Now that Raymond and I are reasonably well-ensconced at the Manse, in tiny Queensborough, people ask us (fairly frequently) whether we miss Montreal, our jobs at the Montreal Gazette, urban life in general. I can’t and won’t speak for Raymond; as for me, my answer is invariably: “Not at all.” I feel so fortunate – actually “blessed” is the right word – to be back in the interesting, beautiful, out-of-the-way place that I was lucky enough (I hit the jackpot on that one) to grow up in; and not just that, to be in the very house that I grew up in, a happy house that I am convinced is happy in turn to have us back there. And I am blessed to have a wonderful and challenging job in the area. And a husband (Raymond) who is open to new stuff and new challenges.
This evening Raymond and I drove by Montreal, without even stopping at the home we still have there, on our way to the Eastern Townships of Quebec and a visit with Raymond’s just-over-six-months-old grandson Henry (and Henry’s parents, of course). And even while, as we drove past Montreal, I was starting to feel a bit homesick for our Manse (which was silly, since by the time you read this we will probably be back there, or very close to it), I also looked at the familiar downtown skyline of the city I know so well and felt – what? Homesick? No. (That’s Manse territory.) Sad? A bit. Nostalgic? Yes.
Can you ever leave an important part of your life behind without feeling sad? Surely not. My sadness when my family moved from the Manse, way back in 1975, was apparently so profound that I felt compelled, all these years later, to buy the house when the opportunity arose and move back, changing my whole life (and Raymond’s) into the bargain. And I am not a bit sorry for it; I have been happy every moment that I have been back at the Manse. I think it was meant to be.
But how can you spend 16 years of your life in a great (though frequently frustrating) city and not miss it when you leave?
I felt that same tug a few weeks ago, when I took the train from Belleville, Ont. (where I work) to Montreal, to meet up with Raymond, who’d been there for a couple of days, for some joint mission or other that we had in the city (I’ve already forgotten what it was) before we returned home to our happy Manse.
I’ve taken the train from Ontario (where all my family lives) to Montreal many, many times through my 16 years living there, and what happened on that recent return was the same thing that had happened every time before: just before pulling into Montreal’s Central Station, you see the iconic Five Roses neon sign (atop what I guess is the old flour mill where Five Roses flour used to be made, and perhaps still is), and you remember all over again what a funky and great place Montreal is. The fuzzy photo that you see atop this post is my attempt on that train return a few weeks ago to capture, while I still had one last chance, that Five Roses moment (through the window of the train) that had brought me joy on so many returns to Montreal over the years.
All of which is a very roundabout way of saying something that I am sure all of you reading this already know: that you cannot ever leave a place that has meant a lot to you without feeling sadness. Even as you find new happiness in each day of life in a new place.
Or, in my case, an old place.