Mim meets Montreal: there’s no place like home

Episode 17: In which Mim hangs her hat here

“Home” is a strange word. For one, it doesn’t even translate to French. “Chez moi” and “chez toi” aren’t quite the same as home. Secondly, it means different things for everyone. I used to think that home is where family is, where there’s a safe landing nest. But with half my family and friends on opposite sides of Australia, this definition doesn’t suffice.

I’ve also been thinking, when does it come time to call a place home? Is it when you receive paperwork to confirm your stay? Stability is definitely a criteria. Is it when you’re able to walk into your favourite local café without ordering a coffee and the baristas serve you the “regular” anyway? Familiarity is another, especially when you befriend the staff.

Mim and her barista friends at Cafe Rico, where everyone knows her name. Photo by Orlenda Quentanilla.

Perhaps it’s when you’ve learnt the city’s colloquial swear words or when you start to complain about the convoluted route of the 51 bus. Maybe it’s when you know to buy your fruit and vegetables from Jean-Talon Market and your packaged goods from P.A. Supermarket. Sharing the natives’ frustrations and also knowing the domestic secrets to an economical way of life may offer reason.

When I went to a friend’s family abode in Dollard, a suburb deep in the outskirts of Montreal, I realised how much I’d missed dinner. Dinner, as in: a sit-down dining experience with real food cooked with love rather than the peanut-butter-on-toast sentimentality of a full-time student. Never underestimate the value of a home-cooked meal. I left the house with two things: the feeling that I could go into hibernation and a hoard of winter gear. When my friend’s mom looked at me with the concerned “I hope she’ll survive the winter” look that I’d become accustomed to, I knew that a sense of support is also another part of feeling a sense of belonging.

I asked my friends and they told me what home means to them. It’s the place where you brush your teeth most. It’s defined by the food. Montreal has bagels and poutine, why be anywhere else? It’s where you feel most comfortable and where you “hang your hat.” One told me that home is a package deal; it’s a collection of memories. I think I can safely say that the best way to summarise all our definitions is to simply say, “home is where the heart is.” Montreal, you’ve stolen mine.

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