26: Love, Shania and the Whispered Wish

26: Love, Shania and the Whispered Wish

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Love, Shania and the Whispered Wish

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

~Henry David Thoreau

The sun was low in the sky by the time I stepped out of the limousine into the slush of mid-December downtown Ottawa. I gingerly gathered up the frothy layers of white tulle and lace, exposing my clunky winter boots, my only nod to practicality on a day filled with hope, beauty, and joy.

I stopped for a moment, looking up at the ornate doors, and took a deep breath. This was the church my parents were married in over thirty years ago. And today, less than a week before Christmas, I was about to enter into my own wedded bliss.

Inside, it was warm and welcoming. The flames of the candles swayed and flickered, beckoning me forward. The enchanting scene in front of me was simply delightful.

Quickly replacing my boots with my white satin pumps, and gently resting my hand on my father’s arm, I walked down the aisle amidst the smiles and whispers of fifty close friends and relatives, ready to pledge my heart to my soul mate. Perhaps because I had a bad cold — always a potential peril for a winter wedding, and evidenced by a chapped nose in otherwise lovely photographs — the ceremony was a bit of a blur. Nonetheless, my friend assured me later that she had never heard anyone say her vows with such certainty. In turn, I teased my new husband that, in his nervousness, he said his vows to the reverend instead of me! We all chuckled about the “help me” painted on the shoe soles of the best man, exposed for all to see as we knelt down for the final blessing.

After our first night together as husband and wife at the stately Chateau Laurier, we headed west to continue our honeymoon at Deerhurst Resort in the heart of Muskoka country. The highway was shrouded in fog almost the whole way, but we were too blissfully content to feel any fear. With the big city lights long behind us, the hush of the Canadian boreal forest enveloped us with a surreal peace and calm.

Arriving at the resort, we were struck by the contrast between the rugged scenery surrounding the property and the spectacular Christmas lights of the main lodge. We were surprised to see how deserted it was, realizing only later that we had arrived in the lull before the Christmas crowds arrived. We had our own charming little honeymoon cabin, but for that first night we decided to dine at the lodge restaurant.

The food was excellent, and as we lingered over after-dinner tea, a petite, beautifully dressed brunette with a lovely voice serenaded us with seasonal music. I leaned over to my husband and shyly whispered my very first wish as a newly married woman: “That’s what I want to do one day!”

I had always loved to sing and play piano but I was too shy to do so publicly, and too focused on my professional editing career to really have time to pursue it. But even as I was starting a new life as a wife, that simple confession of my heart’s desire would just as dramatically shape and define who I would become.

Two babies and a move across the country later, I started singing in a church band. At about the same time, there was an explosion of outstanding female artists coming on the scene, including the soon-to-be Canadian icon Shania Twain. Gorgeous and a little mysterious, Shania was from Timmins, a small northern Ontario city I had visited once years before. I read that her first break in show business had been at Deerhurst Inn — the very resort where I had spent my honeymoon, at around the same time. Could it be that I saw music history in the making that Christmas weekend I got married?

Over the years I followed Shania’s career, searching for the unequivocal answer to my question, at the same time never giving up my own dream of pursuing singing. Being a wife and mother, and working outside the home often placed my personal aspirations on the back burner. But I continued to sing at church, work on my craft, and eventually write my own songs.

In 2011, I entered a recording studio for the first time to record my first album. While still knee-deep in the process, I read Shania’s recently released autobiography, hoping to solve the mystery once and for all. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I may never know if Shania was that young singer I saw so many years ago. But my belief that it was, and her phenomenal success, has kept me inspired all these years as I carve out my own little niche in the music world.

Two years later, I finally quit my day job. By the end of the year I had released my second CD, fittingly a Christmas album, a nod to my most favourite time of year.

We can’t really understand until we look back through the eyes of the future how one snapshot in time can impact our life so profoundly. For me, on this last weekend before Christmas the year I got married, I not only received the beautiful gift of a lifelong partner, but the seeds of a dream that, to this day, is still growing.

~Sally Meadows

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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