A trip back to my roots.

     I recently had to go back to my hometown of Stanbridge East, Quebec, to deal with some family matters, and to replace a lost passport. Don't ask me why, but I decided to document the trip and some of my observations.

(Day 1) Saturday:
     Headed out from home about 11:00AM, in perfect weather under a coudless sky. The traffic through northern New Jersey and Southern New York was about what might be expected. However, north of Albany, traffic began to thin out drastically. By the time I hit central New York, there was almost no traffic at all. Between about 1:00PM and 3:00PM, it reached the point where it was vaguely eerie, only the occasional car passing in the opposite direction on the divided highway, and nothing visible ahead of me or behind me on my side of the highway. On the other hand, the lack of traffic made for a relaxing (and fast) trip, and it let me observe the landscape more than I might have otherwise. Finally made it to the Canadian border at Lacolle, Quebec, at about 4:00PM. It's only about an hour from there to my family's place near Stanbridge East, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

(Day 2) Sunday:
     The earlier part of the day spent at my parent's new home, just outside the village. I walk around the property with my mother, while my father goes to church. Lunch is had at the nearby village of Freligsburg, after a little trip around the area to see some of the changes since last I was home. That last visit was while we were auctioning off the remaining items from my grandparent's farm, after they moved into the village. The farmhouse got sold to some people from Montreal, and I finally got to see what they've done with the place. What a joke. They took a somewhat ramshackle 1830 fieldstone farmhouse, and turned it into a post-modern pseudo-antique monstrosity. Fools and thier money. The village of Freligsburgh has changed as well over the years, like much of the rest of the townships. The most obvious change is that many of the older homes have been sold and renovated, and fortunately, most of them haven't been destroyed like my grandparent's home. Sunday is traditionally when my whole family gathers for supper, and today is no exception. My parents, three children, two spouses, and four grandchildren gather for my mother's homemade spaghetti dinner.

(Day 3) Monday:
     A fairly quiet morning again (my parents are retired). I walk the three miles to and from the village that my parents have taken to as thier exercise. It's striking how quiet it is here, with little traffic, and not as much farm-noise these days. While it's unseasonably warm, the wind is cold, and it blows fairly hard across the fields. After lunch, it's time for another long trip, and one of the reasons I came up here. We drive up to one of the villages further east, to place my grandfather in a special-care facility. In his late seventies, he's slowly losing the battle to Alzhiemers. I spend the trip chatting with my aunt and uncle, and reflecting on the changes in the landscape. Outside Cowansville, where I went to high-school, a dairy-farm I remember passing countless times throughout my youth, now sports a herd of wapiti (elk), which I'm told has become common in the area.

(Day 4) Tuesday:
     The second reason I've come up; going into Montreal to do the paperwork nessecary to replace my lost passport. The trip in reveals that this part of the landscape appears to have changed very little over the intervening years. The flatlands just to the west of Montreal, have always consisted mostly of very large farms. Silos spear up over the open fields, indicating the locations of farms, interspersed with occasional villages; clusters of houses huddled around intersections of the many long, straight roads, a church the only landmark, all with names like Saint Ignace, Saint Andre and Saint Sabine. We get treated to an odd weather pattern, along the way. Scattered masses of clouds in the clear sky look like rain, but as we pass under them, we're pelted by relatively intense blizzards of snow, and it looks like this is the case for almost all of the cloudbanks in the area. It's not cold enough, and otherwise to sunny for the snow to stay, so as the storms pass, they simply leave the ground wet. I've never actually experienced this before, not even while I was living here. I don't really see much of Montreal, going straight up the Decarie Expressway (the "Trench") to Cavendish and then along Cote Vertu to the passport office. I'm actually curious about the city, since I lived there for quite some number of years. I sort of regret not having the time to visit friends in the city proper, but unfortunately, I have to many comittments at home in the Townships. Next time, I promise. The return trip is the same, in reverse, except that by then the sun has dropped enough that some of the snow is "sticking", as they say, the grass frosted white in places. Supper is sausages, french-fries and beer, in Freligsburg again. I love Quebecois french-fries. They're bad for me, I'm sure, but they taste so good.

(Days 6 through 9):
     Not a lot different going on. Visits to and from family members, mostly. It's been a number of years since I've been up from the States, and most of my family haven't seen me except for infrequent visits, and my wedding five years ago. There's been a lot of tumult in my family while I've been away, of which I am forced to admit, I do not regret missing. There isn't much travel involved, admittedly. All of my direct relatives live within an hours drive, and most live in or near the village of Stanbridge. I'm told that one of my aunts on my father's side will be moving to Moncton, New Brunswick, shortly. That seems to be a common theme with my relatives, moving to another province for whatever reason, then moving back after a few years.
     Oddly, the town of Bedford, a scant two miles away, seems to be faring much worse than Stanbridge. Of course, Bedford was a much more industrially-based city all along, and with tough times, it has had less to fall back on. Far easier to turn a quaint little farm-village into someting of a tourist attraction than to do the same with a failing factory town. A strange sort of god fortune, but you count your blessings, regardless of where they come from. Caught in a struggle between deciding to become a prosperous-looking modern town, or a quaint rural town, Bedford has done neither

(Day 10) Tuesday:
     The last full day here in Canada. The greater part of the day is again spent with the trip into Montreal to pick up my new passport. The weather here is reminding me of one o fthe reasons i left: steely grey skies all day, cold and windy. It's very depressing, and it only amplifies the strange sadness inside me at seeing this place that both is and is not my home anymore. Unfortunately, time and finances haven't allowed me to buy the camera I was thinking of getting, to add photos here. I have some other potographs from previous trips and other times, that I may add.

(Day 11) Wednesday;
     The morning is cold and grey again. After breakfast, morning libations, and packing the truck, I say goodbye to my mother and father, and my little niece who they're babysitting fr the moring while my sister attends classes in the city. There's some concern as it's been freezing rain all morning, and indeed the stairs and porch are slick with a thin sheet of ice, but the roads turn out to be fine. The roads are also empty at this hour of the morning (nine o'clock). I roll through quiet towns and hamlets to the border, where I'm passed through in a matter of seconds, much to my suprise. There's more traffic on the highway this time, though not a lot, by any means. It's grey and chilly through central New York, and at the higher elevations, as I pass through the mountains, the tops of the hills are shrouded in mist or low clouds. Partway up the hills, the evergreens are frosted white, but I can't tell if it's snow, or ice. Stops at rest-stops along the way reveal it to be cold, but not horribly so (with the proviso that, being from Canada, for me, "really cold" is -30 or there-abouts). The biggest source of amusement is the white Volvo station-wagon that follows me quite literaly for several hours, never too close, but matching me as I pass and switch lanes. Eventually I lose sight when I stop at a rest stop. As I approach Albany, the clouds start to thin and it gets lighter out, until finally the sun breaks through. This is why I moved south in the first place; I'm not al that fond of winter. By the time I hit Jersey, it's warm enough I have to shed my coat. Traffic is of course heavier in Jersey, but I still make about 80 mph until I turn off at Harter and make my way home cross-country. It's a relief, getting home.


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