In October, 1970, my biggest problem was that Halloween in Montreal might be cancelled due to terrorism. Canada’s brush with serious internal terrorism was blessedly brief. It began that October and was over by the New Year. The crisis wasn’t serious enough to unsettle my world, but lasted long enough to claim a victim. Even a shallow 9-year-old like me could see that this was unspeakably sad.
My only other memory of the October Crisis is surreal: soldiers patrolling the streets near my house. There was nothing frightening about them. When we walked past them to get to the metro, my mom wasn’t fazed by them- -- so I guess they didn’t faze me. But their presence was unnatural.
It’s great to be able to say that about the place you grew up. Because meanwhile, in other parts of the world, lived other little girls; girls who would grow up, move to Canada and become my friends. While our crisis came and went, they suffered lengthier and more onerous oppressions.
Also meanwhile, my relatives in Ireland were dealing with their own troubled times. I didn’t pay any attention to that, because in 1970 I barely knew that I had Irish relatives. My immigrant Irish grandmother died when my Dad was a teenager, and my generation had absolutely no connection with the family over there.
But my Dad remembered his Irish cousins, and in 1972, he and his sister Anne went to see them. They stayed with their cousin Basil on his family property in the far north of Ireland, anxiously close to the border. Basil suspected that his farm foreman belonged to the IRA. One evening, Dad and Aunt Anne decided to walk over to the village pub. Basil warned them not to talk about the upheavals in Ireland. At the pub, he said, you didn’t know who was on which side and it was best to just not bring it up.
So they didn’t. Instead, there in that pub on the border of Northern Ireland in 1972, the eager Irish people were full of questions for Dad and Aunt Anne. They wanted to hear all about the “troubles” in Montreal.