This month is the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing. There has been a lot of television coverage of the moon landing these past few weeks, and it’s gotten me thinking about some of the similarities between the moon landing and Sara and Alex’s engagement:
- They both happened a long time ago;
- They both happened a great distance from Saskatchewan; and
- We all remember where we were when we heard the news.
I remember where I was when I heard the news: on the phone with my mom. That’s how most of the news gets transferred in our family. I had heard, in earlier conversations with my mom, about this “boy” that Sara had been “hanging out with.” But when I heard, mere months later, that they were engaged, I must admit that I was a bit surprised. I mean, France? It may as well have been the moon.
Alex’s family, on the other hand, was not at all surprised. I emailed some of Alex’s relatives while preparing these remarks, and they all said the same thing: ever since he was a young boy, Alex loved Canada.
- His cousin Nico talked about the Canadian flag that he gave Alex;
- Alex studied Canadian history for his graduate work; and
- Alex’s Aunt Annie said that when Alex met this Canadian girl and they fell in love, it was like Providence, like Fate. In the same way that prehistoric Man must have gazed at the night sky and thought, someday, that is my destiny, Alex gazed across the Atlantic and found Sara.
So it seemed natural that when Sara and Alex first moved to Canada, they chose to live in the most typically Canadian place, full of natural splendour and warm, friendly people. I speak, of course, of Toronto.
I was living in Ottawa at the time, and I decided to make an exploratory visit. I made my way to their apartment in North York, and saw that Alex was much as Sara had described him: tall, dark, handsome, polite… did I mention tall? I felt that, as the older brother, I might have to have a heart-to-heart talk with Alex [hits palm with fist]. But luckily that proved unnecessary. As Sara and Alex showed me around Toronto and its nearby Island, I thought to myself, I guess this guy is all-right.
But after a year, Sara and Alex moved to the cold, silent, dark, barren, lifeless wastelands of southern France. Well! I felt like the Russians must have felt after that fateful broadcast in 1969: fearful, jealous, maybe a little insecure. So I embarked on a crash program to get to France, and within two years I made my way there for a visit.
I flew from London on a tiny airplane, and landed in a tiny airstrip near the town where they lived. Sara and Alex picked me up in a tiny car and drove me down tiny roads to the old part of the city, and took me to their… good sized apartment.
There I met Alex’s cousin Loic. I would describe Loic as a smaller, shyer version of Alex. He, like Alex, seemed reluctant to try out his schoolboy English. I’m sure you’ve heard Alex apologize for his limited English, although just between you and me, his English is pretty good. Both Alex and Sara are language teachers, so I suppose they think their English could be even more correct. It reminds me of Rainer Wolfcastle, the Austrian film star on the Simpsons, when he explained, “My English is, how you say… inelegant.” But between Loic’s halting English and my panicky French we got along fine.
All that week, Sara and Alex took me around southern France and showed me traditional French customs: Neanderthal caves, monkey farms, soft cheeses.
And of course I met Alex’s grandmother. The moment I walked in her front door, she greeted me with four kisses on each cheek. There was such exuberant warmth in that apartment, such friendliness and happiness and love, a real sea of tranquility. I thought to myself, so this is where Alex comes from. And I knew that Sara was in good hands.
In the years since then, Sara and Alex have continued to have many adventures, which we back at home have learned about via grainy black-and-white photographs. And in that time, and especially in the last couple of weeks, I have realized that there are two ways in which Sara and Alex’s relationship is quite different from the moon landing:
- Their engagement was not an elaborate hoax.
- Sara went to France and found more than she expected, and returned with more than she left with. Not just intelligent life, but wisdom, worldliness, and love.
So I’m very glad to welcome Alex to our family, and I hope you’ll join me in a toast to the groom.
A fantastic and memorable Toast!