Photography by David Wile Credits: Photography by David Wile
Our October guest editor, Rick Mercer, shares his Thanksgiving experiences and what he's thankful for most in his life.
When Rick Mercer was growing up in Newfoundland, October came and went without large family gatherings that involved scarfing down turkey and pie. Thanksgiving just wasn't a big deal for some families in Newfoundland. It wasn't until Rick was 19 and visiting Toronto when he was first introduced to a true Thanksgiving celebration.
"I didn't know quite how big a deal it was. Everyone went around and talked about why they were thankful. Someone had been cooking for days. It was a full-on kind of Christmas dress rehearsal. And it was lovely," he recalls.
Though the now-famous political satirist and comedian acknowledges the holiday didn't play an important role in his childhood, he did learn to appreciate it, and the significance of giving thanks. "God knows we celebrate lots of things that don't encourage any reflection at all," he quips. "As I get older, I realize I'd be a fool not to take time to count my blessings occasionally. Health is the most important thing of all, of course, and I'm constantly aware that I'm fortunate when it comes to my career, because show business is a notoriously fickle occupation."
Rick's career is no small blessing: It has earned him more than 25 Gemini Awards and Canadian Screen Awards, an appointment as an officer of the Order of Canada and a more than decade-long show on CBC named after him. It's all due to his quick-witted political commentary, charming personality and unique ability to excel at being both silly and serious, when each is due.
But what Rick is thankful for this year is something far more significant than success or stardom. Exactly one week after Thanksgiving, on Oct. 19, Canada will peacefully go to the polls. All Harper jokes aside, that's something for which to be grateful.
"I don't think people think about it much, but we'll have an election fairly soon, and cars won't get turned over and people won't be shot. No one will disappear in the middle of the night. And by and large, for the people who choose to vote, their ballots will be counted. And that's something to be thankful for," he says. "There are lots of places on Earth where that doesn't go without saying."
When Rick visited Canadian Living headquarters to be our October guest editor, we taught him how to make a classic apple pie for Thanksgiving and devise fun place-card holders for the table, but he taught us how to honour one of the greatest gifts we have in Canada—democracy—by making an educated decision at the polls.
It's part of our Canadian identity to be self-deprecating, notes Rick; and, as you'll see in our Test Kitchen videos with him, he does make light of his lack of viable cooking skills. But we need to celebrate ourselves, too. "Sometimes," he says, "it's important to reflect on just how good we have it."
3 questions for Rick about gratitude:
You travel a lot for your show. Do you consider that a major job perk?
I wish everyone could get around the country the way I have because it informs my love of Canada. You get to see firsthand how different the country is from region to region. It's tough for people to do that sometimes because it's prohibitively expensive; if you're sitting in Vancouver, it's cheaper to fly to Hawaii than it is to fly to Halifax.
What makes you grateful to live in Canada?
It may be cliché, but the fact that we have universal health care is something to be cherished, and I think it's also something to be protected—we have to be vigilant about it, and make sure that it gets better and that it's not eroded.
Last year, you were appointed an officer of the Order of Canada. What does that mean to you?
It's not something I expected, and it is the most flattering thing that's ever happened to me. I'm usually never speechless, but I was absolutely speechless when it happened. It's something I'm very, very proud of.