One of the most random things I love about living in New England is seeing Quebec license plates. The Canadian border, by North American standards, is not that far away. Montreal, one of my favorite cities in the world, is a mere five hour drive from Boston. Thus, it’s not so crazy to see a Quebec license plate driving around Massachusetts.
Quebec plates feature the provincial motto Je me souviens, I remember. I’ve known these words can bring up some prickly feeling in Canada, since they can be thought to reference the country’s linguistic and separatist issues. But as far as mottos go, you have to hand it to them for simplicity. The MA state motto is in Latin* and its English translation is quite clunky:By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.
In Quebec, there is something known as the second motto, which claims the touchy Je me souviens is just the first line in a short poem:
Je me souviens/ Que né sous le lys/Je croîs sous la rose
I remember/ That born under the lily/I grow under the rose
Politics aside, I love seeing Quebec plates because they make me remember my student days at McGill. It was my first experience living in a proper city (Montreal), as opposed to the middle of nowhere (where my parents lived) and the suburbs (where I resided as an exchange student in France). And how I loved that urban life. I loved the density and the life that burst from it. I loved walking everywhere even when it was -30C and the wind blew right in my face. I loved both the quebecois accent and the bilingualism that dominated the city of Montreal. Beautiful, beautiful Montreal. I loved the city’s winding external staircases. And I loved the view of downtown Montreal skyscrapers at night that you saw whenever you walked across campus at night. From the steps of the Arts Building, you could sit and — forget going to class — stare at the wondrous city spread out before you.
Yes, Quebec, I remember, and I remember it all fondly. Despite the winters.
* Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem. Perhaps that would sound poetic to the Romans.