A babel of languages, a feast of cuisines, a kaleidoscope of colors, a world of flags and cultures—all meeting in the magic of Montreal.
I was lucky enough to be there as an employee in the Canadian Pavilion. Each day, I used my employee pass to enter before the gates opened to the public, to visit a new country. I met, talked, and laughed with people from South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Americans insisted I had to be one of them because of my mid-west accent.
“I’m Canadian,” I said, “from the prairies.”
On my days off I explored and fell in love with the energy and magic of a Canadian city transformed, by hosting Expo, into a microcosm of the world.
But it was my landlady who provided the richest cultural experience.
After seventy-two hours of train travel from Edmonton to Montreal—for three nights afterwards the bed continued to rock under me—I made my way, via the Metro, to meet Madame.
Madame was as wide as she was short, a genial French Canadian who, within minutes of my arrival, laid out the rules.
“You must provide all your own meals,” she had said. “You may not use the fridge or bring food into your room. Come, come, I have le souper waiting for you.” And a delicious supper it was too.
We communicated in a mix of French and English and became more relaxed and comfortable over the weeks I was there. Each night, as we enjoyed her wonderful dinners, we talked and I learned more of her life.
“I was the youngest of seventeen children.”
Seventeen! Had I heard right? “You did say seventeen?”
“Two sets of triplets and three sets of twins.” I was still shaking my head in disbelief as she continued. “We were poor, but I was pampered by all those siblings. My oldest brothers and sisters were the parents really. My mother and father seemed more like grandparents.”
Had she continued the large family tradition? “How many children do you have?”
She grinned and tapped her temple. “Two and five grandchildren.”
I grinned back and offered the dessert I had brought from the Greek Pavilion.
Not only was I well fed, I was overfed and my clothes were tighter than I liked. Soon I’d be as round as her, if I wasn’t careful, but I loved those dinners with Madame. Until the pies, that is. Madame made six raisin pies to take to her daughters and grandchildren. Unfortunately, the trip north was cancelled.
I used to like raisin pies.