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« When place is a character | Main | What a story is versus what it is about »

Je me souviens

Home for me has always been Knowlton Landing, Potton, Quebec. It's not that I spent my entire childhood on the family farm of which I was the eighth generation. In fact, we moved so regularly that I've now lived more years in Maine than I have lived anywhere else. Yet it was the first home I ever know and where my father's family lived. The land that was settled by my ancestors in 1821 and has been more or less -often less- in our family since than until this year when we sold the farm.

Knowlton Landing was always the place I returned to no matter in which province or country I had my primary residence. It was where I spent holidays and summer vacations during high school and undergraduate. The land is tied to my nearly all my memories of family and childhood.

My children are too young to have formed many memories of the farm. In all likelihood, they won't even remember visiting it. Years from now when they take me on a trip to Quebec in my old age, I will have to point out all the old spots that used to be so familiar to me. Their experience growing up will be so different from my own in many ways. I wonder sometimes how I will impart to them their family heritage, particularly their French Canadian heritage.

Although my father's family is English, descended from Massachusetts residents who sought their fortunes in Quebec, my mother's family is French of the first French Canadians to settle the province. I can remember understanding and speaking French as young fives years old. I've tried now and again to sing to my children in French and they will indulge me sometimes by singing along when they aren't telling me 'not that one'. Yet they will never be fluent in French if they even remember some phrases.

In recent years, my husband and I have started hosting Reveillon Christmas parties. Even though those particular parties weren't a part of my up bringing, it's an excuse for me to cook the foods I remember my mother cooking for special occasions and other uniquely French Canadian recipes.

With the sale of the farm and my father moving away from the place I had always considered my home base, I am forced to reflect on how I define myself as Quebecoise. Researching the history of the farm has helped me connect to my anglophone roots. My maternal grandpapa wrote a great family history that helps connect me to my francophone family. But I can't help but feel a loss that my children will never really know what it means to be half-French, half-English. One foot in each culture.

So if I seem a little too eager to speak to you in French or pull out random French Canadian recipes for gathering, it's just my small way of holding onto a piece of me that isn't so obvious.

PS For an explanation of the 'Je me souvien motto' see this Frenchly post.

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