Monday, March 17, 2014

Quiet


I grew up in an interesting place. Quebec had parties, politics, sports, and some cutting-edge schooling.  It also saw a little bit of trouble, which we could all have done without.  But something else was going on in Quebec while I grew up there: a revolution. I was in the middle of it but didn’t see it; it was too quiet. 

My family’s day-to-day life was lived in the worlds of the Protestant school and the Anglican church. We knew our Francophone classmates and neighbours, and we heard lots of French spoken at the public swimming pool (I once ended up in an all-boys swimming class because the registrar thought I was Jean-the-French-boy, not Jean-the-English-girl).  But we didn’t know the Francophone world well enough to be party to the profound shift in culture that was pulsating around us.

But I can look back and see that it was there.  The revolution was already underway when my family arrived in St. Lambert, our Montreal suburb, in 1965. The remnants of Quebec’s recent past were still rattling around like ghosts when, on our arrival, my Mom took us to get our library cards.  The librarian told her to come back with her husband; he was the only legitimate signatory for the children’s cards. A mere eight years after that incident, when I was in grade 6, my teacher was an enthusiastic French-Canadian who wore pants instead of skirts, told us to call her “Diane”, and organized in-class dances on the last days of school.  Six years later, my group leader in Katimavik was an equally enthusiastic French-Canadian named Joanne.  She taught French to our group by going over contemporary lyrics, and managed us with great confidence even though she was only four years older than the youngest of us. 

The story of the Quiet Revolution is best told by those that really experienced it.  The Anglo-Quebec world was in the revolution, but not of it.  All I can really say about it is that Diane and Joanne were clearly not about to let someone else sign for their kids’ library cards.