I am the first to admit that I’m not great with geography, but even I know that Croatia is not right beside Canada.
But! That didn’t stop us from taking an incredible opportunity (and advantage of Grandpa’s generosity) to visit Huff House West (in Edmonton) and a Whole Bunch of Other Assorted Huffs (in Red Deer).
We left Split at about 2:30 pm on a Saturday, and flew to Heathrow, then Pearson (quick stop at Tim Hortons for tea and timbits!), then Edmonton International Airport, arriving at 1:30 am on Sunday (which included — and this is just an estimate here — 85 hours of travel time and a scorching case of jet lag for all), to be welcomed by Uncle Rob (whose airport pickup skills are second-to-none), two Giant Dogs and one Little Fluffy Dog. We somewhat-quickly got everyone sorted into beds (I found a piece of chocolate cake on the way), and fell asleep for, frankly, not long enough.
In the morning, we had a joyful reunion with Grandma, whom we hadn’t seen for far too long, then hopped into the rental minivan for the (respectively) short drive to Red Deer.
I know/knew/totally understood that in Canada we have a lot of space: open fields, big skies, large stretches of highways with nothing around… but seeing it again after spending a year in London made me realize again how lucky we are to have such a beautiful country. The fresh air! The green things! The Tim Hortons!
The purpose for our visit was to celebrate Chris’ uncle’s 60th wedding anniversary, and boy, did we. The bride and groom were gorgeous, the kids had a group of second- and third- cousins to romp around with, and we enjoyed amazing hospitality and a level of event planning that I can only hope to aspire to. Grandpa was there with us, and we all checked into a hotel for a few nights to stretch out the Red Deer experience.
We went tubing down the Red Deer River, ate at A&W (Amburgers and Woot Beer!), and were treated to a guided tour of All the Places That Chris Lived in Middle- and High School, for which we were rewarded with a drive through the DQ drive-thru.
Grandpa then proceeded to buy us all cowboy boots (we protested, then thanked him effusively), and we returned to Edmonton for another two days of Canadiana, which in this context means Steak and Uncle Rob’s Legendary Wine Cellar. We hugged (and were hugged by) Grandpa, Uncle Rob, Uncle Ryan, and Grandma, gave the Ridiculously Big Dogs a final pat, and the Tiny Puffball a final cuddle, and that was it.
All told, it was a wonderful — yet far too short — visit “home”. I say “home” because the kids and I have never lived in Edmonton or Red Deer (just Medicine Hat), and does the entire, giant, green, fresh-aired country really count as “home”?
Well, people say hello. They smile at you, and say “excuse me” and “sorry”. They hold the door for you and stop their cars to wave you across the street. The lineup at the airport, for our short flight between Edmonton and Calgary, was full of friendly strangers. People looked us in the eyes. They smiled. So, yes, it is home. As much as I hate mushy patriotism, I can’t help but wax poetic (again) about what a wonderful place our home is.