I'm two days into a month-long stay in Montreal, and not sure whether I'm celebrating joy and peace or maybe just seeing the end of days. On the one hand, Montreal at Christmas: piles of snow, tons of good food everywhere, and a great chance to hang out with our daughter Millie. On the other, Covid cases are spiralling out of control, this time hitting very close to home--both Mil and her boyfriend Yanick have been close contacts of someone who has tested positive, and each has a few friends in isolation.
For now, I'm just going to focus on the beauty of the little neighbourhood where I am staying. Not sure quite what I was thinking, booking an airbnb in Outremont for the holidays--my street is populated primarily by Hasidic Jews who of course do not celebrate Christmas. We're not exactly awash in lights and Christmas carollers here. But it's magical nonetheless.
In fact, I feel as if I am in a Norman Rockwell painting, with small children playing busily everywhere. The parents have a great arrangement: they equip their offspring with child-sized snow-shovels, and put them to work. Moms supervise from the porch, and every family seems to have at least two kids between the ages of four and seven assigned to the task.
Every walkway is scrupulously mined for stray snow, which the little people pile into hills that they can then slide down. They're not so good on the putting-away-the-tools bit though.
I'm here for a month, so looking forward to seeing Shabbat and also to getting to know a few of the street children by name. The mom next door has already started to chat with me shyly in the morning about how cold it is, and I am trying to charm the landlord's children by sharing my Christmas baking with them. If we are going to be locked in the apartment for a month, I may as well make some friends.
More about the neighbourhood. We are in what Yanick and Millie assure me is a very typical apartment for this neighbourhood--bedrooms facing on the street, kitchen and bathroom at the back of the apartment, living room and dining room in between--a layout that seems so illogical to me I have to struggle to remember where I am. It's the washroom away from the bedrooms that confuses my feeble mind.
Nevertheless, it's a lovely, well-equipped space. I wake up to street activity and can watch the children start their day from my bed--the little girls taking one bus, the little boys another, the non-Hasidic kids another. The apartment isn't noise-proof, and it sounds exactly like squirrels in the attic when the kids upstairs see the school bus coming down the street and begin a mad scramble to catch it.
The apartment has a big pantry, a laundry alcove, and the most precious little spot off the dining room to write.
Not that I'm doing too much writing, yet. Have been busy with exploring the neighbourhood, hosting Millie and Yanick, and doing Christmassy things like baking cookies and wrapping presents.
Had a long walk today trying to find N95 masks (Home Depot had them, hidden away with the contracting stuff--do they not know that every media article is telling us to buy and wear them?). Googlemaps took me on a great bike trail while I was on this quest, replete with graffiti and sculptures--and sculptures with graffiti.
I hope we aren't totally confined to our apartment for a month, but I will be quite happy here if we are. Every corner here has new and exciting food to explore--bakeries, butchers, fresh produce, chocolate. St. Viateur bagels are a short walk away, excellent croissant even closer. And Ken will be here in two days with our skis!