. I usually have a good idea of what I’m going to write before I start, but I admit this wasn’t the case yesterday. I was hoping inspiration would arrive when my fingers hit the keyboard.

As it turns out, inspiration did indeed arrive when my fingers hit the keyboard ­­–– literally and figuratively.

I had just finished the opening sentence when the doorbell rang. From my chair I could see that the person at the door was tiny, so my first thought was that one of the local neighborhood children was selling chocolate bars for some fundraising effort.

Nope. It was my Aunt Flo.

My Aunt Flo. From Newfoundland.

Who I haven’t seen since my mother’s funeral.

Who couldn’t possibly be at my front door.

But was.

Peter, who answered the door, took a couple of seconds to process that the woman standing in front of him on the step was indeed Aunt Flo. Sitting in my chair and listening to a voice that sounded like my Aunt Flo’s, I did the same. Then I flew out of the chair.

As it turns out, Aunt Flo was with her daughter and son-in-law who live an hour or so south of us. They’d returned from Jamaica Sunday night where they’d attended her grandson’s wedding, and were in Waterloo visiting very old friends –– someone who had worked with her late husband, my father’s brother Jim, for many years.

Flo remembered the name of our street from addressing my Christmas card every year, though wasn’t sure of the number –– 1501 she thought. So they came looking for 1501. That number doesn’t exist –– the highest number on our street is in the 500s –– but they saw a house with a Land Rover and two Jeeps in the driveway and decided that must be us.

At which point little Aunt Flo hopped out of the car, ran up the driveway, and rang the doorbell.

After the first round of hugs, Aunt Flo went out to wave in Lynn and Scott. Then there were more hugs, coats and boots came off, and we all gathered in what I call our ‘circle of chairs’ room with cups of tea and coffee.

Family picture, husband, wife, aunt, cousin
Peter, Aunt Flo, cousin Lynn, and me, with a few MiraCurl waves.

Aunt Flo –– a tiny ball of determined energy –– is the mother of five, grandmother of I don’t know how many, and a half-marathon runner. She and my mother became incredibly close when Flo and Jim moved to St. John’s from Labrador sometime in the 1980s. She was one of our supports when my father was struggling with Alzheimer’s. She and my mother used to “talk and talk and talk.” She was heartbroken when we lost my mom just three weeks after she was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and misses her everyday. She lost her own husband, who had also developed Alzheimer’s, a little over a year ago. She misses him everyday too. When she needs reassurance that they’re all still with her, she asks for a sign, and my mother sends her roses.

When you grow up in Newfoundland, you’re accustomed to friends, relatives and even virtual strangers dropping by unexpectedly. But when you’ve lived hundreds and thousands of miles away from most of those friends and relatives for close to 15 years, you really don’t expect to find yourself sitting across from a beloved Aunt on Family Day sharing memories and catching up on news.

But it sure makes for an entirely appropriate, extremely memorable, absolutely wonderful day!