Sunday, October 12, 2008

This is your Brain, This is your Brain on Thanksgiving

Christine McNair and I in Sainte-Adele, Quebec over the weekend, getting away from it all (whatever it is I think “it all” even is). Thanksgiving, or something, getting work done without the distractions of whatever [some writing we did the first trip around, here and here]. This is our third weekend in her mother’s “spare house.” I can’t call “cabin” or “cottage” due to the high-speed internet, Jacuzzi and satellite television. I grew up on a farm; when I think “cabin,” I think lucky to have indoor plumbing.
Strange to be in such a French-speaking area, after years of Ottawa; it’s almost enough to make me sentimental for Alexandria, where I went to high school (Alexandria, Not Egypt, as Margaret Christakos once wrote), 75% French-speaking. We’ve even met folk around that I’ve had questions for, that Christine had to ask in French, and translate for my sake. What the hell am I doing in Sainte-Adele? I’ve been interested in the old buildings, the old parts of the area, originally invented in the 1850s, well before the rail came through in 1891, the rail long gone for the sake of bike paths, ski vacations, and the like. It’s why we get to use her mother’s house until about this time of year, before the tourists come through.

Every time we come through, at least once a day wandering into the centre of town to see what’s what, look at buildings, tourist about, or even just have ice cream or something. Me in my leather looking for 1970s-era crime to fight, but only crime that might be slightly downhill from where I am already standing. Gravity is my co-pilot, my partner, my friend; but gravity can turn so easily. We keep seeing more vintage cars and even bikers, far more than actual people. Where do the people go? Do they all stay home? Every house out where we are a “no trespassing” sign, between the trees and the bushes and the stray random deer.

Yesterday the daily outing involved looking for a church Christine remembers, that we somehow couldn’t find. The best we could do was a postcard, returning to where we’d purchased before, to find out more information, the chapel for Le Chantecler Hotel, but we still couldn’t find it, even with help; we managed, I think, every other church in the area, thanks to maps and directions and even help. Does this building even exist? Should we just go down to the hotel and ask?

The first time we were here, driving back through Ontario along Highway 417; since we were close enough, I thought we should drop into my parents, say hello, pick up mail. I had never heard of Sainte-Adele, Quebec before, but apparently my mother had. Am I the only one who hasn’t?My father came into the house after we did, probably because of the strange car in the yard, and told us that, yes, he knew where that was, Sainte-Adele. A cousin of his father's used to live there, and they even went around the time my father would have been ten, or twelve, he recalled, a relative named Welshman. He remembers walking up a hill with his father around the same time, in that Sainte-Adele. Am I the only one who hasn’t heard of Sainte-Adele? What are the odds of us having Anglo relatives in an almost exclusively-French town? (Christine's family is Anglo too; another conundrum) Why does he only tell stories when I bring strangers by? I went through the family history to find out what the hell he was on about: the daughter of John McLennan (1853-1931; the one who went west and became "MacLennan") from his first wife, Mary Ann McRae. Their second daughter, Mary Ann (Mamie) McLennan was born in 1882, and their mother died April 8 of the same year, shortly after Mamie was born. The two girls were brought up by their grandmother McRae at the home of her uncle, Farquhar (John Bhare) McRae, at lot 2, Concession 7 Roxborough. In 1904, Mary Ann married William Ernest Welchman (1868-1951), an employee of The Imperial Bank of Canada and resided in Montreal, later at Ste. Marguerite, Quebec. Will is buried outside Maxville at the McRae plot, with his wife, her sister and their mother. Mamie moved to Lumsden, Saskatchewan in June 1958, where her father had ended up with his second wife and their four sons, and she died in Regina in 1968.

Afterwards, Christine provided information, finding this: “1951: Sainte-Marguerite-Station demands the right to secede from Sainte-Adèle. Ste-Marguerite (pop. 2,250) is alongside the large Lac Masson and home to Bistro à Champlain, one of the prime restaurant destinations in the region. To get there, take Exit 69 off of Autoroute 15. Or, if driving from Ste-Adèle, look for a street heading northeast named Chemin Pierre-Péladeau (Rte. 370). It becomes a narrow road that crosses the 30-foot-wide Rivière du Nord and then winds through evergreen forests past upscale vacation homes. The road dead-ends at the lake, with the restaurant at the intersection. Ste-Marguerite is 96km (60 miles) north of Montréal.” She also found a telephone listing for 1956, “+ Welchman, Mme W, Ste-Marguerite-Station, 608-R-2. (ie, she was in the part that was Ste-Adele until 1951)”
Turkey tomorrow at my parent’s house, on our way back into Ottawa, the 2+ hour drive. I think it’s been, what, twenty years since I’ve actually been home for Thanksgiving…?

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