My father’s side of the family is Canadian and when the polar vortex hit both Michigan and Ontario hard in late January, I expected similar reactions in both countries. After all, I spent a lot of cold winters as a child in both countries and never noticed a difference in reactions. When Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan, it seemed a wise strategy for temperatures expected to run as low as -14, with wind chills up to -40 or more for two days. Then as the vortex eased, I read an article in the Detroit Free Press noting that our Canadian neighbors had only one modest weather story in the Windsor, Ontario paper, the Windsor Star – while schools and businesses remained open.
Columnist Nancy Kaffer of the Free Press decided to investigate. An expat friend told her “The school has closed once in the 11 years my kids have been going. “ The friend added that buses are shut down for fog or snow, but the schools don’t close. When Kaffer talked to a Wayne County official about the different responses in Canada, he first said “it’s all what you’re used to.” And when reminded that Windsor was just across the Detroit River, he added that “it really would be a great conversation to have with Windsor officials on why their responses are so different.”
I also remembered that as a child, we never cancelled trips either upstate or to relatives in Canada due to the cold, which was sometimes sub-zero. Friends told me similar stories. Guess I also think it may be time for conversations with our Canadian friends!
The series “The Gilmore Girls” was recently revived on Netflex – and GIs were interviewed on the national news saying the series represented the kind of small town life they felt represented the best of America. I recently drove to Brigden, Ontario Canada with my brother Bill for a family funeral – a town that in my memory felt like Stars Hollow. (And yes, my mother’s Slovak parents had a farm near Vassar, Michigan that was also a small town haven, but that’s another blog!) My Aunt Mary Jane passed away at 93 in a London, Ont. long term care home and was my late father’s youngest sister – only one more older sister survives now in Florida.
Brigden is less than a two hour drive from the northern Detroit suburbs, with the option to take the Bluewater ferry at Marine City or drive farther north to the Bluewater Bridge at Sarnia. We lucked out and got to the ferry right before it left, then drove up the region’s pastoral roads. Continue reading