Point & Shoot: This American Life



When I was fifteen I was convinced I was born in the wrong time. I should have existed in 1950’s New York … as James Dean (I was ridiculed by friends for my crushes on dead people so this was nothing out of the ordinary).

I didn’t realize but I must have seemed serious enough for my mother to confess she was worried I’d move to America and she’d never see me again.

Aaaanyway, as James Dean paled in the dazzling glare of a fervent David Bowie fascination, so too did all thoughts of living across the pond, and no-one was more surprised than me when 2010 brought our unexpected expatriation to that level-headed, rectitudinous cousin of the US – Canada.

(Four years on I still have moments where I look around with sudden-fresh eyes and inwardly gasp, “I’m in Canada!”)

Moving to this continent was strange because we’ve already consumed so much Americana from afar through movies, advertising, music, etc. Trips to new destinations usually bring new sights and sounds, but here there’s the added aspect of seeing and hearing things that are new yet strangely familiar – the shriek of delighted recognition at a fire hydrant, a yellow schoolbus or a police car, the habitual ‘ga-dunk, ga-dunk, ga-dunk..’ of skateboard wheels on pre-cast concrete sidewalk.

In the aftermath of last week’s surprise birthday bash, I remarked to a friend that my life is just like the movies since moving to Canada, and this weekend was a typical slice of American life.




On Friday we took delivery of a new fridge. Our landlords replaced the existing one (which had taken to squawking softly to itself like a contented chicken and dispensing melted ice-cream) with a brand new, stainless steel, double-door, cavernous behemoth. Apparently it’s better suited to the needs of a family of five, but we did wonder how we were going to fill it! (A trip to Real Canadian Superstore yesterday confirmed our worries were groundless.)

Saturday saw K heading into Toronto to sit an exam for his Civil Engineering chartership, known here as a PEng after the letters that follow a successful candidate’s name. We have to wait until October for the results but he’s pretty sure he nailed all the legal cases, it was the legibility of his handwriting towards the end that gave him cause for concern.

A pass means he enters the Fellowship of the Ring – not technically its name but it’s what I like to call it. You can read here about the quaint Canadian Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, and the Iron Ring bestowed upon all Canadian engineers as a reminder of their obligations to the highest professionalism and humility of their profession.

While he sweated it out in a crowded examination hall resigned to joining us later, the kids and I glammed up and headed lakeside to another surprise birthday bash. Family, friends and neighbours came together to celebrate the life of a very special guy (with some very special trousers – those boyhood pics don’t lie!) in grand Canadian style.




It all kicked off with cocktails on the beach, followed by food, dancing (the kids were a great warm-up act for the live music, dancing on the stage and even taking their act to the tables), fireworks (including a few picked up in Tennessee, impressively explosive with a random sense of direction, that attracted a passing boat). As darkness fell there were chats and chuckles over an open fire.

Sunday was a little calmer and a milestone for my eldest as she went on her first sleepover at a friend’s down the road. So the rest of us enjoyed steak and the supermoon at a Milestones of our own, with the bonus of more elbow room than usual in the booth.

Still, seeing the door ajar to an empty bedroom when I checked the other two on my way to bed brought a lump to my throat and my mind raced ahead imaging how hard it’ll be when she moves away to study or work. Better make the most of all we have now – bring on the next party! How was your weekend?

Linking up with snowingindoors.com for Point&Shoot


By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. Nice pictures of summer fun. I especially like the one on the hillside. Was that the moon?

    You write about “…the added aspect of seeing and hearing things that are new yet strangely familiar…” I like that experience. Having seen something in movies or read about it adds another layer to the sights and sounds we experience. I’ve felt that sense of familiarity many times here in the United States and also on a trip to Europe. When we lived and traveled in Asia, though, much of what I saw and heard was totally new. And that’s fun too.

  2. My mum always liked James Dean as I was growing up and I think she her and her friends he was somewhat of an idol because she had wanted to call my brother James Dean but then her best friend at the time did exactly that 2 weeks before my brother was born x

  3. I am so jealous of that fridge freezer, it’s so archetypically North American! And fireworks on the beach? What a perfect way to spend a weekend.

    Thanks for joining in with Point + Shoot xx

  4. I moved 180 miles away from home and still struggle with life here despite being in the same country just hours from where I grew up. I hope your life in Canada continues well and the exam was a success.

  5. Lovely photographs and I love those amazing American fridges. I lived in the US for a year and it was really hard to come back to the UKs little fridges after having them!!

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