Sunday, February 14, 2010

Les petits-enfants

ROSS, Jeannette (née Albert)
Parution: 2010-02-10 au 2010-02-10 dans La Presse - 2107979
ROSS, Jeannette (née Albert) 1919 - 2010 À Longueuil, le 8 février 2010, à l'âge de 90 ans, est décédée Jeannette Ross, épouse de feu Dr Howard C. Ross de Ann Arbor, Michigan. Elle laisse dans le deuil ses petits-enfants Suzanne et Bruce, ses soeurs Aline Vallée et Mariette O'Connor, ses belles-soeurs Rita Richard et Émilienne Beaudoin, sa grande amie Gilberte Rioux ainsi que plusieurs neveux et nièces. La famille vous accueillera le jeudi 11 février 2010 de 14 h à 17 h et de 19 h à 21h ainsi que le vendredi 12 février 2010 de 9 h à 10 h 30 à la Les funérailles auront lieu le vendredi 12 février 2010 à 11 h en la cocathédrale St-Antoine (à l'angle de la rue Saint-Charles Ouest et du chemin de Chambly) à Longueuil. L'inhumation suivra au cimetière St-Antoine. Au lieu de fleurs, un don à la fondation de votre choix serait apprécié

Look here! They called me 'petite'!!! I take my compliments where I can. Of course I never was a 'petite enfante' weighing in close to 10 lbs and rapidly expanding beyond that. But petits-enfants are merely grandchildren regardless of their size. I do like their words for 'sister-in-law'-bellesoeur (beautiful sister) and best friend (grande amie). I am glad the family remembered Gilberte who has faithfully looked out for Jeannette for many years only for Jeannette in her delirium towards the end accuse her of being the devil and stealing her ribs in the middle of the night. Don't understand French? Tant pis!!! (Too bad) Everything was in French on Friday. I can read the language all right; I can ask for things as a toddler would but beyond understanding simple sentences; I am lost especially with the Quebecois version which sounds different than the Parisienne version I was taught 40 something years ago. Italian is a much easier language to understand as they actually enunciate every letter although very, very quickly. Not many in Jeannette's generation learned English. Even in her nieces and nephew's generation, (roughly my generation) English was not taught in the schools though many learned it anyway as adults. The generations of Quebecois my kids' ages speak English without an accent for the most part. Throughout my trip, from discussions with 'ma famille francaise' and English Canadian train seat partners, I learned much about the attitudes towards the language issue in Canada.

Steve had cobbled together an iterinary from a patchwork of last minute deals on the VIA website. The website being down from several hours really was a pain as we had to make lots of decisions at the last minute. We saved about $100 by this but the downside was that there were two sizeable layovers in Toronto. I did manage to beg them to let me on an earlier train yesterday eliminating one layover-this is my version of getting ones cake and eating it too. He drove me Thursday morning during rush hour (not a problem as it turned out-massive unemployment has some perks) to Windsor. No line in customs too but unfortunately our customs agent, a surly young woman barely out of adolescence (still had some acne) decided to use her powers. We explained our situation. Oh really? Let's see those train tickets. Well they aren't really tickets but confirmations that will be converted into tickets. Let's see them. She studied them carefully for 5 minutes with knitted brows. (tick-tock, tick-tock!). She then quizzed me on how much money I had. About $20 Canadian. I had decided to be truthful as the next step seemed to be for her to root through my wallet. She then wondered how that was going to be enough for me. I explained the miracle of ATM cards trying not too be too smarky as this petulant child really, really has too much power. My father pissed one of these agents off once and they seized all his cameras holding them hostage until he could come up with bills of sale for each one. Wish my brother had gotten a similar lecture about showing up in Canada with absolutely no Canadian currency. Now do I look like a likely candidate to game the Canadian welfare system? We were driving our new car and I thought I was well dressed. Later another agent asked Steve if the car actually belonged to him. And last night, why didn't he go to the funeral with me? Indeed!
The train station was next to the Hiram Walker distillery with its yeasty, malty aroma. Yummy. It reminded me of my summer sitting due North (yes due North-Canada is actually south of Detroit at this point)of the distillery on the Detroit riverbank eating my lunch watching the freighters and sucking in the distillery fumes when there was a south wind (often) when I worked there-only one summer thankfully. This distillery was on fire Saturday when Steve came to pick me up. Less 'pompieres' involved with an actual fire than the broken smoke detector in the assisted living place. More later.
So to Toronto, I travelled first class-only one dollar more than economy and boy did I get my dollar's worth. Very, very good lunch, linens, warm hand towels and wine and apertives anytime I wanted them. Maybe I took advantage of the free wine a little bit too much, maybe. My seat partner probably had raised eyebrows but too bad. She was a very pleasant lady en route to see grandchildren whom I learned all about and we discussed differences between the English Canadians and Americans and the world's attitude towards them. So often the others can't detect how we pronounce the word 'about' differently. Her son had gone back-packing in Europe and somewhere had asked the locals for directions. They gave him some very complicated instructions but as he walked away, they noticed the maple leaf sewn on his back-pack and ran up to him correcting the instructions and apoligizing for thinking he was an American. Must wear those Maple leafs. For the most part, I have been treated nicely while abroad-I think because I try to speak, however badly, the local language. Only In England was I asked if I were Canadian (good) or American (bad).She did say that in Quebec, being an American would win me more friends than being an English speaking Canadian. I do know this from Gilberte's previous rants about the evils of the 'English". Jeannette eventually corrected her as I possibly could be offended being of similar ethnicity as the 'enemy' and from there on used the word "ottawa" to descibe the evil.
I had a three hour layover in Toronto that no thanks to a late train-not first class this time back to the cheap seats, turned into 4 hours (not warned in advance either-stood in line for 90 minutes with promises of boarding in 'just ten minutes'). I woozily explored the city, one of my favorites though not too surprisingly, cold as hell. I found an Asian bun shop. Yummy, yummy-different fillings in this yeasty dough. I stocked up for my dinner. Should have bought more!!!! By the time I was to board the train, I was tired. I didn't sleep much the night before as I thought I was woken up in the middle of the night (10:30 but it seemed later) by my brother to tell me his train was cancelled due to the really bad east coast weather and that his sub was buried under nearly 3 feet of newly fallen snow so I would have to deal with Montreal by myself. He later decided that if he could get out of the danger zone, about 20 miles of hazardous conditions, he would make the drive through the mountains, which was clear. They also made me check my luggage as the new train, express thankfully, had no room for it. As it turned out, it had no room for my legs either and I was forced to play footsie with Asian teenagers facing me who continually invaded my personal space. Fun times. I arrived at 11 pm, 90 minutes late and everything was quickly closing down. We stayed at the deluxe "La Reine Elisabeth" conveniently on top of the station. I quickly fell into my 'pillow top' mattress and slept-finally!!!

We had breakfast in that good patesserie in old Longueiul after listening to hilarious mispronunciations of the local streets by his GPS-touring much more of them than we needed. I had my enormous 'bol' of cafe au lait to wake me up. One difference between France and Quebec is the use of those large bowls to serve coffee versus the thimblefuls in France. Vive la Quebec!!!! On to the pre-funeral viewing. We quickly had labels 'la famille' impressed upon us and we met up with Andre, the executor of the estate. Initially Bruce and I were to be the co-executors-fun with different laws, language, etc but she had changed her mind. I had met Claire, his sister and Jeannette's favorite niece and goddaughter previously. Claire lived across the street from Jeannette's building keeping a good eye on her along with her sister Louise. We then spent the rest of the day until late at night with Andre, Louise and Claire. They were very welcoming. Claire and Louise were to leave Saturday on a 3 week trip to Tunisia (a retirement gift-all I got was a coffeemaker). It must have been hectic planning the funeral and dealing with the trip. Louise closely resembles Angelica Huston (only more attractive) and had an interesting, sarcastic sense of humor. Claire (like me) loves to travel and has biked several places around the world so we found plenty to talk about. Andre, an engineer, is very organized with all his lists carefully explained Quebec law, complicated, to us. At the viewing, funeral and reception later were numerous nieces and nephews. All were very nice to us though not all English speaking. They really were fond of my Grandfather. Some of the relatives really wanted to practise English so we definitely were not ignored. The service itself was in the massive 'cocathedrale' (shares a bishop with some other cocatherdale)in the village-very beautiful inside. Good acoustics too and beautiful singing from the choir way up in the rafters. Did I understand what was going on? No, hardly at all. The priest did introduce himself to Bruce and me. Jeannette was a very faithful Catholic going daily to mass as her health permitted. Was her husband Catholic? No way Jose, always strictly Protestant though he did some church hopping. The burial service was thankfully brief. No more Jeannette!!

1 comment:

Teri B. said...

Sue--reading your travelogue made me "homesick" for travel with you! I could imagine myself on those trains with you...or gathering food...your travel writing is so are really the voyageur engagee.


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