Some days, I want to live the rest of my life in Montreal. I set aside the complex emotions that come from being an ex-pat mom raising kids in a society that I didn’t grow up in— and I bask in the splendor that is this city. Lately, I’ve been having more and more of those blissful, contented days.
This weekend, there’s a street fair on St. Laurent. There’s bouncy castles, face painting, balloon animals, piri piri sandwiches, and fresh-squeezed lemonade. But it’s more than that. Our neighborhood has a carnival atmosphere. We’ve bumped into people on the street we haven’t seen in awhile. The air has a bite of cold to it. Summer is ending— but there’s this shared feeling that we’re going to celebrate every last warm day outside. There’s a sense of community and vitality that I never felt while living in the States. I feel like I belong here. I live in a happy cartoon world— in a neighborhood of friends. Every day brings a new adventure. I’m meant to be here— in this crucible of art, fashion, and self-expression. This is part of my growth, a crucial destination along my life journey.
Living here has been an unforeseeable blessing. I was anxious and uncertain when we moved here, but after three winters in this city, I know. Being here, in our bohemian neighborhood of artists, musicians, and students, has nurtured the creative awakening I felt as a new mom. I recently finished reading last year’s collection of The Best American Short Stories, edited by Geraldine Brooks. In the introduction, she gives some advice to young writers:
Read this book. Enjoy the stories, admire the craft. Then put it in your backpack and go. As far as you can, for as long as you can afford it. Preferably someplace where you have to think in one language and buy groceries in another. Get a job there. Rent a room. Stick around. Do something. If it doesn’t work out, do something else. Whatever it is, you will be able to use it in the stories you will write later.
Those words really resonated with me. Here I am. Reading good books, living in a French-speaking neighborhood facing a beautiful park. I get to do a lot of different things here and there to keep myself busy.
I don’t know what the future holds for us, in terms of where we’ll be five or six years from now, but for the moment, I feel so blessed that serendipity (and Drex’s hard work) brought us here. It has been a tremendous opportunity, not just for him, but for me and the girls, too.
Slightly related aside: we recently had to renew our work visas. Sonya also got a form to staple into her passport, authorizing her to stay in Canada. For a split second of worry, I wondered why we hadn’t gotten a form like that for Leena. Then I remembered— oh yeah! She was born here! She’s a Canadian citizen!