The grapes are growing on Pelee Island. I can’t help but think of my girlfriend Lizanne as I look out to the fields, vines strung up in rows, green grapes slowly ripening to purple.
Lizanne and I met in our final year of college. Always a joker, I was drawn to her sense of humour and mischievous spirit. She always made me laugh. Lizanne was one of the lucky girls at school in that she had her own car. As the majority of us navigated through the Big City on public transportation, pushing and shoving and vying for a seat on the subway, Lizanne made her way around Toronto happily unperturbed in her little red Hyundai Pony. She brought it with her all the way from her home town of Timmins, Ontario and was quite proud of the tiny automobile.
Lizanne was more than happy to give a friend a lift especially in the cold winter months, when harsh temperatures would have one shuffling their feet and blowing warm air into cupped hands while waiting at a crowded bus stop. So it was one evening, when we met up leaving the building we lived in together, that Lizanne offered me a ride.
“Want a drive?” she asked as we made our way down the front steps.
“Sure!” I eagerly replied.
As we approached her vehicle I noticed a plug hanging out from under the hood of her car.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s a plug.” She responded.
“Yes, I know. What’s it doing sticking out of your car?”
“When it gets really cold up North we have to plug in our cars over night so they start in the morning.” She humoured me.
Having only ever lived in Southern Ontario, I’d never heard of anyone ever having had the need to plug in their car!
“No really, what’s it for?” I asked again. I wasn’t going to fall for one of her jokes this time.
“No, really!” She stressed but I wasn’t convinced and she knew not to push.
The next year Lizanne and I travelled to Europe together and while on a bus tour through the French countryside, Lizanne looked out to the farmers’ fields and asked,
“What’s that growing?” She pointed out the window.
“What, that?” I asked scanning her face for any hint of trickery.
“Yeah, all that, growing in the fields. What is it?”
I couldn’t believe it. Could it be she really had no idea what grape vines looked like?
Growing up in the Golden Horseshoe meant a farm was only ever a short drive away for me; peaches, apples, strawberries, grapes, all at my fingertips. And just as I had only ever lived in Southern Ontario, Lizanne had only ever lived in the far North. Her thirteen hour trek from Timmins to Toronto wouldn’t have exposed her to much, if any, farmland.
“They’re grapes!” I finally responded.
“Oh.” She said content with my answer.
Later that evening, sipping a glass of French red wine, I reflected on our different upbringings; mine, where growing grapes and making wine were part of my cultural identity, and hers, where plugging in your car every night was as routine as brushing your teeth before bed. And yet our friendship was born in a city new and neutral to each of us. It took a trip to Europe to appreciate my vast and varied homeland province of Ontario and it made me wonder what else I had been missing back home.