Monday, July 31, 2006

White Man

Hang around my family and I long enough and you may just hear a few strange expressions such as: "Where's the ji-jish?" "You big googoosh!" or even "You little alamus!" Hang around my siblings and I and you might hear a few more, like: "Remember the time we went way up and...?" or "I need to go get my shooliyan."

Remnants of phrases or expressions from a language I never learned, growing up. I was 2 and a half when my family moved to Moose Factory Ontario, and I was 18 and a half when I left to get more education. From grade one to grade eight, I was often the only white child (or one of two white children) in my class. The rest were all Cree or a mix of Cree. We had Cree classes, in which we learned some words and phrases, some of which I still remember today, but quite frankly, when you're the only WHITE MAN in your class (worst insult one could come up with back then) and there is a discipline problem in the Cree classes (as in no discipline at all) and they (the nasty bullies of the class) take advantage of that to beat you (the only white person) up, even if you WANTED to learn THEIR language, it would have been a little hard to concentrate... Yeah, predjudice goes both ways. So most of the expressions I used were ones that were (are) still in common usage. Some of them I actually originally thought were English.

Luckily, not all Cree people are mean bullies. Actually, as in any culture, the nice ones vastly outnumber the nasty ones. As in any small, close-knit community, it takes awhile for an outsider to be accepted. Especially when they are different. And I must say, my family probably wouldn't fit in much anywhere, let alone in Moose Factory.

For starters, my Dad was the Catholic Deacon, in charge of the Catholic Mission in Moose Factory. (We only had a priest on Sundays.) Practically everyone else was Anglican, with a few Pentecostals and Baptists. We were the ones who wore the hand me downs from the rummage sales. We weren't allowed to watch a lot of the shows and movies others watched. We didn't even have cable. Heck, we didn't have a TV until I was about 11 or 12. We didn't have a good boat. My Dad bought this rubber raft with a minuscule motor, and the other men laughed at his "poor man's boat", which didn't seem to bother my Dad in the least.

We recycled, even back then, before it was in style. Reduce, re-use, recycle was already our "mode de vie". We had three different garbages, the paper garbage (or anything else that burns), the cans (and other metals) garbage and the compost. We couldn't send anything to recycling, but my mother kept umpteen margarine/ice-cream containors and glass jars of all sizes, we never had tupperware. The cans unfortuantely had nowhere to go but the dump, and my father burned the stuff that would burn. But we composted, and my mother was still using cloth diapers when everyone else had started to use disposables.

We weren't allowed to stay out late at night and we had to eat healthy food. We didn't get to go buy chips and pop and candy at the corner store. And while we thought that unfair at the time, I certainly appreciate it now!

We might have been different, but for what it's worth, I picked up some of the Cree culture as well. Like when you do something for someone else, it comes free of charge, it is mutually understood that next time it'll be your turn. There is no offer of money in return, not like here, in Quebec, where I learned the hard way that unless you offer money, people feel that you don't appreciate what they've done.

I learned that when someone is in trouble, you get together and you help them, when tragedy happens, you get together and cry with those who are left behind, when someone dies, you get together and celebrate their life. Senor citizens are not old fogeys, they are our Elders, people who have lived life and learned much wisdom. They are respected and taken care of. They are given the best seats at feasts and gatherings and have a place of honour in the community.

In Moose Factory, children are still a source of wealth, and friends and extended family are there to help you with them, be it your first or your sixth child.

Last year, when I was still trying to get used to the fact that I was pregnant again, the two people I talked to from Moose Factory couldn't believe I might not be happy about it, and one of them told me that it was an honour to my own mother to be having as many children as she had. And this guy isn't even close to being an Elder yet. Now if only we could get that kind of wisdom out into the "white" world.

There are days when I'd like to move back (dare I call it?) home. Days like when I've had a visit (for the second time) from the police, because some neighbour has complained about the dog barking (it was daytime, for crying out loud, and couldn't have been that bad) or my children playing in OUR pond (ours not theirs.) If someone in Moose Factory thought some children might be in danger, they'd have talked to the parents, not called the police. And noone would ever call the police for a dog barking. That would be unheard of.

Ah, but of course, even life in Moose Factory is not perfect, and while I learned a lot of good values, there are of course abuses as well. And besides, even though certain people make me feel at home there, and others try to, I don't think I will ever feel that I belong there, for the simple fact that it was drilled into me so long ago that I am a WHITE MAN. Actually, I think I do not belong anywhere. In Quebec, they think I am an anglophone, in British Columbia, they thought I was French-Canadian. Although I have since learned the "white" way to do things, I cannot say that even the Cree were right in calling me WHITE and yet I am not un-WHITE either.

So who am I? My siblings and I have come to the conclusion that we must simply be truely Canadian. In a very privileged way.

So, where is the ji-jish? He is currently in my lap having a good drink of mommy's milk. In fact he's stuffing himself like a big googoosh. And my other children are hopefully being good outside, playing nicely and not being a bunch of alamuses. My shooliyan is sitting in my wallet, patiently waiting for my next big (or small) purchase and when next I visit Moose Factory, I will be sure to go "way up", to the end of the island that is most up-river, and where the elementary school I went to and the hospital are. I will then go visit a few of my friends "way down".

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tower Guard

Jean-Alexandre drew this:

God and Television commercials

God is like..
He works miracles.

God is like...
He's got a better idea.

God is like...
He's the real thing.

God is like...
He cares enough to send His very best.

God is like...
He gets the stains out that others leave behind.

God is like...
He brings good things to life.

God is like...
He has everything.

God is like...
Try him, you'll like Him

God is like...
You can't see him, but you know He's there.

God is like...
He's ready when you are.

God is like...
You're in good hands with Him.

God is like...
VO-5 Hair Spray
He holds through all kinds of weather.

God is like...
Aren't you glad you have Him? Don't you wish everybody did?

God is like...
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet nor ice will keep Him from His appointed destination.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mes Aurores Boréales

Le père Joseph Baril est arrivé dans les missions du Nord en 1952. Il témoigne aujourd'hui de la vie heureuse et bien remplie qu'il a vécue auprès des autochtones.

Il y a des personnes qui gardent un éternel air de jeunesse. Et pourtant, elles n'ont pas subi de chirurgie plastique. C'est comme si le temps n'avait pas de prise sur elles malgré le fait qu'elles vieillissent comme tout le monde. Cette jeunesse semble prendre sa source dans un cœur simple et débordant d'amour. Est-ce à dire que l'amour est comme une sorte de fontaine de Jouvence? C'est ce qu'on serait porté à penser en rencontrant le père Joseph Baril, o.m.i.

Le père Baril n'est pas un géant et il porte très bien ses 83 ans. Cet homme est encore alerte et plein d'esprit. Il sillonne encore quatre fois par année le Nord afin de remplacer les missionnaires ou visiter les postes qui n'ont plus de prêtre. En plus de faire tout cela, il vient d'écrire un petit livre qui contient une partie de ses mémoires de missionnaire.

Le désir de vivre la vie missionnaire a pris racine dès l'enfance du jeune Joseph Baril, originaire de Saint-Narcisse-de-Champlain, en Mauricie. C'est après avoir lu le livre Apôtres inconnus racontant la vie des frères oblats dans le Nord que le jeune Joseph, alors âgé de dix ans, a reçu la piqûre des missions auprès des indiens. Il a même dû lutter contre la volonté de sa mère qui désirait qu'il entre au collège des Franciscains, parce que cette dernière faisait partie du tiers ordre de saint François. (
Lire plus sur le Père Joseph Baril...)

Joseph BARIL Mes aurores boréales, Médiaspaul, Montréal, 2003, 174 pages. compte rendu par Gilles Rhéaume 2004/01/27
Il est un genre en littérature qui, quoique ignoré le plus souvent de nos jours, n’en a pas moins connu, du XVIIe siècle jusqu’au milieu du XIXe, une véritable épopée fantastique. Il s’agit des relations des missionnaires de l’Église catholique romaine, ces publications trois fois séculaires qui peuplèrent l’imaginaire de bien des peuples en bien des lieux. Tous connaissent le succès remarquable qui fut celui des Relations des Jésuites au temps de la Nouvelle-France, dont l’écho bouleversa la société française d’Ancien Régime et qui inspira combien d’initiatives qui façonnèrent le nouveau pays... (lire plus)

Acheter le livre...

Je suis en train de terminer de lire son livre, dans lequel il conte ses expériences dans le nord du Canada, comme missionnaire. Il a passé 24 ans dans le coin d'ou je viens. Pendant les deux premières années que nous étions à Moose Factory, c'est lui qui venait dire les messes, ensuite ça a été le Père Gaston Grenon, (mentionné dans le livre). Je ne me souviens pas de lui dans ce temps-là, car j'étais trop petite, mais je me souviens qu'il soit revenu plus tard nous visiter et dire la messe un couple de fois. Je me souviens entre autre d'une visite durant laquelle il était triste de voir que nous (les enfants) étaient si gênés avec lui alors qu'autrefois nous lui sautions dans les bras quand il venait.

J'ai passé mon enfance et mon adolescence avec certains oblats mentionnés dans ce livre. Ils étaient, pour nous, comme une famille élargie. Nous n'avions pas de relations dans le coin. Pas de grandparents, ni de cousins... Les oblats ont été pour nous, comme des mon oncles et des grandpapas. Nous allions chez eux souper, surtout au jour de l'an et ils venaient tous ensemble une fois par année chez nous à l'Épiphanie, et bien sur, toute au long de l'année séparément. Je crois bien que nous avons eu une relation particulière avec cette communauté, puisque mon père était diacre missionnaire et répondait à l'Évêque lui aussi. D'autres enfants grandissent avec une famille élargie de grandparents, tantes, oncles et cousins, nous avons grandi avec une famille élargie de frères, pères et monseigneur oblats.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hot, hot, hot

It is sooo hot and humid here, we are living in our basement and the swimming pool.

Except when we have to brave the hot humid air to get to a soccer match or practice.

Not much work is getting done around here.

I need to kick my sorry @ss and go get some of that painting/organizing done in the familyroom/boys' room. Of course I'm still recovering from all that running around/stress/work I was doing week before last, before the baptism. But I should be recovered by now right? I'm just getting old and it is taking longer to recover. Of course the hot humid weather isn't helping. And Nicolas keeping me up half the night, night before last set me back a bit... But you know, you are getting old when you keep thinking: "Oh how nice it would be to go take a dip in the pool right now." but it's too much trouble to get everyone in swimsuits, spread sunscreen all over all the bodies and get in. It's actually more stress than pleasure for me. Were I alone, I might use the pool a lot more. Now I have to force myself to go, because otherwise my kids can't go, and really, what is the point in having a pool on a hot, sunny day if your parents' are too dang lazy to let you get in, right?

Monday, July 17, 2006


Nicolas was baptised last Sunday, along with 3 other babies. I always find it a bit strange to go to these baptisms. With Jean-Alexandre, it was a private baptism. We kind of just reserved the church that day, and my Dad did the whole thing, and I chose the music and everything. With Dominic and Gabriel, it was in Prince George, with DOminic it was right after mass and there was only one other baby and with Gabriel, it was in the middle of mass and he was the only one. So really only Maryssa and Nicolas have had the multiple baptisms/no mass involved/in the province of Quebec baptisms.

First of all, you go in, and it's like this big family reunion, nobody seems to have any idea that this is a church and an important religious celebration that deserves some solemnity. Don't get me wrong. I'm not the type to turn and frown because the kids in the next pew are making noise. Heaven forbid! I hate it when people do that to me! But lots of chitchat and noise between the adults? I mean a few scattered whispers here and there is nothing, but these people weren't even trying to whisper, and it's not like they don't care. They just don't KNOW any better. The noise did settle a bit once they started the baptism, but I did have to remind my own children that they were STILL in a church even if it wasn't a mass, because they were starting to do like the other children, pushing each other (and the cousins) around. I hate to sound like some uptight churchgoer, and in fact, while it is strange to me, it doesn't make me mad or anything, but I kind of regret the solemnity and the respectful silence of older times, when everyone, including the kids knew there was something important going on by the way everyone was behaving. How could the kids tell now?

The starngest part comes however, when the baptism starts and apart from a few scattered answers from certain people here or there in the assembly who know that they are supposed to answer, the celebrating deacon has to read out the answers himself.

My father read the Gospel, "The Lord be with you" he started.

There was virtual silence in which I said, in a small voice "And also with you" along with the other Deacon, and I am sure my mother and a few other people I couldn't hear. Maybe about 5% of the people there were answering, like me, in small voices, because they didn't really want to stand out since noone else was saying anything.

It is soooooo weird to go to this important Catholic celebration where people have no clue what it's all about nor even that they are to particiapte in it at all. It just blows me away.

"I'll bet baptisms in your parish are a bit different." I commented to my mother (they now live in this area that has become very catholic and quite conservative, lots of big families, Madonna House and the Academy Our Lady Seat of Wisdom...). The answer was in the affirmative.

Le Baptême de Nicolas

Nicolas Raphaël s'est fait baptiser le 9 juillet dernier, à l'âge de sept mois, par son grandpapa Jean-Nil (diacre). Le baptême à eu lieu à l'église de St-Athanase.

Le 9 juillet était aussi le jour ou la France affrontait l'Italie lors de la finale de la Coupe du Monde 2006 de la FIFA en Allemagne. (Mauvais planning de leur part, ils aurait dû m'en parler AVANT de choisir cette date)

De retour à la maison pour la réception, la moitié du groupe s'est retrouvé en bas pour regarder la fin du match. C'est l'Italie qui l'a emporté.

C'était une belle journée chaude et humide. Les grands enfants en ont profité pour se baigner dans la piscine et certains adultes ont joué aux fers sous l'ombre de nos quatre grands saules pleureurs.

Nicolas, pour sa part, en a profité pour jouer sur le patio et pour se pratiquer à ramper. Il s'est avancé un tout petit peu, et c'est le lendemain qu'il est parti pour de bon. Dès lors, il faut le surveiller de près!

Desormais, Nicolas fait parti de la grande famille de l'Église et grandit avec l'aide des graces du baptême. Si cela a pris autant de temps, c'est que son parrain travaille sur un bateau, et on n'avait pas pu trouver une date avant son départ, alors il a fallu attendre son retour. Mais le désir était là (du moins le mien) et il devait avoir certaines graces avant aussi. J'espère.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Gooooooo France!!!

(Pour Dunstan) La France joue contre le Portugal aujourd'hui. Je n'ai rien contre le Portugal bien sur, mais voyez vous, certains de mes (très lointains) ancêtres viennent de la Normandie, alors, evidemment, j'encourage la France aujourd'hui.

My heart will not stand much more of this...

We went to some friends' house yesterday to swim in their pool. It suddenly started to rain with thunder and lightening, so we rushed to bring all the towels and everything in the house so they wouldn't get all wet. Once everything was in, I closed the gate to the pool, not seeing anyone in it, and went inside myself.

After awhile, my friend wondered where Jean-Alexandre was. I looked around, didn't see him, then saw the door to the bathroom was closed, so I said "Probably in the bathroom." and we didn't think about it until about 5-10 minutes later, when he still hadn't come out. Then I noticed that the door to the bathroom was not actually closed, but slightly ajar, and there was no light in it. So, really curious now, as to where he was, and if he had gone home alone or (horrible thought) had hit his head in the pool and was still in there... I got up, and went outside.

I still could not see anyone in the pool, but went closer for a better look. That is when I saw Jean-Alexandre slowly gliding, motionless in the bottom of the pool.

My first thought was "It's too late!" It had probably been 5 or 10 minutes by now, but I knew I had to get him out of there anyway. I fumbled with the gate to get it open, stubbing my toe in the process and was about to shve through it and jump in the pool, when suddenly Jean-Alexandre kicked out to move forward again.

My heart returned to it's regular place and I waited for Jean-Alexandre to surface. He had been swimming all this time in the pool, mostly underwater, and hiding behind a big blown-up whale. Which is why we never noticed someone was still in the pool!

Monday, July 03, 2006


This Sunday July 9, Nicolas will be baptised in St-Athanase church, (I say church and not parish because the parish now consists of three churches united together) at 2:30 Eastern Canadian/U.S. time. (Je ne sais pas quelle heure ce sera en France) So I just want to invite you to be with us spiritually at that time. Oh and before that as well, as I rush to get the baptism outfit sewn, the walls painted, the things put back in place, the reception planned, the kids off to soccer, and whatever else needs to be done. Might I add that healthy meals have not been on the program for awhile now? Hmmm.