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25 Years in the United States: My Journey as a Expatriate-Semi-Canadian

Margaret Almon circa 1985 with Hercules the Cat.
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Margaret Almon circa 1985 with Hercules the Cat.

The summer of 2010, I reached a milestone 25 years of  living in the United States.  I left Edmonton, AB, Canada, in July of 1985, to go live with my mother and sister in Bethlehem, PA, the Moravian Mecca, where my mother was attending Moravian Seminary to become a minister.  I was 17, almost 18, and couldn’t imagine ever becoming comfortable in my new home.  Seriously, I didn’t understand flag worship, and my husband tried to explain it to me when I met him at 19.  I felt like an alien.  Now, after moving to several states, including Massachusetts, Oregon and Illinois, I have lived in PA for longer than anywhere else in the US, and it is my home.

I’d never heard of a rowhouse when I moved to the Philadelphia area, and now I live in one!  As my husband says, it’s our 1 bedroom-2 studio house.  There are still ways that I feel like an outsider, but this is where I have friends, where I know the back roads, where I make art, and now I can’t imagine going back to Canada.  But growing up there did shape me, and I am grateful for the perspective it gives me.  I always was a kind of alien, being born in the US, and moving to Canada when I was just a baby, and becoming a resident alien, a “permanent resident” which becomes impermanent if you leave for more than 2 years, and dont do arduous paperwork.

This photo is from the week before I moved to the US.  The back of the photo is labeled, in my stepmother’s handwriting, “Hercules and Margaret Almon, June 28th, 1985.”  Obviously, the most important person is listed first!  Hercules was a big lug of a cat who wandered around my father and stepmother’s condo complex, in search of superior victuals, and found the smoked salmon at their place suited him fine.  My haphazard buzz cut was from a woman at a $6 haircut shop, who watched tv while loosely interpreting Annie Lennox, left some bare patches, but overall, 6 weeks in, things were evening out.  Finally, I am wearing a Brave New Waves t-shirt that I received after writing many letters mentioning local bands to this late-night indie music radio show from the CBC.  I am taken aback by how currently “retro” it looks, with the old-school headphones emblazoned on the front.

How do you know when you are home?  I’d love to hear your stories.


  1. laurencancun says:

    Wow, 25 years!! Can you believe it?? I take it you are not an Oilers fan?! LOL!!
    I have only been living abroad for 8ish months or so, but moving from Calgary to Mexico was a shocker. Calgary still feels like my home, but I’m slowly getting used to things down here.
    Great post!!
    SITS 🙂

  2. citymouse says:

    Almost 4 years ago we bought my parents old house and moved in. Living here as a teenager, it was the absolute last place I thought I’d ever call home. Amazingly, living here has brought about a peacefulness that I didn’t have living in other places. I still wish we lived closer to a cultural hub, but I am very happy to spend my time here. It really is home.
    On a separate note, I don’t think I realized you lived North of Philly. My brother and wife live in Glenside. She’s a neon artist. It’s be cool if you knew each other. http://www.eveningneon.com/

  3. Thanks for sharing your story about coming full circle to your old house. That’s so cool your sister in law makes neon–I checked out her website and her stuff is great! I love anything that glows.

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