Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 8.5.17
Stanstead, Quebec


The ghost of Stuart McLean describes Canada's summer of 2017
(Look, it's a Canadian thing, eh?)

For optimal effect, please read aloud in front of an enthusiastic live audience of your choosing.

It's a beautiful morning. The kind of morning that makes you want to leap out of bed, put on an old record and wake the children so they can watch you shimmy.

It's the kind of morning that makes you think of your childhood growing up in Cape Breton, and the only plaything you had was an orange. It was the orange that you had found months earlier in the toe of your Christmas stocking. You knew in your heart that it was your mother who had put it there. But to keep the spirit of Christmas alive -- to keep the spirit alive in HER heart -- you never let on. It was your secret. Just like it was a secret that you called the shrivelled orange "Cedric." Cedric: your only true friend. Because there weren't a lot of other children growing up in Cape Breton, and you, well, you were a bit of a weirdo.

It's the kind of morning where you can't believe that summer is halfway over. You feel -- wistful. Happy. A little hungry. You want to get out there and seize the day. Like the way you seized the sausage links from the dog's mouth that time the new neighbours came over for a barbecue and everyone ended up coated with relish. You could never look at your neighbours the same after that. Or relish.

You gaze across your garden, and you see the leaves of the tomato plants turned up to the sun like the faces of pre-schoolers singing their hearts out at an Oddfellows Lodge Pancake Bake. And you think to yourself, "Oh boy." That's all: "Oh boy." But in that "Oh boy" is a promise. A promise that you will appreciate these moments when everything is magnified with good feeling. A promise to, yes, maybe eat those tomatoes instead of letting them over-ripen when you go on vacation.

It's a promise to get in touch with your friend Dave, until you remember all the stories Dave posts on Facebook, the calamities and the mishaps. Stories you're pretty certain are embellished. Either that or Dave is suffering some kind of arrested adolescence, some narcissistic need to be at the centre of chaos. Not to mention the fact that he's still running some hole-in-the-wall record store but never actually seems to be at work. You think to yourself: Dave's not contributing much to the economy and, come to think of it, you and Dave don't have a lot in common anymore.

But most of all, it's a promise to not go on Twitter this morning. Because you know there's a man out there. And he's going to ruin your day, and maybe your entire summer.

This man doesn't even live in your country. He has no idea about the cod-shucking harbour men of Kiddlesack, Newfoundland, or the way Highway 62 through Myrtle Grove, Ontario smells like freshly sprayed Lemon Pledge. He's never heard a thing about how the Ladies Auxiliary at Kenora's Gordon Lightfoot Shrapnel Appreciation Centre posed nude for a calendar with endearingly hilarious results. And you can bet your bottom dollar he's never come close to cooking a turkey.

And yet this man is sucking the life out of your summer.

This man is not even your leader. But simply knowing he's out there -- crass, lying, bigoted and boorish -- it makes you feel worse about your fellow human beings than the time you left the car unlocked at the doughnut shop and someone swiped your brand new CD by the Be Good Tanyas.

You want to stand up and cheer this great country of ours. 150 years old. What an accomplishment. Canada. If anything deserves celebrating, it's Canada. But you find you can't do it. Not really. Because this guy has shown that patriotism can be ugly and mean, like the time your Aunt Clara accidently got drunk on dandelion wine at the Methodist roller derby. It's like someone promised you an apple pie but ran out of apples so they slipped slices of potato in there instead. Which sounds like something Dave would do.

And so you stand there in the morning light a bit longer, like a forlorn moose waiting at the town's only traffic light. Because for a little while at least, you want to live in a summer world where folks still hold the door for each other, where communities get together for potluck sewing bees, where beloved public broadcasters keep telling stories, and where no one's a big, fat jerk.

In the end, you pick up the phone. You give Dave a call. Unfortunately, Dave has dropped his phone into the cotton candy maker at the county fair. Shenanigans ensue.

I'm the ghost of Stuart McLean. So long for now.