It’s the same thing every year: I take a week off with the girls while you hold down the fort in Montreal. This time of year, it’s peak season in the film and television industry, so taking a break is unthinkable. Still, I hesitate before leaving you because how can I call this a vacation if you’re not there with me?
I would have loved for you to see Kamouraska, Trois-Pistoles and the Bic. Every year, I picture you riding up on your motorcycle and joining us so you can admire the scenery…and watch as our daughters stop fighting when they’re near the river. It’s so strange, it’s like the tide can wash away any trivial fights — the same unnerving ones that fester in the city.
It’s in a little chalet on a riverbank in Fatima that I realize it’s way too hot for you here. You, always hot like a furnace, would never be comfortable in a small room with windows that can’t be opened. You wouldn’t be too thrilled about sharing a tiny bathroom with seven or eight of my family members either. Little by little, I’m becoming more like myself out here. I’m no longer Mitsou Gélinas, but Mitsou Rioux — Rioux being my mother’s maiden name, the one who grew up here. I’ve become more acquainted with my aunts and uncles (my mother is the eldest of 12) and I realize that even though my cousins and I live so far apart, we’re oddly alike. We love to laugh, we have our own cleaning compulsions, we forget the kids’ names, we’re always drawing a blank and we’re all so temperamental when we’re hungry (especially when we’re hungry).
Life is simpler here. The kids make tiny sculptures out of clay and sell them to the neighbours. They made $30! (Our neighbours are so nice!) The little herd takes off in the morning and we don’t see them for the rest of the day. Out here, our hygiene has changed too: the kids shower every 48 hours and I’ve stopped wearing makeup (except when I visit my grandmother, who is so well-groomed). Gradually, the adrenaline dwindles and my finger is off the city’s pulse.
I realize that my life in Montreal is so hectic. Here, the only thing I have to worry about is what’s for lunch, and worst case, we make tomato sandwiches and never talk about it again. I’ve started asking myself if my life is so crazy because of you (or is it thanks to you)? Do you remember the first time we slept together? We were friends then, and we had just kissed (it was hard), but we didn’t sleep that night. The bed was charged with a kind of restless energy, and sometimes I feel like it hasn’t dwindled yet. It’s as if you and I were each the positive and negative charges needed to keep this machine going for 21 years. You were the 220 volts that helped me rise from a state of weariness to a promising (and, at times, exhausting) future. With you, I’ve got the bit between my teeth. And when compared to your discipline and work ethic, what would I look like if I did less? You’ve set the bar so high, my love. And that’s allowed us to become more than we could have ever dreamed of, but taking this break without you has allowed me to see things clearly. I know that I can be a lot too. Whenever you try to relax over the weekend, I force you to clean before you can crash. I know that you get restless on Sunday mornings because everything has slowed down but me. Instead, I’m typing away at six o’clock in the morning because my creative juices are flowing and no one can bother this artist once she’s at it.
As a couple, we’re the sum of our parts. We are devoted to each other and share a common passion for life and its many pleasures. We know each other’s fears and traumas too — you know all of mine just as I do yours. Without you, my life would probably be different. I think about that sometimes. I probably wouldn’t have taken a chance and started a business like we did together. Maybe you wouldn’t have either — you wouldn’t have had the courage to do so if you were on your own. Basically, other than my family, no one has had such a profound impact on me as a person like you have. And you’re the one I wanted to start my own family with too — the family I drive every year to the very shore, where I reacquaint myself with the Rioux that I am.
I’ll be back in a few days, my love, but for now, I’ve stopped my timer and I’m laid out by the side of Chemin des Basques, eating little field strawberries like I did when I was five — the purest essence of my being. This is the person I was when you first met me and then fell in love with me, and I have to find her again so that I can be right there with you as we move forward on our journey.