Une Quelle Suprise


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Une Quelle Suprise

First a bit of background:

  • a toque is a knitted cap, usually without a brim

  • in Newfoundland, the birthplace of my parents, the protruding part at the top of a hat is often called a pook

During the fall of 2006 I was granted an Educational Leave (sabbatical). I enrolled in a French Immersion programme in Shippagan, New Brunswick and was living, of course, with a French family. It was total immersion; ie, no English at all, and what a great experience it was.

With Christmas approaching, a group of local artisans were given the opportunity to set up a craft table on the university campus. My classmates and I were encouraged to visit the display if only to dialogue with them. We were happy to do so.

Now I should point out that if I were asked to describe myself, I could, depending on the circumstances, do so in many ways; however, regardless of the circumstances I would say, unequivocally, that I am a toque man. I wear toques and have done so most of my life. Over the years, my mother knit me many toques. I like toques, particularly plain toques. I don’t want tassels, pompoms, ear flaps or a multitude of colours – just a plain, simple toque.

When I spied the knitted goods, I first looked at the socks (my wife likes knitted socks) and I picked out a pair for her. I then looked at the toques but they all had stuff hanging off them or were multi-coloured. There was no plain, pook-less toque. I explained to the toque-knitting lady what I wanted and she offered to knit me one but said that it would be a week or two before it would be ready. She also explained that i would have to drive to her place on Lameque Island to pick it up. I said, “Pas de problème” and gave her the phone number for my host family.

About ten days later my toque was ready. At the university we had a two hour lunch break so I set off for Lameque the following day at noon. I found the home and knocked at the front door. The woman who knit my toque invited me in and presented me with my new hat. As I was trying it on, a man came walking around the corner into the living room. Now, i don’t know what tune was playing in his head but he was humming away and grooving his upper body. He was also taking these short steps and bopping up and down. But what was most striking was the fact that he was only wearing a pair of powder-blue briefs – nothing else. When he saw me he stopped grooving, froze for a few seconds then retreated rather quickly back into the other room. Seeing this as an opportunity to practice my French I turned to the woman and said, “Une grande suprise, une grosse suprise ou une bonne surprise?” With a face so red it could stop traffic she replied, “Une grande suprise.”

I don’t know who he was, he didn’t stick around long enough for introductions to be made. I assume it was the woman’s husband, or her boyfriend or, perhaps, someone who was ready for the fitting of a one-piece, knitted suit. I have no idea.

Perhaps, like me, he simply wanted a toque, but he impressed me as the kind of guy who would want at least a pook with his toque.

************** Merry Christmas folks and Happy Holidays *******************


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