Yolande Lono, the mother of one of my oldest friends passed away this week in her 82nd year.
Mrs. Lono was an elegant french Canadian woman transplanted to St. John's with her husband, who moved there from Quebec to establish a roofing business. I don't know what she thought when she first arrived -- particularly since she spoke poor English at first and St. John's was (and remains) an very anglophone city -- but she remained there for the rest of her life and was an active member of the community.
Mrs. Lono and her family were actually instrumental in getting me to think as a young child about what is good about Canada and Newfoundland being a part of it. St. John's in the 1970's was a great place to grow-up (subject to not being a resident at Mnt. Cashell) but it was a very homogeneous city deeply coloured by Newfoundland's anglo-irish culture.
In that setting Mrs. Lono with her french accent, her Franco-Canadian approach to life and her endlessly different and interesting cooking was a hothouse flower. It was fun to be around her place because it was different and interesting (well also because my pal was there). Part of what was interesting about Mrs. Lono was that despite the fact she became very much part of Newfoundland and St. John's she equally remained a part of Quebec. She frequently visited there, maintained her family connections and talked about it. She did not do so with regret or longing in the way that an immigrant to another country or an exile might -- instead it was just another part of her home.
It is telling that two of Mrs. Lono's sons have remained in Newfoundland and another one is returning (indeed may have already returned as I am behind on the news). These sons have contributed richly to St. John's life in turn in many different ways -- including an active involvement in municipal and provincial politics. They too have gone on to have children who have also become part of the fabric of Newfoundland and its people. Thus Mrs. Lono's contribution to her adopted Province carries on.
This I think is the essence of what being inside a diverse country is all about -- one can leave home and experience something different without actually abandoning home. It is fundamentally different psychologically and not just legally to emigrate -- there the cut is more serious, more permanent.
Fare thee well Mrs. Lono -- it has been many years since I have been at your Christmas Eve soirees but I miss them still and think of them and you fondly.