|Grow where you are planted.|
I would say that the most difficult move was to St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. It was a year after my father's death, a year after my second child's birth, and it was to a very French-speaking part of Quebec. (There are areas of Quebec that have significant anglophone populations.)
I was still grieving, I was still struggling with postpartum depression (though it wasn't diagnosed as such), and I had no confidence that my French would be sufficient to communicate.
I think it was the only time in my career as a military wife that I actively resisted the move. I asked Steve if there wasn't some way we could request a different posting. But the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean (CMR) had sponsored his Master's degree, and he was obliged to give back at least 42 months (
At first, it was hard. I came back from a basic shopping trip in tears because I hadn't been able to understand the cashier when she asked whether I would be paying by cash or credit card ("Comptant ou carte de crédit?" said in rapid-fire staccato). It was a small moment of humiliation, a hiccup on the everyday.
I was accustomed to sailing through routine social interactions with ease. I was used to understanding and being understood.
|An everyday scene in our PMQ (private married quarters military housing) at CMR.|
Don't you love the wallpaper border, especially the laboriously cut out strips for the door panels?
Every excursion was a challenge. I wanted nothing more than to stay home with my babies and make meals for my husband.
But I consciously fought my feelings of isolation. Early on, with the "grow where you're planted" admonition in mind -- and with the sense that I was a kind of immigrant, I decided two things:
- I would get to know the community of other military wives.
- I would improve my French so I could communicate.
For the first objective, I went out of my way to introduce myself to our neighbours, most of whom had children the same age as ours. I walked up to groups of women in the park and started conversations. (This is decidedly against the grain for me.) By the time we left, three years later, I had helped to start a thriving playgroup and had even been the co-president of our Officers' Wives Club.
As for my French, I started out by talking freely with the children: I felt they were non-judgmental and welcomed my efforts. I'm sure the same would have been true of the adults, but I never stopped being shy around them. I knew I had reached a milestone when I could carry on a conversation on the phone in French without batting an eye.
In the end, it was one of the happier interludes in my life, a time of growth. It was not what I would have chosen, but I would certainly do it again.