by Vince Ramcharran from Prince George, BC
May 23, 15
I grew up on a sugar cane plantation in South America. It was a fun place to live: we swam in the creeks, ate a lot of sugar cane, drank coconut water and ate tropical fruits like guavas and passion fruit.
At Christmas time, however, the stores sold North American apples. We called them ‘Christmas apples’. And at Christmas time when I was a small boy, I would be given a handful of coins, tied in a handkerchief so that I wouldn’t lose them, and sent to the Lall’s store to buy one. I was taught the following phrase:
“Can I have a BC # 1 Golden Apple Please.”
I didn’t understand that I was asking for an apple from a specific place – I knew very little about the rest of the world -- all I knew was that if I said that, I would be given a special apple in exchange for those coins.
The apples were so expensive that we could only afford one. And I would bring it home and my parents would cut it into wedges, and then cut the wedges in half - so everyone in our family of twelve could have a piece.
We even ate the core. We always wanted more but imported apples were a luxury. Sometimes a visiting relative might buy a second and that was a real treat.
In 1967, I moved to Canada. I came to Vancouver to go to school. I got a part time job at a shelter for homeless men near the Cambie Street Bridge.
In front of the main post office, where the library is now located, there was a Chinese grocery store where I shopped. The woman who ran it was kind to me. She gave me credit so I could buy groceries between pay cheques.
One evening I stopped on my way to work to get a snack. As I waited in line to pay, I noticed a stack of apple crates in the corner.
The on the crate there was a sign. The sign read: “BC #1 Golden Apple”.
And that is when it dawned on me that the name of those special Christmas apples was the name of where they had come from. BC was my new home – British Columbia.
“Oh, my goodness,” I shouted. They are from here?”
Everyone in that little grocery store looked at me with astonishment. There were tears running down my face.
I was overwhelmed with longing to share one of those apples with my family one more time.