Atwater Market, in Montreal, where I met my first husband
By Caitlin Kelly
My mother was 17 — a headstrong American beauty freshly graduated from her prep school. My father was then 23, a handsome sailor from Vancouver painting in the south of France, supported by his father.
They met, bien sur!, in a little village on the Cote d’Azur at a party and that was that. My mother, desperate to flee life with her wealthy mother who kept marrying and divorcing (six times, maybe eight?), returned to New York City and married my father at the enormous Romanesque Park Avenue cathedral of St. Bartholomew. I used to walk past it on the way to one of my Manhattan journalism jobs, aware it was partially responsible for my even being in New York.
They moved back to Vancouver — a provincial backwater in the early 50s — but they had fun: he opened an art gallery and she modeled. They moved to London for three years after I was born; (he made films for the BBC) then to Toronto, finally divorcing there, where I grew up.
I wanted to get to New York and I also wanted to marry, but I couldn’t quite imagine how either of those things would happen. I couldn’t picture a Canadian man willing and legally able to move to New York.
Living in Montreal in the 1980s, working as a reporter for the Montreal Gazette, I met my first husband — also a party guest at my housewarming. He was an American from New Jersey, in his final year of medical school at McGill.
We spent seven years together in New Hampshire and New York; I followed him to the U.S. in 1988, legally able to do so thanks to my mother’s citizenship.
My mother and I basically switched lives — I to live in a town 25 miles north of her birthplace, New York City, and she living 25 miles north of Vancouver, my birthplace.
I also longed to better understand the American side of my family, which included a rancher, an ambassador, a bullfighter and an archeologist, and the drive and ambition that led my paternal great-grandfather to develop a Chicago landmark, still there, the North American Building. Thanks to him, I knew the names of downtown Chicago streets as well as those of my native Toronto.
The Met Opera. New York City. I do love the elegance!
My mother, politically liberal, was much happier in Canada than in the sharp-elbowed U.S. Without a college degree, she also couldn’t compete effectively for good jobs; luckily for her, she inherited enough money she never had to.
Jose, my second/current husband, and I met in the year 2000 — when I wrote a story for a women’s magazine about a then new trend called on-line dating; my profile placed on aol.com drew 200+ replies from around the world but he lived within the desired radius of 35 miles.
We were wondering the other day how our lives would have turned out had we never met, which seems happily unimaginable to us now, all these years later.
What if he’d gone back to Denver, a city he loved?
What if I’d returned after my divorce to Canada or to France?
Northern Ontario, a landscape I love and miss
I’m always intrigued by people who move very far from their homes for love.
It is a huge leap of faith — as getting divorced in another country can be really expensive and lonely and confusing.
It seems normal in our circles, peripatetic journalists and photographers. One friend became the “trailing spouse” and follows his wife to every State Department posting. I have a friend in London, recently widowed, who met her American husband while reporting in Israel. A couple we know — he’s French, she’s American — met (of course) while both were were working as journalists in Tokyo.
Have you ever moved a long distance, even to another country, for love?
Did it end happily?