The summer of 2017 marked Canada’s 150th birthday, an event worthy of celebration to be sure. For my family, 2017 also marked the 60th anniversary of my parents’ nuptials: 60 years, 6 children, 19 grandchildren, 5 step-grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and 1 step-great-grandchild – now THAT’s something to celebrate!
My family couldn’t be more Canadian if we tried. My parents were both born in rural Manitoba, dad (Michel Legal) in the miniscule town of Ste. Genevieve in 1936 and mom (Angele Jolicoeur) in Labroquerie, an equally small town not far away, in 1940. Both French Canadian and from large farming families (15 kids in the Legal family and 8 in the Jolicoeur tribe), they were raised on love and all that hard work could provide.
I’m not clear on the details of how they met – suffice to say they knew all the same people and although families were large, social circles were small. At a young age, Dad and a few fellows from their social circle moved out West and found themselves work. It wasn’t long before mom and some her friends followed suit. On the 8th of September in 1956, dad proposed and mom accepted and they married on June 15, 1957 (yes, you did the math right – mom was just 17), back in Manitoba where they stayed for the next 10 years. Ten years and five kids later, they packed up and headed West again, settling in B.C. for the ensuing 10 years – lucky for me, as I’m the 6th and last child who had the great fortune of being born in this beautiful Province.
Just before I turned 10, we moved back to Manitoba, this time to a small French town located about 100 kms southwest of Winnipeg. It was an incredible opportunity for me to be able to experience life on the Prairies. Long summer days and endless blue skies, thunderstorms and tornadoes, and in the winter I experienced that infamous 40 below zero weather and the spectacular auorora borealis. I confess I was disappointed to find that I did not have to walk uphill both ways to school as my father had to do in his youth, but in every other respect I thoroughly enjoyed being a Prairie kid. I spent 5 years there, but once my older siblings had left home and it was just me and my parents, we moved back to BC where we’ve been ever since. My two brothers have since moved to BC, and so today 3 siblings live in Metro Vancouver, 2 live in Winnipeg and 1 lives in Montreal.
Notwithstanding their lack of a formal education (they went to school until they knew everything the teacher knew, according to my dad), my parents are two of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known. There’s not a problem in the world they can’t figure out how to solve with determination, patience, respect, and good old elbow grease. Anyone who knows them will tell you this is true. And anyone who ever needed a meal, a bed, a dollar, or even a stern talking-to, will tell you Mike and Angie are the best there is.
My Canadian family grew up in a house filled with music, love, laughter, home-made bread and plenty of strays (dogs, cats, even a horse – but mostly stray people). We spoke both official languages (often at the same time) and switched between the two depending on who the houseguests were and what language they were most comfortable with. We never apologized for going to church every Sunday and we respected those who went to different churches or belonged to no church at all. Respect of self and respect of others was something my parents lived and something we kids never had to be told to do.
Their 60 years together has involved a lot of feeding the hungry (I always say my mom taught Jesus that trick with the fishes and the loaves), counselling the lost, caring for the sick and the lonely be they neighbours or strangers, and working tirelessly at home and in their jobs.
When you ask yourself “What makes Canada so great?”, think of my parents and the millions of other Canadian families who are cut from the same Canadian cloth. We are a nation made up of determined, respectful, intelligent, caring, hard-working people, and we are proud to live in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. Happy 60th Mom and Dad, and Happy 150th Canada!
Jocelyne L – Triovest