Those who aren’t from Canada may not know that beneath the surface of the polite Canadian image simmers a hotbed of rivalry between French and English speaking citizens. The flames flare and recede in cycles of political turmoil and subsequent recesses.
I find a new acupuncturist who happens to be a Canadian of French descent, originally from a small town in Quebec. He grew up speaking French, but learned English and has a most charming accent. I’m a Canadian of Belgian and Ukrainian descent who grew up in a small town in Western Canada. I grew up speaking English and have no idea if my French accent is charming or not.
We discuss many things during an acupuncture session, including our childhoods. This is where the similarities come in. We share a love of the Eaton’s catalogue; both having spent hours poring over the pages filled with shiny pictures of our hearts’ desires—toys, toys, books, and more toys. We also remember the early days of hockey. The Montreal Canadiens being our favorite team. We, out west, didn’t like the Toronto Maple Leafs any more than Quebecois did.
“Did you read Le Chandail de Hockey?” I ask.
“Bien sûr,” he says.
“I felt so sorry for the boy when the catalogue sent him the wrong hockey jersey,” I say.
“Imagine the shame,” he says, “playing with your friends who all have Canadiens jerseys,” he replies with a sympathetic shake of his head.
I shudder at the thought and ask, “Did you get substitutes too, when you ordered things?”
“Mais oui,” he says. “The hockey sweater my mother ordered for me was too small. She gave it to my little brother.”
“Me too.” I sigh. “I’ll never forget getting the little blue purse when what I really wanted was the red one.”
We sigh again and then chuckle and move on to other topics. The memory of the blue purse still rankles, but Michel and I have found several common grounds and our friendship continues to grow.