April 13, 2009

Old friends....

Our dear friend Suzanne visited us today from Kansas City. I made a huge mistake in not getting a photo of and I’ve been kicking myself all day. A few moments ago I decided it was because the visit with Suzanne was as if she had just stopped by the house for an average neighborly lunch. It was as if years had not passed since we saw each other. That’s what I call an old friend – not that we’re old or anything – because we’re not. But with old friends you just pick up where you left off. When you’ve moved around a fair amount like we have, you leave people behind, which is always hard. We’re finding that good friendships always pass the test of time and distance. And this friendship has done just that.

We met Suzanne and Neale when we lived in Overland Park/Kansas City from 1996-1998. This nice couple and their two kids looked like a family of deer in headlights on a Kansas back road as they had just relocated to conservative Kansas from…Montreal.

Over the course of several meals, and several bottles of wine when I wasn't pregnant with Louis and before Suzanne got pregnant with her future American, I learned a lot about life in Canada, and in particular Quebec. Having been raised in a pro-NRA household, and very Republican at that, I learned about conservative issues from a Canadian point of view. I learned about socialized medicine, taxes, Quebec and the French language and more. I learned that women in Quebec don’t change their names when they get married like they do in the U.S. Now I’m one of them and am often confused when I’m called Madam
Schmitz. We have always loved Canada, and Canadians, and little did we know that we would be living in Canada ten years later after meeting Suzanne and Neale.

We have another connection with this Montreal-now Kansas City family. Suzanne and Neale’s oldest daughter has special needs. I watched them in amazement as they dealt with the day-to-day issues of raising this special child…the first days of school, school politics, making friends, doctors and testing, communication and more. I learned about autism,
PDD, NOS, IEP, MR, ASL, ESY, OT, PT, SLP, ABA and other acronyms any parent of a special needs child has heard on a daily basis. Suzanne knew she could always stop by our house and she didn’t need to be on guard. Little did I know that I would be going through many of the same things a year later after Louis was born.

When we found out about the Montreal job opportunity, Suzanne was one of the first people I contacted. What would she do? She had a child with special needs, why did she leave Canada? Are we crazy?

Suzanne was very honest and told me that it would be unlikely to find the same services we had in the U.S. school system. She was also very honest about the medical system and told me to be prepared for some red tape. But she also said it would be a good opportunity for the whole family. I appreciated her honesty and I think of her daily when I get through small things like trying to call the cable company AGAIN to ask them to please send the bills in English not French. Twice, after these neurotic calls with Bell Canada when the polite customer service person has assured me it’s taken care of, my email confirmation has arrived – in FRENCH. While she was here I had her translate an important document too. That was handy. Today she also shared with me some of the hurdles they went through when they moved to the U.S. Simple things that ten years ago probably didn't seem like big things to me. But today it makes so much sense! I was beginning to think Canada was full of paperwork for new residents -- and I was somewhat relieved to hear that it can be just as difficult to move the other way. 

At our lunch today one of the first things she told us is that if anyone was crazy enough to take this assignment, it was us. Some days I know she’s right. We are crazy. Moving to Montreal is not like moving just “to Canada.” Montreal, and Quebec, is very different from the rest of the country. It’s hard to explain in a blog entry – it just is. It was so nice to have Suzanne here, face to face, to confirm that once again. I also realized how wonderful Danielle’s education is here. It was so cool to listen to Danielle talk with Suzanne about the history of Quebec, the education system, the French people and its changes and more. She has learned so much in the six months we have been here.

This evening Paul said "it's really amazing when you think about how our paths have crossed." We're in their country and they are in ours. Although, the Lobo-Maheu family now has dual citizenship, U.S. passports and were more excited than anyone I know to vote in the last election as new citizens. 

So thanks for stopping by
mon ami. Notre porte est toujours ouverte.

Thank God for Google Translate. 

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