Canada is such a beautiful country, and throughout the years I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel through many of its provinces and territories. I’ve been as far west as British Columbia, as far north as well, the Northern Territories, and as far east as Nova Scotia. However, my first trip as a young boy would be by car to Quebec.
My maternal grandfather was born in Montreal but left for the US in his twenties. His brother sometimes came to see him, and as a young child my mom recalls seeing the two of them sitting drinking beer and conversing in French. It was to his family that we visited that very hot summer.
Very little else has remained. There was the vinegar on the table to be used with French fries. The ice cream sundae gotten for free because a chunk of glass was found in the first one I’d been served, and my brother and I riding the hotel elevator in order to test the quality of the ice cubes on each respective floor, are not I suppose exactly selling points.
Here are some of the places I would visit (or revisit).
I would think a summer visit coinciding with the Montreal International Jazz Festival would be just about perfect.
America never was America to me. Bear this in mind as you read. Ideals may not always be realized, but few would choose to live in a world where they did not exist.
My paternal grandfather died when my dad was young so he grew up on the farm where his mother had been raised. The Great Depression had just begun, and they were fortunate to have land that gave them all they needed at a time in which so many had so very little. Since my grandmother worked, he was looked after by his French Canadian grandparents.
French was spoken, and on the balcony during the summer, it was sung. My father had a French first name, and the meals served were traditional Quebec cuisine.
His grandfather must have been an important role model for him so it’s easy to understand why it was with such sadness that he told me the story of his death. Among the many people who came to pay final respects was a French Métis, who worked for him as a handyman. Once he had left, my great-grandfather asked for water to cleanse his hands. He felt defiled.
It’s hard to say how instrumental this experience was in shaping my father’s perceptions of the world. I do know I was fortunate never to have heard a racist comment from him, which was decidedly different from the wider environment where I heard people routinely categorized in ways in which I’m sure you are all too familiar.
As he grew he was fascinated with the French Revolution, whose ideals he admired – before, of course, it started eating its children. And, of course, as a young man there was France and the battle in Europe against Nazism.
The only memory I have of him crying is when he heard La Marseillaise.