BY CONNIE COOK
Copyright is held by the author.
I WAS in grade 7 and that June, the class of grade 8 graduating students at our country school were going to be feted by a choir of their grade 7 counterparts. It was cheaper than hiring real musicians and the practices gave us miscreants something else to do besides hanging around in the parks and looking for skinny-dippers down by the river.
“Ca-na-da . . . one little, two little, three Canadians, We love thee, Now we are 20 million . . . ,” we sang loudly and lustily, otherwise Mr. Coutts, the Music teacher would lean over one or the other of us, bend an ear sideways and then tap us on our shoulders with his music stick. It might have been the next thing to abuse, but if we were lollygagging in our patriotism, mouthing our praise to this young country’s birthday when we should have been belting it out, well then, we got what was coming to us. The teachers fussed about our costumes and the order in which we would stand in the choir. I was in the back row, of course, being tall for my age, but that was wise, given that mini-skirts were in vogue then and I had skillfully shortened a good knee-length navy cotton with zipper at the back into a strip of dark cloth that barely covered my nether regions. Well, not shortened the skirt by actually sewing it, but by taking the waistband in both hands and folding it over and over in measured tucks until the whole piece dangled just barely over my rump. My mother — who would have swatted me with the back of the Family Herald had she caught me — sat politely and proudly in the middle of the school auditorium that year waiting to hear her eldest daughter sing out songs of celebration and patriotism fitting for the country’s centennial year. But she was a short woman and the auditorium was brimming with both seated and standing parents and friends so her view was limited.
I wish I had a picture now of that grade 7 choir, properly fitted out in white shirts and dark skirts or trousers, hair slicked down to the scalp in the straight fashion of the late 60’s, with Mr. Coutts in front like a colonel leading his troops into battle. Even though we regarded it all as a lark, a chance to be with friends and classmates, jab each other in the ribs about old Couttsie’s baggy pants and music stick swinging in the air, I think our hearts swelled “proud and free” when we got to the “Oh Canada” at the end of the program. So proud and so free, in fact, that I forgot to roll my skirt waistband back down when the choir disbanded and I went to greet my mother in the audience. That Family Herald packed quite a wallop when it was rolled up but at least, it too was Canadian.