You’re always a bit more, aren’t you, Quebec? You’ve always been the one in the family that locks herself in the washroom, weeping, the one that drinks too much, the one that makes love on cobblestone streets, the one that shouts that no one in this family loves me, no one understands me! ever! before storming away again while half of us chase you, begging you to stay, and the other half mutter good riddance. Quebec, you’ve always had the best food, we know it, God, you can cook, only you would give the world towering smoked meat sandwiches and poutine, a dish that no one believes is real, and everyone thinks sounds like too much, until they taste it and then, all of the Too Much is rich, and decadent, and satisfying. But you’re more than the stereotypes, we all know that, but those of us here in the west, the children of the protestant hard-workers, are befuddled by you.
Quebec, I first fell in love with you in 1995, during the referendum years. Just a high school girl in Alberta, I was probably everything you wanted to leave behind, when you packed up the station wagon, and roared away, sobbing that it was really, truly over this time. I remember waking up every day, rushing to the newspaper for news of your whereabouts, writing book reports as love letters, how I felt like you were breaking up the family, being unreasonable, and yet loved you for it, just the same. With my friends, I wrote long-hand letters, detailing the reasons why we wanted you to stay with us, and they were sent, bearing stamps of the Queen’s image, to high school kids that wouldn’t be able to read them without a translator.
I dated one of your sons in those years, do you remember? His sweet and gentle parents were from a small town on the St. Lawrence, and I was as in love with them, as I was with that dark-haired boy. They prayed over our meals en francais, and I practiced my French until my accent was sublime, but we broke up, and when I stopped kissing that boy with the dark curls in the backseat of his father’s Honda hatchback, his mother-tongue all flew away from my mouth for good. I wonder if that brief spot of near-fluency was a good-faith gift from you, just for a time, just for that family.
I’ve never been further east in Canada than Toronto (and I was unimpressed, I’ll be honest). There is a lot about you that I just don’t understand, and so I’ve had to rely on your emigrants to my world, on the newspapers, on novels, on good music, on school french classes for a decade, and food so rich, it burns money in the evenings around real fireplaces. Montréal, I’ve longed for you, the way that some people long for Paris, and when your protests go on and on and on, and you bang pots and pans and rattle the doors until the wee sma’s, I feel like you’re braver than me, ballsier than the rest of us, and you will not be denied.
I may not be checking the newspaper to read about you every morning now (doesn’t that sound so quaint now?). But I’m watching, listening to you, I promise, from nearly the furthest point west from your borders, and I’m trying to teach my tinies our languages, and there is a knot of dread, about the size of a peach pit, right in the centre of me, over the looming spectres of you leaving us, all over again. I like our family better with you in it, but this time, you don’t seem angry, you seem determined.
So here I am, next to a blueberry field, next to a rainforest mountain, in the west, and I care what is happening to you, yes, I do. Your elections last night unfurled with violence and surprise and drama, with footage of people in the dark and flashing lights. I sat and watched and thought, of course, of course. Your elections are fraught affairs, nothing of the BC snipping and finger-pointing and lip-pursing, even your politicians are too much for the rest of us, while we endure more of not enough.
Darling, I know your minority government has big plans for the dreams of the separatists, but here, before you pack the trunk of the car, meaning it this time, let me tell you this: we love you. I hope today goes well for you. I hope everyone is well and whole and calm. And I hope you never change, I hope you stay with us forever.