OMG you guys, I am so sorry for being such an absentee blogger over the past few weeks, but I was hit with a nasty bug at the end of December which left me completely wiped out. I only started getting back to normal last Friday. The moral of this story is: if your house is way too dry (below 30% humidity), any chest and throat infection you contract will potentially be way worse than it normally would. I kept getting worse until we went out and invested in a good quality humidifier and got our numbers back over 40%. Yup, old houses dry out fast in winter!
Now, on a more cheerful note, I am, as I have mentioned before, seriously in love with the neighborhood we live in. My Darling and I have been in and out of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce all our lives and from the time I was in my late teens, I knew without a doubt that the day I got my own place, it was going to be in N.D.G. What I did not know until far more recently was just how deeply rooted in this part of Montreal my family’s history was. That sort of family history is not the kind of thing a kid is typically interested in. All I really cared about when I came into this neck of the woods for dinner with my paternal grandparents when I was little was how many sweets my grandmother was going to slip me when my mom wasn’t looking, the bouquet of flowers my grandfather would give me from his flower pots in the Summer and the huge (to my brother and I) hill we would drive down in Montreal West on our way home. Since I have moved out here though, my grandmother has loved telling me stories about what the neighborhood was like when she and my grandfather grew up here, because it turns out that out of her 84 years, my grandmother spent 79 of them living in NDG and my grandfather spent 84 of his 89 years here. They moved out to the suburbs to be closer to my aunt a few years ago and while my grandfather was perfectly happy with the change, my grandmother felt completely uprooted and it took her over a year to get used to her new neighborhood.
To put things into perspective, my grandparents remember what NDG looked like before a chunk of it was torn down to make room for the Décarie Expressway. They remember where the old streetcar routes ran (there have been no streetcars in Montreal since 1959) and they saw the Basilica of St-Joseph’s Oratory be built and its dome rise into the skyline of the neighborhood in 1937. My grandmother’s parents arrived here as immigrants from Slovakia in the 1920s and my great-grandfather delivered coal in the neighborhood. My grandfather’s parents were the first owners of a house down on the corner of Old Orchard Avenue and Côte-Saint-Antoine. They moved in in 1932 when my grandfather was six years old and the family kept the house for nearly 50 years.
I love the feeling of living in a neighborhood where my family has so much history. I love knowing that I am walking the same streets that my great-grandparents, grandparents and father walked. I love being able to talk to my grandmother about how little the area has changed since her childhood. She actually grew up in the same ten block radius that I have called home since 2008. However, having so much history in the neighborhood can also be very bittersweet, like when a venerable old tree reaches the end of its life:
You know a tree is old and much-loved when news of its upcoming demise makes the news in all the English outlets in town. Everyone who lives in my area knows this tree and I spent well over a half-hour talking about it with my grandmother earlier today when she called to ask me if I had read the story I linked to above. The tree is right across the street from the house my grandfather grew up in and he couldn’t bare to talk about the tree being cut down when my aunt gave him the news earlier this week. I know the tree well, because I can barely stay on the sidewalk when I jog by it and I give it pat and say hello to it every time I go by. A tree this old merits some form of deference when you cross its path. The tree means so much to locals that the borough is bringing in a second team of experts to make sure that nothing can be done to save it before making a final decision about its fate, but it is fairly certain the poor old fella will have to come down since the entire center section of his trunk is rotten. I am planning on walking down to visit him, say goodbye and take some pictures of him in the next few days…and hopefully he won’t fall on me if he really is in as bad a way as they say he is. I will probably cry. This tree has been in the neighborhood long enough to see it grow from a tiny farming community to one of Montreal’s first suburbs and four generations of my family have walked past it, watched it grow and admired it. How can I not be touched by its demise when I think of that?
If you would like to learn more about the history Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, you can check out this site.