…or “je me souviens” – the motto of the province of Quebec.
I looked up the origins of this and found that the architect of the parliament building in Quebec City had the motto carved on the main entrance to the parliament building in 1883, but no one seems to know why. I suppose the beauty of this is that the motto can mean so many different things to different people, but there is absolutely no chance of forgetting it: it appears on car registration plates throughout the province as well as on official buildings and in a floral display at Quebec’s Citadelle.
The Citadelle is home to the Canadian Royal 22nd Regiment, whose motto is also “je me souviens”. Alongside the floral display is a monument to Canadian colleagues who fell in the battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, so the message is clear: in this case, it is the French equivalent of “we will remember them” and perhaps also a warning that atrocities on this scale should not be allowed to happen again.
But for me “je me souviens” has a much more personal meaning. Standing on the Dufferin Terrace in Quebec while my mother took a picture is just about my earliest childhood memory. Looking at that photo again now evokes other memories as well. My sister is wearing a beautiful knitted coat which my grandmother made, and, to this day, I have jumpers which no longer fit me but which I’m reluctant to part with because they are examples of her skill and expertise. The picture was taken at the start of a three month stay in Canada, during which time I rode my first pony. fed chickens, and bought my first pair of sunglasses, all of which I remember well, although not quite as if it was only yesterday.
So I felt emotional when, last week, I stepped onto the Dufferin Terrace once again and took some photos of my own. I’m wondering also what the lasting memories of this holiday will be – difficult to say at this stage, but probably the gorgeous gothic interior of Montreal’s cathedral, the magnificent bear we were fortunate enough to see a few miles outside Quebec City, and organist Olivier Latry’s brilliant performance in Quebec’s Notre Dame.