Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Home for a Rest

So my little fella and I are about to embark on a trip to my hometown of Halifax (well, Dartmouth), Nova Scotia to visit my folks. This will be his second trip East to see his grandparents. Though he was born in Ontario, it's important to me that he stay in touch with his "Maritime Roots". I imagine anyone who is raising their child away from where he/she grew up feels some of that.

Nova Scotia will always be 'home' to me, no matter how long I'm away. That sense of pride seems to be a common theme among us Maritimers. It's not often that you see an Ontario flag on the back of a car, but many a time I've seen a Nova Scotian flag on someone's bumper and had to resist the urge to drive alongside and yell out the window, "Woo! Me too! Bluenosers rule!"

Whenever I go home to visit, my to-do list includes:

1. See the ocean at some point
2. Have some good seafood
3. Get a donair (not a shawarma, not a gyro, an honest-to-goodness donair with the sweet sauce).

Please note that it's not as if I did any of these things that often in the 24 years I lived there. I had a donair maybe once every few years. But now that it's not readily available to me, it's a tradition to track one down when I get home. I'm amused to find out how many other expatriate Maritimers also have 'getting a donair' on their visit-home bucket list. Once sonny is older, I'm sure I'll be taking him to Pizza Corner to get him one, too. "Eat it, my son; this is your heritage".

Okay, so Lebanese cuisine isn't technically related to my heritage, but whatever. They're part of the overall culture.

Nowadays, what I call the stereotypical "gift shop" image of Nova Scotia-- bagpipes, fiddle music, Sou'Westers and lobster traps-- also make me nostalgic, even though I grew up in the city and wasn't exposed to much of that myself. I do have fond memories of elementary school assemblies, though, where we'd clap along as the principal would play piano to accompany the custodian's fiddle, so I do come by some of the nostalgia honestly. Also, I did teach hubs how to eat a lobster on one of our first trips home. FYI, lobsters are not good date food.

An aside: anyone remember the Maple Leaf bologna commercial from the '80s where the too-cool-for-school kids from Toronto are "visiting their granny" out East and are rolling their eyes as they are served baloney, with seaweed pie for dessert? Anyway, I think of that commercial when I bring my son home. Pack your bags, sonny, you're going to Grammie's for SEAWEED PIE!

When I bring kiddo home over the years, I will certainly show him all the touristy stuff, as well as the historical sites-- from the Harbour Hopper to Citadel Hill to Peggy's Cove. I'll drive him around the Cabot Trail. I'll take him Tidal Bore Rafting on the Shubenacadie River, something I've done six times now. You haven't lived until you're thrown out of a raft riding muddy tidal bore rapids. Hubs just got initiated to it this summer, and soon it will be a family affair!
But I'll also show my son life as I lived it there too, whether he likes it or not. Walk him through my old neighbourhood. Take him past the car dealership where my elementary school once stood or try to describe what Point Pleasant Park looked like pre-Hurricane Juan. Bring him on a 2-dollar ferry ride across the harbour ("don't say I don't take you anywhere"). Spend a day at the beach during one of the few good swimming weeks at the ocean. Maybe get him deep-fried clams (AKA 'heart attack in a box') at John's Lunch or take a road trip to see the Pumpkin People in Kentville in the fall.

I hope he'll get a glimpse of how Halifax has some charm as 'the biggest small town and the smallest big city', and no matter where you are in Nova Scotia, you're never more than 67 km from the ocean (can you tell I worked for tourism?). The summers are cooler, the winters are milder, life is a little less hectic and people are just  a bit more open to making new friends or waving you on at a four-way stop. Hopefully he will grow up feeling a connection and some pride in his Maritime background. Maybe even get a bit of the accent!

If I do it right, then maybe one day, down the road, my half-Maritimer son will feel right at home at the Lower Deck pub, enjoying a Keith's beer and belting out the chorus to "Barrett's Privateers".

Fun Fact: The tartan on his kilt is the hunting tartan of the MacPhails, my mom's family name.


  1. Okay, I laughed out loud about a dozen times reading this. Namely at the fiddle, seaweed pie, Point Pleasant Park (I brought my hubs there last summer, and it was sooo different!), Peggy's Cove, the Pumpkin people, and naturally, 'Barrett's Privateers' at the Deck. :D

    Man, I want to go back...

  2. Hi Janet,

    I am only coming across your blog now. I am loving the "Home for a Rest" blog but more particular, I am loving the drawing of the donair!! I was wondering if you would allow me to use this drawing? Also, would you be interested in doing a couple of other small drawings?

    I am not sure if you will receive this comment but if you do, please contact me back at



    1. Hi, Nicholas! Thanks for commenting. I'll be in touch. I never thought my donair pic would be in demand!