One of my mom’s aunts bought a new Cadillac ever year. It was her way of proving she was a city girl – strong, independent and in charge.
In the summer, she’d drive out to Manitoba from Montreal to visit her sister, my grandmother.
A shiny new Caddy showing up on dusty Red River Valley farm was a sight. My grandmother didn’t drive and she’d look disdainfully out the kitchen window at all that chrome and fins parked under the yard light. She’d never say it, but I knew what she was thinking, “useless for taking the lunch out to the men working in the fields”.
For us kids, it was a glimpse into another world. We’d circle the car like it was alive. From the kitchen we could hear my aunt’s exotic big city French, her sentences punctuated with bursts of laughter. We’d press our faces to the car window, marveling at the sights unseen, the world as viewed from those plush leather seats.
Later my aunt would come out and we’d pile in for a crazy drive down the line roads, windows wide open and the radio turned way up. My aunt would toss her head back and smile her city girl smile, as if to say “you don’t get one of these from shelling peas and canning peaches”.
Though they lived very different lives, when they were together, these two women would positively shine. My aunt was proud of her sister, proud of how she’d left the comforts of a wealthy home in Montreal to be a farm wife. Proud that she’d given birth to 14 children, all of them delivered upstairs in that very farmhouse.
And my grandmother gushed with admiration for her sister, a self-made woman, rich in fact, who was not afraid to spend her money on cars and travel and life. “Look” she’d say, “this is how we live in Montreal, this is what I came from”.
Those summer visits taught me volumes about family, choices, and values. Not in words, but in actions.