Marie is Cat‘s mum. That’s right – I’ve reached the age where I’m friends with my friends’ parents, and I love it. Whenever Cat and I are both in Gatineau, I love going to her mum’s house to catch up. These days, Marie and I mostly talk about knitting. In fact, you can go to her blog and see what she’s been working on.
1. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?
Why would anyone write my biography? I think the title would have to be something like Marie’s Lives.
2. Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?
I was born in a small asbestos mining town in Quebec, called Thetford Mines. It is halfway between Quebec City and Sherbrooke, and very close to the Maine border. Thetford was small, and still is, with a population around 26,000. I started going to boarding school in Sherbrooke at age 7, in grade 3, until I finished High School. So I grew up in 2 places…and if we count the family cottages (uncles on both sides of the family, we didn’t have one) on lake Aylmer, half way between the 2 towns, I grew up in 3 places.
The defining influence of growing up in the Eastern Townships, is bi-culturalism. The Anglophone part of the Townships population were descendants of Loyalists during the American Civil war. Villages and towns still have English names: Disraeli, Thetford, Stratford, Kinnear’s Mills are a few examples.
So growing up there was being called a Frog by the anglos, and a «assimilée» by the Francos. Ican discuss the bullying and hatred part of that reality later.
My parents were both half and half. Dad had a pure French-Canadian mother, and an anglo father of British descent. Mom’s father was of French descent, from Normandy, and her Mother was from and Irish family. That’s why I’ve always described myself as 2-quarters/2quarters.
Since the Anglophones were a minority, most of them were bilingual. That was not the case for the Francophones. The situation was pretty much the opposite of the situation in the rest of the province at the time. Now, many Anglo Montrealers are fluently bilingual.
3. Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?
I live in the Outaouais. After CEGEP in Thetford, I wanted to go to a University as far as possible from home. So I came to the University of Ottawa, in September 1970, and got a degree in translation. I stayed on, got a job as a FSL teacher in the federal government. I worked as a federal public servant, in various departments, for 32 (!) years. The Outaouais is my home, now. It is where my children were born and raised.
It also is a bilingual region, my Smith ancestors, those who emigrated here from England, are buried in the Buckingham cemetery. So my roots are here as much as in the Townships.
Working for the federal government, meeting people from all over Canada, traveling across this vast country is a great opportunity. As I child, when I was too young to know what it meant, I said repeatedly: «I am a citizen of the world». The nationalist/separatist debate drove me nuts, and that is part of why I chose Ottawa!
I don’t think I would be as open-minded as I am had I stayed closer to home.
4. What is your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement? My family, the privilege of having and raising 2 wonderful children who have become awesome adults. Everything else pales in comparison.
On a truly personal level, pulling myself out of a burnout with hard spiritual and physical work is an accomplishment. It is also a gift because it brought me to Reiki and to who I’ve become.
5. What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?
Greatest regret? I have no regrets. There are some things that I’d probably do differently if I’d known then what I know now, of course. Regrets are negative energy that pull you back. What many people carry as regrets, I try to learn from and move forward.
Biggest fear? Ok, fears I have a lot of. My father was afraid of everything, and was over-protective of me, his only child. He would not let me do anything on my own and what I ended up learning from that as a child, was that I was incompetent, unable to do anything on my own. I’ve grown out of a lot of that, and some fears have become «discomfort».
What I dread most is the invisibility of old age.
6. What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?
To a young girl/woman struggling with who she is, who she’ll become, I say: You already are a person, important and unique. Be who you are, truly, and you will become an amazing woman. Respect who others are also, and do not judge. Try to understand and learn from everyone that crosses your path. DO NOT tolerate injustice done to you or to others. Speak up for others, ask for help for yourself. (I wish I’d had some guidance like that growing up, trying to fit in, to belong in a polarized Anglo/Franco, High class/low class world).
During the formative teen years, and early 20s, for many, fitting in is a big issue. Many young girls (and boys) haven’t found who they are yet, their style, their likes and dislikes, and become chameleons to fit in a group. The Street gang phenomenon is an extreme example of this. I don’t know what I’d say to a young girl talking to me about her situation. It depends on who she is. I’d probably share some of my experience with her and show her how our teenage experiences shape us, but they do not define us.
I wish all children were brought up by loving and respectful parents who encourage them to discover who they are and guide them to become self-confident, happy and competent persons.
7. What’s next?
Who knows what’s next? I’d have never guessed I’d be who I am now. What’s next is today. I am so grateful for this wonderful life, to be financially stable and comfortable without having to work every day. I hope to travel more, to stay close to my family, to stay healthy. ¸
I am open to life and to what the Universe will send my way. I will continue to grow is what’s next!