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The Sweet Parts of Life

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The basic culture in Winnipeg is so similar to the places I’ve lived in the US that it took me five or six years to realize that I was an immigrant. I used to say it, but in my heart I really didn’t understand. Now after ten years, it’s beginning to sink in just how much of an immigrant I am.

I still do a bit of a spit-take when I hear my youngest son, the only native Winnipegger in the Kirby family, end the ABCs with a zed. (It just doesn’t rhyme with vee!)

I still get slightly worked up over Thanksgiving in October, and I still cling to the idea that a green light means to go slightly faster so that you can make it through the light. (It actually didn’t take me long to learn that the passing lane is on the right here. Or is it that being in a hurry and wanting to pass is just plain rude so don’t do it unless you’re willing to risk hitting a parked car? I’m still not sure.)

I’ve learned other things too. I’ve finally sorted out that everyone in Winnipeg doesn’t have their own personal homeless guy. In the US a bum is not a part of your anatomy. By the way, in the US, you avoid loonies—here you want a lot of ’em in your pockets!

I gotta say though, I was really disappointed about Boxing Day. I had this impression that everyone was allowed to just go around picking fights. No wonder Canadians are so calm and laid-back, I thought. They have a publicly sanctioned way to release tension! Turns out that it’s hockey that serves that purpose.

All kidding aside, I think I’ve been here long enough to know what it’s going to take to be more of a true Winnipegger. I still have a few questions though. Are January and February necessarily the months that define life in this city? Are they the overlords of the Winnipeg experience?

I get the impression that the most identifiable thing about Winnipeg is the harsh winter months. Is our ability to suffer through the winter our true point of pride? Because of the brutality of winter, are we to forget the sweet parts of late spring and the relatively mosquito-less backyard partying? How about those lingering fall days when we still feel summer’s warmth?

It’s all peculiar to me and it leads me to understand something that I wish I’d known at an earlier stage of life: we more often than not define people, places, and things by their worst features. I believe we lose a lot when we do that.

I won’t say that I love the winter yet, but I’m looking at its positive sides. I’m fortunate enough to have a fireplace. The cold weather gives us a chance to be in our living room together, and we get a stronger sense of how important we are to each other.

Plus, I know now that spring is on its way—it’s inevitable!

In the meantime, here are my top three wishes for you all for the new year: health, wealth, and happiness! Happy New Year!


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