Mom's Day: Why Did Your Mom Leave Her Parents' Home?

As many of you know, I lost my mother in August last year, and although I would like to dedicate this post to her, I'm still not up to it yet. Instead, I have decided to honour all mothers, starting with my mother-in-law, Imelda, the cherished grandmother of my two children.

Curious about Imelda's arrival in Montreal, I sent her some questions and asked for some pictures from that period of her life. She managed to get all this to me in time for Mother's Day, which she is spending at a watercolour exhibition where she is showing four of her paintings. (Pssst, she even sold one.)

(To help you better imagine Imelda's trip, click on the links for photos of each location.)

Imelda came to Montreal in September of 1958, shortly before her 18th birthday. She climbed into a car with her older sister Denyse, who was going to Montreal to work as a teacher. Also aboard was another young man who lived in the same parish.The second youngest of eight children, Imelda left Saint-Malachie at age 16 for Quebec City, where she found employment with the Bergerons' caring for their three small children, a family with whom she is still friends today.

It was the better wages of the big city that lured Imelda to Montreal. The trip from Quebec City was apparently a long one, as Highway 20 had not yet been built. The three had to travel through all the villages and towns along the way, and presumably the roads of the late fifties had more than a few potholes. However, this didn't slow them down. In fact, I learned that the speed limit was not the 100 km/h (60 mph) that it is today. The speed demons of yesteryear used to travel, in her words facilement or easily, at 160 km/h (100 mph), if not faster.

The three came into Montreal on the Jacques Cartier Bridge at night. Imelda said that she was taken aback by all the lights and buildings. For those of you unfamiliar with Montreal, this route gives perhaps the most spectacular view of the city, particularly at night. For this young country girl far from home, the experience of driving into the city's lights made her feel both overwhelmed and frightened. She immediately questioned her decision to leave Quebec City.

Imelda and Denyse stayed briefly with Denyse's future brother-in-law. Not wanting to impose, Imelda quickly found a job in the want ads, caring for the children of Jeanine Beaubien, an actor and director  of the Île Ste-Hélène theatre. Her employment, however, did not last long, as she found Ms. Beaubien nervous and difficult to work for. She eventually found employment with the Grattons', a very warm and loving family with five children. She even went to Wells, Maine, with them.On the left, you see our bathing beauty on the beach at Wells. Imelda was very fashion conscious and liked to look good when she was out in Montreal. At the time, women wore dresses that were fitted at the waist, long full skirts that fell below the knee and extremely uncomfortable pumps.

Imelda said that she eventually got used to taking the bus in the city, but always with some trepidation of getting lost on the way to visit her sister each week. My mother-in-law was apprehensive about the future, unsure of what life had in store for her. But then, women were not expected to have ambitions: they were expected to get married and have children, which she did a few years later, and man, am I glad that she did.

Why did your mother leave her parents' home? For a husband? A job? Or her sanity?

PS, Wells is also my favourite family vacation destination.

Happy Mother's Day to mothers everywhere!


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