Saturday, July 08, 2006

I have always been afraid of cities. I'm not sure when the fear developed, or how it progressed, but it was there. Constant. Low Grade.

I would go to Boston, but only under certain circumstances and I always had to be with someone else.

New York? Hah! Scared the shit out of me. I had to be dragged there by a friend the summer I lived in New Canaan, CT. One of the reasons I turned down Columbia for my Masters degree? Yep. I'd have to live in the city for two years. I went and got pregnant instead. That seemed to end the discussion.

Terrance grew up in Detroit. He lived in New York for many years. He attended Howard in D.C. This was a man who thrived in cities. He adored the pace, the options, the People.

Then, he met me. The woman who refused to leave small towns. Small town New England. Because he loved me and wanted me to be happy, he stayed in small New England towns. Towns where there were no street lights. Where we JUST got home mail delivery two years ago. Where there were no people.

He waited. At every career change, my offers got better. Being the big fish in the small pond had it's benefits and I was able to attain access to levels that would have been harder for me to break into, where it not a small New England state. And the baby, I wailed. I want the baby to see Green, to know the country, to grow up on a lake.

And he waited. I got my master's degree. He waited some more. Then, he could wait no more. He had to go. His soul was being crushed. He could not live in this place any longer. I could stay or come with him, but he had to go. Wait, wait, I put him off. Till the end of the school year, until the dance recital was over. Wait just a little bit longer.

While my fear of cities had lessened, it had not disappeared. I would never be happy in a city, I just knew it. I would be lost. I would be afraid. I would be...nobody.

And then we got here. To Montreal. A city.

And I am blooming. As if the very thing I needed was that which I feared the most. The joy that sweeps over me as I walk down the street is so unexpected, so surprising that I am overwhelmed. I explore every day, walking or driving through the streets of Montreal.

In less than a week, I can navigate a good part of the city with ease. I know how to get from place to place. And today? Today, I found a place that made me so happy, I can barely write about it.

Marche Atwater.

See? Look.

I wandered the plant stalls, mesmerized. Blissful.

Then we found the fish shop, and the frommagiere, and the bakery, and the olive oil shop and the wine shop (where they had a young man giving samples out on the sidewalk).

I have become a Montreal shopper, now that I have my official wine bag. For citizens of Montreal buy lots of wine. They carry it in these bags.

Next to the wine, was the bakery, where the smell was Indescribable.

And finally we wandered the fruit and vegetable stalls, looking for tomatoes and avocados for our dinner tonight. For, unlike the country, where your market is 30 minutes away and you stock up for a week at a time, you purchase fresh every day. Because it's there.

Because I'm here.

My fear has evaporated. I can taste the lingering dregs far on the back of my tongue, like slightly burnt coffee. Julie said that my happiness is showing...And it is.

I hope you'll all forgive this giddy, gushing Dawn. She is not one you get to see much of, as the cynical Dawn tends to rule the roost. I have no doubt she will re-merge, as the PhD work comes down in August, and the reality sets in. But for now?

For now you get this Dawn. The one who lingers over her cup of coffee at de la Gare in the morning. The one who wanders the Marche Atwater, sipping honey wine in a small glass. The one who smiles at elderly French Canadian ladies as I carry my bag of wine and holds her daughters hand as we stroll through the flower market.

21 Baleful Regards:

Angel said...

Dawn, you make me want to move to Montreal. The way you describe it is beautiful and the pictures are even better. I live in a small town, and I think I would love to live in a big city, like New York, but only if it was New York like in "You've Got Mail" with her great apartment and store. Love your other blog too!

Jaelithe said...

Oh, I can't read you anymore now that you're happy. Happy is so uncool. I only want to read the bleak mewlings of wretched people whose every word further blemishes my wasted, anemic soul.

In fact, if Canada makes people so happy, I think we should just bomb it. And steal the wine. Stupid happy French-like people.

(BTW, can I please come live with you? Pleeeeease? I'll do your laundry).

Seriously, though: Go Terrance for dragging Dawn into the electric urban light. I am so glad you are having such a wonderful time there! And not getting divorced over the lack of outlets in your bathroom.

Anonymous said...

I love this giddy, gushing Dawn. So nice to see you happy.

I used to be like you about cities. And I don't live in a city now -- just the suburbs -- but I crave the vitality that the city provides, and I make sure to get my "city fix" once a month or so.

Anonymous said...


All the best, Jealous Madge XO

E. said...

You just be your happy, giddy self for as long as you like. I love it. And I'll be happy to hear you crab when you've got something to bitch about. But I am a firm believer in tell-it-like-it-is. Obligatory bitching is as bad as obligatory cheerfulness. Be real. I'm still happy for you. (And I'm eating vicarious pastries through you...)

C said...

I was one of those people who, like you, was terrified to live in a big city. Never wanted to do it. Was dragged kicking and screaming into living and working in downtown Washington, DC four years ago. Guess what? I adored it. I adored it so much that I argued with my husband until I was blue in the face about why we should live downtown instead of in the suburbs when we got married.

I'm so glad that you're happy. It's the best feeling in the world when a change you thought would make you miserable turns out to be fantastic.

Mignon said...

That place looks amazing. It's almost other-wordly incredible. Is that what France is like? Is Terrance okay with it, because it certainly doesn't seem to be Detroit-ish?

Anonymous said...

I agree, hooray for Giddy Dawn! I spent 5 weeks in London, and 5 months in Philadelphia, and I LOVE big cities. I love taking subways, I love being able to walk everywhere, and I definitely love being able to shop every day for FRESH food.

Doesn't Jen from Jen and Tonic live in Montreal? Hmmm...

Lisa said...

Nice to meet you Giddy Dawn. I SO want to go there now. (And I LOVE big cities too!)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, city love snuck up on me, too. I love the hustle and bustle (especially for people-watching), being able to walk to cool places, having lots of variety in cultural offerings and in the types of people I'm likely to meet.

I love Giddy Dawn, too!

Anonymous said...

I am just like you. Scared of big cities. I lived in a big city for years, while I attended college, and I realized then how much of a small-town girl I am. So I love reading about you in Montreal (a city I've only ever been to once, in grade 8, but vividly remember) and hearing Giddy Dawn gush.

Anonymous said...

I can't look at those pics because they make me cry.

You lucky bitch.


Debbie said...

those photos = breathtaking.

and I think that this Dawn is a lovely one. I like the other one a loooootttt, but I'll be perfectly satisfied to come around and run into this one as often as she wants to be here. she sounds sparkly.


Andrea said...

Having grown up in a small Kansas town with little to no visual stimulation, little to do for entertainment (1 movie theater and only a strip mall with a Penney's at one end and a Wal-Mart at the other with little in between) and little to no opportunity, I thought of big cities as glamorous, exciting, and full of stimulation. Now that I live in one, I think the rose colored glasses have come off. Sometimes, I see the seediness beneath, the gritty underlayer that makes them undesirable. Seems parts of the big city are just ugly, infested, and hopeless.

But you have brought the wonder I used to feel back to me, with all your discovery and visually stimulating pictures and glee over fresh bakeries and wine samples. I just may open my eyes a bit and try to rediscover my current home. Thanks for helping me find those rose colored glasses again.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. And it seems we've traded places as I, the bona fide city girl who loves the feel of concrete beneath her feet have now come to a sleepy coastal town. I am having to get used to a much slower pace. Here's to both of us learning and growing in our new environments.

Sugarmama said...

These certainly aren't the images that spring to mind when I think of American cities--is this a Canadian thing? Or just Montreal? Either way, it sounds divine. A nursery and a bakery and a frommagerie all on ONE street...?!

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

I'm a small town girl who desperately wants to find that small town feel in a big city. Montreal seems to have it and your post makes me want to cross the border and move there. Beautiful post!

halloweenlover said...

I love this post! I'm so happy that you're happy! Can I come visit please?

Anonymous said...

Aw, I think this Dawn is fabulous. Hope you love for this city lasts forever.

Anonymous said...

I don't speak France or Canadian but I would come up and drink the honey wine with you.

beautiful pictures.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. I want a wine bag, too.

Am coming to Montreal next month for work. I've never been there. I'm just saying.

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