You must have seen them peering at you from windowsills graced with lace and from old storefronts on Boulevard St-Laurent. You’ve seen them at the barbershop in Hochelaga and at garage sales in Verdun. You nearly knocked one over at a cool café on Bernard, where it was delicately sitting next to the water jug. In fripperies, they mingle with the vintage dresses and old leather bags, and at the second-hand bookstore they do who knows what.
At your grandma’s house, they sat on the mantelpiece or in the living room vitrine behind glass, where they were to be seen and never to be touched. But you probably secretly touched them, maybe even dropped them, chipped them, broke them and then hid the damage and pretended you had no idea what happened to grandma’s little porcelain cat. You might as well have told her that it packed its bags and moved to Montreal, because this is where they all are: entire legions of miniature animals - cats and dogs, horses and frogs, birds and bears, porcelain or plastic, furry sometimes, and always somewhat stunned and starry-eyed, gracing windows, shelves and coffee tables all across this crazy town. They are the bibelots of Montreal, making the city just a tad more bizarre.
Sometimes, when you walk by them, you stop and stare as you stare into apartments without curtains which you pass by at night. You wonder about their mystery and meaning, the secret of their lives. About the people who possess them and why. The bibelots are silent, but they appeal to your imagination like the black and white photographs you find at a flea market stall. Often, these two go hand in hand. More often than not, they make you laugh – or gasp in surprise: like the really large ones being sold on rue Wellington in Verdun: eagles, beagles, Betty Boop, and all for a hefty price.
Where on earth did they come from? Are they some sentimental French thing or were they deposited by a flying saucer from Mars? Some of them do look like alien species, like that row of snapping plastic crabs displayed in the window of the hair salon on the corner of Duluth and St-Laurent. They make me wanna get my hair cut, just not by a human.
What’s the situation in Toronto and Vancouver? Are there bibelots in Ottawa? Was there an exodus of trinkets from other parts of Canada? Why has this city given them shelter and put them on a pedestal? Whatever the reason: welcome, bibelots, welcome! You add to the city's dated and indefatigable charm.