The INITIATIVE



 
 
 

A Publication

of

The Franco-American Women's Institute

Volume 2 Number 4


Better to Light a Candle than to curse the darkness



 

Directory

 
 
 

A Medium of One's Own by Kim Chase

"The Awakening" by Connie Magnan-Albrizio

"The Red Shirt on the Line" by Amy Bouchard Morin

"Mattie" by George Hall

"Calico Bush"--a review by Rhea Côté Robbins

DEMERISE LE VASSEUR BRILLANT --MY MÉMÈRE 

by Barbara Ouellette Ouellette

ACADIAN COUSINS by Marie Thérèse Martin

untitled poem by Yvonne Mazerolle

1999 Women of Aroostook Calendar

Ida Roy--Voice of the Valley

I Had A Dream by Ida Roy

CUPBOARDS by Trudy Chambers Price

FOX FUR by Trudy Chambers Price

The Curse of the Purse by Rhea Côté Robbins

Edith Starrett Masse's Work Roles: On the Farm and at Home A Narrative Study of Her Diaries 1942-1945 by Suzette Lalime Davidson

In memory of 

Martha Pellerin Drury 1961-1998

Multicultural Pens:

Route 7 & Timelines by Sandy Olson

KEEPING TO OURSELVES by Patricia Smith Ranzoni

Thoughts, Feelings on Hair Loss by Joyce MacCrae Howe

Departments:

Letters/Lettres

News/Nouvelles

Advertisements/Petites Annonces


 



 




 
 

A Medium of One's Own 

By Kim Chase, Burlington, VT 


 I recently asked a fellow-writer, a man, to critique a short story of mine which had just been published. He told me that it really wasn't a short story at all in that it was lacking the classical elements of a short story. I believe he is right on two counts: one, my story is lacking something and two, it is lacking the elements of classical short fiction. He suggested I reread Chekhov, that master of the short story. The problem is, I don't want to write like Chekhov and I don't want necessarily to incorporate all the elements of a classical short story into what I write. I just want to tell the stories the way I heard them in my mother's kitchen, only I want to write them down.  Virginia Woolf gives me permission to do just that when she writes, in A Room of One's Own, "... we think back through our mothers if we are women. It is useless to go to the great men writers for help, however much one may go to them for pleasure." No offense to Chekhov. I just don't make sense of the universe like that. 
 I learned in an undergraduate course on the short story that if a gun appears at the beginning, by the end of the story, by the classic dénouement, that gun should have gone off. Not only does this principle make use of foreshadowing, but it observes the tradition of leaving out anything that is not absolutely essential to the story.  This technique has been so overused by writers and movie producers that any literature major of average intelligence can guess the ending of a story or movie at the very onset. We have been beaten over the head with the gun on the wall a few too many times. What if there was no gun on the wall at the beginning and one still goes off at the end? What if there is no gun until the bride is walks down the stairs in the house she was born in on the corner of LaFontaine and Main, and her ex- boyfriend shoots her because if he can't have her then, by God, no one else will? What if there is a gun on the wall in the beginning, but it never goes off because the protagonist chooses to end it all in the local tradition by throwing himself over the Limekiln Bridge?
 My favorite writer in the whole world is Grace Paley. If a gun appears on the wall in a Grace Paley story, it is unlikely to go off. It might get taken down and made into a ploughshare or a lamp, but it might just stay there on the wall gathering dust. It might not advance the plot in any classical sense. It might just be part of the clutter that accumulates in our lives despite our best efforts to organize and make sense of it all. As most women are aware, it is a fact of life that clutter and dust gather, events occur and we rarely ever know why. In the tales from my mother's French-Canadian family, you had to really listen to hear the whole story. If you listened long enough and patiently enough, you could almost hear whole lives. Sometimes you had to ask questions, it's true, but mostly you just had to wait and listen. The stories were always related to practical matters. If you stuck something in your ear, you might hear a story about a cousin who put a bean up her nose. ("And would you believe that bean sprouted? It makes perfect sense when you think of it, a moist, dark place like that. It caused her no end of suffering until her mother took her to old Doc Thabeault and he said, 'Tell me something Thérèse. Did you by any chance put a bean up your nose?' She admitted it then, of course, but she could have spared herself a lot of misery if she had told someone in the first place.") If you asked what a certain folksy expression meant, you'd find out about a second cousin who had given birth to twin girls out of wedlock. "Crache dans l'air? That's what mon oncle Maurice said to my mother when his daughter got pregnant." The heroes and villains of my childhood were all the people in my mother's family. I was given to understand that I should learn from both their mistakes and their examples, and I took heed.
 My male colleague told me it troubled him that he didn't like any of the characters in my story. He didn't dislike them either, but he didn't feel he had enough information to care either way. Be patient! I wanted to say. Have a little respect! The people in my family are complicated;  it takes awhile to get to know us. You think you can figure us all out from one short story?
  My critic also told me that my setting, the story itself, was sparse, the plot was short and thin. Well, life itself was sparse back then, during the twenties and thirties when my story takes place, when everyone was working in the mills and women were birthing babies by the dozens. A lot of things were short and thin. You want frills, read a Victorian novel.
 My male critic said he didn't know where or why my characters existed. When Franco women have read this same story, they say, "I could just hear all my aunts talking in the kitchen." I never mentioned a kitchen in my story, but that, of course, is exactly where they were the whole time. Isn't that where we always were? As to why we were there, it was because there was a lot of work to be done, but that didn't stop us from talking. If anything, the work made the talk flow more easily, so we could work it all out. How could we talk if our hands weren't busy? And how would all the work get done if we sat around idly, chatting about nothing?
 Okay, so the whole world is not French and they didn't spend all their time in the kitchen, shelling beans,  mending socks or making tourtière. But most of the important people in my life did, the people from whom I developed my values about living. One of Grace Paley's writing professors once asked her, "When are you going to get off your Jewish dime?" And she said, "It's the only dime I have."  Same goes for me. What she said, only French.
 When I read Grace Paley, I can feel the humidity of her kitchen. I can smell the bean soup she had for supper the night before. If she doesn't tell us where her characters are, it's because she assumes we're smart enough to figure out that they're in the kitchen. Sometimes her stories take place in cars, or bedrooms, or parks and I think one takes place under somebody's porch, but everyone winds up back in the kitchen sooner or later. She doesn't insult us by wrapping it all up neatly in the end (or untying it if you're thinking in French). But the important stuff, the really decisive moments, take place in the kitchen. 
 But that isn't what makes Grace Paley great or what makes me wish she could tell me what's wrong with my stories. What makes Grace Paley wonderful is that she writes just like Grace Paley. She writes like herself, she tells the story like she has unshakable confidence in its relevance and importance. The same way my mother, my grandmother and my aunts told their stories. We can hear the voices in her stories because we've heard them before, we already have a context in which to understand them. Grace Paley's characters speak and think the way we know people, especially women, talk and think. 
  In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf describes the standard of good writing as defined by the male establishment: "It was a sentence that was unsuited for a woman's use. Charlotte Brontë, with all her splendid gift for prose, stumbled and fell with that clumsy weapon in her hands... Jane Austen looked at it and laughed at it and devised a perfectly natural, shapely sentence proper for her own use and never departed from it." I believe Grace Paley has devised a perfectly natural, shapely genre which goes beyond limits of the classic short story as defined by men. She transcends "that clumsy weapon" and wields her sentence like a wooden soup spoon instead. That's what I'm trying to do.
   There is still something wrong with my story and most of the other stories I've tried writing. Needless to say, I won't be going to Chekhov to figure out what it is. I will be going to Grace Paley, not only to learn what I'm doing wrong, but to study what it is she does right. To figure out how she manages to tell the story so well, so naturally that we are let into her kitchen and the kitchens of her characters to witness the accumulation of clutter and dust, and to make of it whatever sense we can. 

 Back to Directory



 
 
1923:  South Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.   Unable to read or write in any language, Charley Marteau remains as resourceful in America as he was in Canada by using his 15-year-old son, Armand, to help him bid on and get city contracts.  They put in curbstones up French Hill; dig cellar holes for Worcester's famous three-decker and double three-decker houses; and, construct the city's first gas station. 

The Awakening 

By Connie Magnan-Albrizio, Windsor, CT 

 Armand Marteau was shoved stumbling forward toward the French-speaking Reo truck salesman who was counting the cash that had just been flipped upon his desk. 
 "We'll be back for more if you treat us good," Poppa said and snapped the elastic band securely around the remaining wad in his fist.   "And teach him to drive."  He then fixed a cold eye on the boy and said, "When you've finished playing, drive it home.  I've got to get back to the site before those lazy workers waste the whole day." 
 As soon as Charley drove off the lot in his horse-drawn wagon, Armand inspected the grand truck from headlights to tailboard, "Nice express body." 
 "Can't do better than a 1923, one-and-a-quarter ton Reo," the salesman boasted.  "Gas tank's set inside under the windshield.  See?" 
 "My uncle taught me to drive Poppa's Tin Lizzie in Canada." 
 "This is different," the man said as he hoisted himself up onto the seat behind the wheel.  "Watch my feet.  The left pedal has a ratchet under it.  Half way down is the clutch.  All the way is the brake.  The second smaller pedal also has ratchets but it's the emergency brake." 
 "That's to keep it from rolling when you're not in it, right?" 
 "Something like that.  This third pedal is the gas accelerator." 
 After a half-hour of stopping, starting, moving forward and of backing up, the salesman swapped sides with Armand who had no trouble at all with the combination clutch and brake pedals. 
 "Watch that heavy foot." 
 "This is even better than driving team." 
 "We've been rolling along city streets long enough," the salesman said, flicking open the cover of his pocket watch.  "I've got to get back" 
 The boy eased the truck to a gentle stop in the dealership yard.  "I betcha if we had loose eggs on the dash they wouldn't have rolled a bit." 
 The Reo salesman laughed and nodded.  Before he slipped out of the cab, he shook the boy's hand.  "It's all yours, kid.  Good luck." 

 Cruising slowly home with his cap tipped to the back of his head, and his elbow resting on the turned-down window space, Armand hoped to see someone he knew.  No luck until  he pulled into Burns Court and stopped in front of the house, then, everyone from each of the four houses in the Court ran out to ooh and aah over the wonders of the Reo. 

 Later that same week, at the supper table, Poppa announced,  "I've sold the Grays to the Walker Ice Company.  No contractor worth his title uses teams.  We've got a car, too.  Horses are a thing of the past." 
 "You just bought a truck, why do you need a car?"  Marie-Anne whispered to Armand, riveting him with angry eyes. 
 "Not just a car," Armand whispered back indignantly.  "It's a 4-cylinder Overland touring car.  We need it to go estimate different jobs evenings after work." 
 "Poppa can't even drive." 
 Armand snickered behind his napkin.  "You should see him try.  He can't stop if there isn't a curb to bounce off, or a tree to snag.  It's only been two days, and our fender has more pock marks to be pounded out than anything I've ever seen." 
 Marie-Anne cast an anxious look to her father who was reveling in the adoring looks from Momma and the angry glare from his sister, Aurore, as he flamboyantly described every detail  of his new purchase.  She turned back to Armand and whispered, "You don't see anything.  Ma tante rips seams of old clothes and recuts the best parts into smaller sizes for us.  Momma does the same with Poppa's old jackets and trousers." 
 "You don't have to tell me.  I know.  He buys himself nice clothes and throws the used aside before they show any wear at all.  I've got a couple of make-overs and so does Robert, now shush up before he hears us."  Armand was very much aware of the family's FINANCIAL difficulty.  He had watched the girls carefully unravel old sweaters and socks, balling the strongest wool for new things to be knitted.  He poked Marie-Anne who turned from looking at their father to scowl at him.  "Geez!" he said in disgust.  "I give in most all the money I make.  I keep just a little for gas." 
 "So do we.  But, there's never enough.  You've got to ask Poppa to pitch in.  What does he do with all he makes?" 
 "I guess he pays the men and he gets new cars.  It's good for business." 
 "He doesn't even drive for godsake and you're the one who's going to get into trouble.  You're not sixteen yet.  You haven't got a license." 
 Armand chuckled.  "No matter how hard he tries, he can't get the knack of it.  Everybody scatters whenever he's drunk enough to give it another try.  Instead of mistaking the gas pedal for the brake now, he lifts both feet off the pedals and heads for something to bump into, yelling,  Whoa!  Whoa!  You should see him.  Someday he's gonna pull that steering wheel right off the column." 
 "I don't care, " Marie-Anne said, covering both ears with her hands.  "I don't care.  He spends lots on his precious liquor and on those fancy ladies he's seen around with." 
 "How do you know that?" 
 "Everybody but Momma and ma tante knows it." 
 "Damn him." 
 "Forget that.  We need more money to run this place and you've got to get it for us," she spit out between clenched teeth. 
 It chilled Armand to see the hardness in his sister's face.  He didn't like these changes in her.  They used to be able to laugh together, even during bad times. 
 "Don't stare at me." 
 Armand looked away.  She was right, but he didn't know how to do it.  Money was to Poppa the same as his drink: the more he swigged, the more he needed. 

 "I need ten dollars more a week," Armand announced to his father the next morning on the job. 
 Poppa's eyes popped wide and his eyebrows raised so high they touched the wave that fell onto his forehead, then he nearly bust a gut laughing. 
 "You owe it to me, to us," Armand yelled, facing his father squarely, with clenched fists on hips and legs spread wide. 
 Poppa stopped laughing and fixed his son with that cold look of his.  "I owe nothing to nobody.  Five dollars a week's enough.  Don't bother me with swill," he snarled and jumped into the truck cab. 
 Armand stood rooted. 
 "GET IN!" 
 Armand jumped in behind the wheel. 
 "Shove off.  We've work to do," Poppa said as though they hadn't even talked. 
 "Dirty bum," Armand muttered under his breath and never glanced to see if Poppa had heard him.  They drove to the job site across town and before Armand screeched to a full stop, Poppa swung out, without shutting his door.  "Hey!  Where's the money?" Armand yelled. "Come back here, Poppa!  I'm not making this trip for stone without cash for the load." 
 Poppa stopped, yanked the wad from his pocket and peeled off three one dollar bills.  Armand inched the truck to him.  He stretched his arm across the seat, grabbed the money out of his father's outstretched hand and snapped, "Shut the door." 
 Poppa slammed it so hard, Armand winced.  The boy spun the truck around on screeching wheels and headed for the farms.  They no longer bought expensive stone from the railroad yard.  "That penny-pincher pays fifty cents a load for field stone.  I'll get more from him one way or the other,"  Armand said, gripping the WHEEL.  "I'll squeeze it out of you any old way I can, you crazy old coot." 
 On the way back to the site with a full load, Armand spotted huge rock piles on a construction site.  He pulled in as close as a blasting crew allowed him to.  "Who's  the foreman here?" he asked a worker in English. 
 He was pointed in the direction of a man in a suit, wearing a hard hat like the rest of the men on this job." 
 "What are you doing?" Armand asked. 
 "Cutting through for a water-main.  What are you doing here, kid?  We're not hiring." 
 "I've got a job.  I just want to know what you do with this rock?" 
 "We haul it to the dump every day." 
 "I'll take it off your hands for sixty cents a load." 
 They shook on it.  Armand calculated that until the Water Works job was finished, Marie-Anne had a guarantee of an extra three dollars a day. 

 "God bless you, Armand."  Tears puddled and Momma grabbed both his hands in hers and kissed them.  "God bless you," she said again. 
 "I don't want you spending this seventy-five cents on the house or on food.  Use it any other way you want and you can count on this every week from now on." 
 Momma wiped her wet face with the corner of her apron. 
 It was usually hard to see his mother cry, but on this day, Armand felt at peace with her tears.  He would speak to Willie Beane who owned the speakeasy about doing moving jobs for his customers.  He could handle that on Sundays now that he had the Reo. 

 Poppa had promised the family a new life in this country, but before long he managed to fill twenty-four hours of every day with problems, just as before.  The enemy was no longer Government Agents who interfered with the making of money - because bootlegging and the smuggling of Chinese illegally across the border were left behind on the Canadian side of the line.  His father's new enemy was the swaggering, boastful Irishman who thought he outclassed his Frenchie backyard neighbor. 
 Charley Marteau's French and English mixed-around language, and old man Keenan's thick Irish brogue, sounded like screaming gibberish every time they went at it.  They fought over the property line whenever they caught sight of each other. 
 "You're on my side," old man Keenan yelled. 
 "What you said?"  Poppa hollered back, breaking off long stems of lilac bunches with both hands. 
 "Those belong to me.  Get on your own side." 
 "Shut up!  Maudit enfant d'chienne d'Irlandais." 
 "Get over!  Get over!"  Keenan yelled, wrapping his big arms around a great clump of bush. 
 "I take what's mine, maudit toque,"  Poppa hollered back and grabbed the branches in Keenan's clutch.  Instead of snatching them away, he stumbled and fell backwards from Keenan's unexpected shove.  He scrambled to his feet.  "Maudit  fou!  I dig this.  Me.  Now!  And put in a cloture.  Here!"  Poppa hollered, jerking his forefinger down to where he was standing.  "You good-for-riens-Irlandais."  Poppa snapped his head from side to side to find one of his own and his eye dropped onto eight-year-old Robert.  "GO!" 
 Robert knew instinctively to beat it into the shed for Poppa's shovel. 
 "Call the cops!  Call the cops!"  Keenan yelled as Mrs. Keenan and her children pulled their old man away from the lilac hedge and Evangeline helped Armand pull their father back too. 
 Poppa wrenched free, grabbed the shovel from Robert and threw it at Keenan who ducked and threw him the finger.  Poppa stormed into his own house.  It was almost too late to head out for Sunday afternoon Vespers.  The family was dressed and ready when Poppa had spotted old man Keenan picking lilacs.   Now they waited, praying that Poppa would reach for his new narrow-lapelled, single-breasted pinstriped jacket and derby when he came back in.  Every one of them wanted to get away from the house, late or not. 
 "Here you go," Armand said, holding Poppa's jacket as his father slid in one arm then the next.  "Want us to start ahead?" 
 "We'll go together."  Poppa made a swipe through his hair on each side of his center part before storming out to the porch.  "We'll walk." 
 It was shorter to walk over the railroad trestle bridge on Crystal Street to Illinois Street than to go around three blocks to church in the car.  The children ran ahead, stopping once in awhile to let sputtering Poppa, ashen-faced Momma and pinch-faced ma tante Aurore catch up. 
 Once inside the Church, Armand watched Poppa from the corner of his eye.  His father never paid one minute's attention to the prayers.  He knelt and bowed his head, just as everyone did, while the Priest came to the altar with the Eucharist.  The family sang along with the choir, verses one and two of O Salutaris Hostia.  The priest incensed the sacramental host encased in the golden monstrance, then withdrew to allow a short time for adoration and prayer. 
 Armand who was kneeling beside his father felt him fidget and shift weight from one knee to the other.  To all who could see him, it looked as though he was reciting prayers.  Armand glanced nervously from side to side.  Most folks were so busy whispering their own praises and petitions to God they weren't interested in anybody else.  Thank God. 
 Poppa chanted his own hate-filled litany in a hoarse whisper, with eyes jammed shut and fists balled, shaking his head from side to side..."That damn crazy man.  That damn underhanded good-for-nothing.  That lilac robber.  This is the last straw.  I'll get him good, the sonofabitch Irishman.  He won't tangle with Charley Marteau after this..." 
 Armand squeezed his eyes tight and whispered his own prayers as loudly as he could with the others.  He was afraid God would hear his father.  Finally towards the end of the exposition, the Priest went to the altar, genuflected, gripped the monstrance with both hands and turned to the parishioners for the sacred blessing.  Just then Poppa bolted from the pew and stomped up the long aisle towards the door. 
 Armand was stunned.  He couldn't believe his father had done this sacrilegious thing.  Everybody turned to scowl at the disruption.  Armand threw a quick glance to his left, down the length of the pew.  The whole family was red-faced with heads bowed low and eyes scrunched tight.  He was never more ashamed of his father in his whole life and was scared shoeless of whatever it was that drove him to do such a thing.  Armand didn't dare move out in the Holy Presence of God on the altar. "Please.  Merciful God.  Please forgive him." 
 It seemed forever before the "Blessed be God"  and the "Blessed be His Holy Name's"  were over.  Armand had one knee down and the other leg foot-solid on the floor in the aisle.  As soon as the Host was taken from the monstrance and placed behind the locked door of the Tabernacle, he ran the aisle to the door.  Outside, he jumped down four steps at a time to catch up to his father. 
 When Poppa  had a mad on, it rushed past his Sunday hangovers.  Armand caught sight of his father storming down the cobblestoned hill as he reached the center of the bridge.  The enveloping soot shooting up at him from the whistling train clackety-clacking beneath slowed the boy down.  He had to feel his way to the end of the trestled bridge.  When he finally got home sweaty and panting, Poppa was already digging up the line of bushes. 
 "Get over here.  I want this done before they get back from Vespers." 
 "Geez!  It's just a little bit of ground." 
 "It's ours!  Sink these posts!" 
 Armand didn't feel right about this one bit, but he knew better than to buck his father.  Poppa dug deep and fast.  Armand followed close behind and pushed down the posts, threw gravel and loam into the holes, and stomped on the loose soil until forty posts were sunk and solid, with a three-foot distance between each. 
 "Keenan's Irish Catholic Church is four miles further than ours, and he's too cheap to own a car," Poppa spewed, as he dug feverishly. 
 "So what?"  Armand asked. 
 "Trolley's are slow.  That gives us plenty of time to finish before they get back.  Can't you reason anything out?" 
 Poppa nailed a plank to the posts, parallel to the ground, one foot from the top, and another, one foot from the bottom.  He hammered a rough pine slab dead center.  "You go that way and I'll go this way.  Use a slab to space between.  Keep going to the end, and hurry up.  Two nails top.  Two nails bottom."  When the others drifted into the yard, Poppa yelled, "Pick this up!" as he kicked a clump aside. 
 Marie-Anne ran into the house.  Evangeline and Robert threw the branches into the express body of the Reo truck that Armand had just backed to the spot.  He jumped from the cab to help shovel dirt smooth around the slab fence so the kids could trample back and forth to harden the soil into place.  Poppa threw the shovel and extra wood into the back of the truck with the uprooted bushes and Armand was just about to jump back into the cab when Evangeline pleaded, "Don't throw those lilacs away.  Please, Armand.  We'll never have anymore." 
 "Save what you can on our way to the dump." 
 The children scrambled into the open back to break off long branches while the Reo sped down one street and the next to the dump.  The load was shoveled off in one minute flat.  Armand gunned out of there toward home.  He screech-stopped at their front porch, Evangeline, followed by Jacqueline and Robert jumped off the lowered tailboard and scurried up the porch steps with arms full of fragrant lilacs.  They were stopped by Poppa's yell, "I want everybody out for a Sunday ride.  We have to be gone before that wild Irish bunch gets back." 
 "What if Marie-Anne won't come?"  Evangeline asked timidly. 
 "GET HER!"   Poppa yelled then reached into the cab to hammer down on the horn. 
 Marie-Anne trailed straight-backed, head high, and red-eyed onto the porch behind Momma and ma tante Aurore. 
 "Wait for us here."  Armand hit the clutch, shifted and  Poppa jumped onto the running board of the moving truck as it spun gravel to the ten-car garage strip at the end of the Court.  Armand backed the Reo into the garage.  Poppa jumped from the running board before he came to a stop and rushed to put the tools in their right place.  With three great sweeps he brushed out the remaining twigs and broken flower heads into a rubbish barrel.  He threw a couple of shovels-full of gravel from the driveway on top of that, wanting no evidence of his handy work obvious when Keenan investigated while they were gone. 
 Armand pushed in behind the wheel of their third new vehicle: a Hudson Limousine Poppa had bought as a family car.  It was a beauty, with a window behind the blue velour front seat that slid open or closed with the slightest push on the little handle.  Behind the glass were two separate seats, and behind that was a much longer one, all made with the same matching fabric.  Armand took off as soon as Poppa slammed the passenger side door shut.  The others scrambled in behind when Armand screeched to a stop at the front porch. 
 "Head for the country and drive slowly," Poppa said before he settled in for a snooze.  "Shut that window." 
 Armand reached back and pulled on the window that separated the front seat from the back, but cracked it back a sliver to hear anything important going on in back.  They left the city's paved streets and cruised along country dirt roads the rest of the afternoon and early evening, admiring the open view of fields and trees and cows grazing.  Poppa snored, mouth hanging open.  Armand threw him disgusted looks now and again.  Besides the exhaustion from his vengeful adventure on Keenan, he was pretty hung over after his usual Saturday night out at Willie's speakeasy. 
 Evangeline rapped on the window and whined, "Tell him we're hungry." 
 Robert sobbed,  It's getting dark.  What if we get a blowout?" 
 Poppa slammed the window shut with a jerk, "Head for home." 
 Armand let them off in front of the house and pulled to the end of the Court.  As he whipped around to back the Hudson into its stall, the headlights flooded the fence. 
 "Holy Geez.  Wait till he sees the fence has been ripped down. 
 Armand bolted the garage door and ran to tell him.  Poppa dug like a mad dog and Armand worked at the same pace putting it right back up in the dark.  The next day when they came home from work, it was down again.  Every time they put it up, Keenan either sledge-hammered it to pieces, sawed right through each slab, or backed his married son's jalopy into it. 
 By Saturday of that same week, Charley Marteau was a snorting, roaring bull,  ready to kill.  He yanked men off the job to sink metal cylinders a foot apart across the line.  He filled not only the post holes, but the hollow cylinders with cement.  Keenan wrecked his son's car trying to knock them down.  In a rage, he splashed paint all over but Poppa only laughed at this.  Keenan threw buckets of swill over onto the Marteau side.  Charley dumped a truck load of horse manure over onto Keenan's side. 
 The Marteau family found out real soon that when the supposed head of house had a mad against someone, the whole family had better muster up the same mad against them too, or they'd catch it good.  They watched  the red palm blotch across Marie-Anne's face swell, reduce, then turn purplish green and yellow.  The war went on for three weeks until Robert ran in one day shouting, "They're moving.  I saw them putting stuff into somebody's truck." 
 Poppa was told that night at supper.   After the meal and the recitation of the daily rosary,  he whistled and paced for an hour, back and forth along the fence line. 
 Armand and Marie-Anne were on the porch, talking softly until bedtime.  "How did you get all that extra money?" she asked. 
 "I did.  Isn't that enough?" 
 "No.  I want know how you got the best of him." 
 "It doesn't matter how I did it.  I just want you to remember, I'll do everything I can for you, Momma and the others.  Just let it go now." 
 Marie-Anne sighed, stretched both arms over her head, then dropped her hand onto her brother's shoulder.  A shiver ran through Armand when she said, "Thank God somebody in this house can make him do something for us." 

Back to Directory


 


The Red Shirt on the Line

By Amy Bouchard Morin, Old Town, Maine

 In the history of the Acadians in the St. John Valley, the story is told about whole families coming up the river.  One brother would pick his land to build a home and farm on one side of the river and another brother would pick the other side, neither knowing that at some point the river itself would be declared a border between two countries.  These families traveled back and forth across the river to visit, celebrate holidays, help deliver babies, and all the other reasons that family and friends visit one another.   Once the border was declared, families were geographically divided ? some family members were now Americans and others became Canadians.  Now think about it, does anyone really think that the border made one bit of difference in these families interactions?  In today's vernacular, NOT! 
 My mother was born in 1910, and she grew up on a farm on the St. John River in Lille, Maine.  The farmhouse was originally built as a hotel and had an upstairs and a downstairs open porch. Like most Acadians in The Valley, Mama's family had relatives and friends who lived across the river in Canada.  Mama tells about her father's friend who lived across the river. He would come every year just before Lent and take Mémère's order for fish, and then he would go to Edmundston (a long trip by sleigh) where he would buy the fish for both families.  Also, before he took his fall trip to Edmundston, he would ask Pépère if my mother and her sister needed felt shoes for the winter.  Mama and her sister were the only children in Lille to have these shoes.  They were made of waterproof leather and had a long red felt cuff on top.  They were really warm, and Mama and her sister could play outdoors in the snow for hours on end and not have cold or wet feet.  This friend also made maple sugar in the spring and Mémère always bought two big blocks of maple sugar (shaped like double loaves of bread).  Pépère's favorite treat was some of that maple sugar shaved over Mémère's hot homemade bread spread with her fresh-churned butter.   As I said, Mémère would buy two blocks and immediately start using one of them.  And, she'd hide the other one somewhere in the house.  Then in August or September, when the first block had been long gone, she would bring out the one she had hidden to give Pépère a special surprise treat.  Mama said that Pépère hunted time and again for Mémère's hiding place, and he never found it. 
 There was a general store in Lille, where people could buy just about anything that was needed from clothes to nails, or soup to nuts. Now these people on the Canadian side, whose houses could be seen across the river from Pépère's house, had a long way to go to buy things that they needed from a Canadian store.  As I said above, the trip to Edmundston was not easy in a buckboard and worse in a sleigh.  And, the ride was as long in the other direction to reach St. Leonard.  In bad weather, the trip was next to impossible?no fast cars in those days.  When someone across the river in Canada needed something from the store in the winter, it was much quicker, not to mention easier, to cross the river on the ice than it was to take a horse and sleigh in the freezing cold and the deep snow to the closest big town/city (approximately 15 miles) on the Canadian side of the river.  So, it was a common thing for people to cross the river, walk across Pépère's farmland, and cross the road to reach the store in Lille.  These people did not think of it as smuggling, it was just one way to make their hard lives a little easier.  Every once in a while, the immigration people would come on Pépère's farm and hide in the barn to see if they could catch "Smugglers," since in their eyes it was a logical crossing place.  They never caught anyone there.  You see, my Mémère had a big family and did a lot of laundry, which she hung on a clothesline that could be seen from the other side of the river.  On the days that the agents were in the barn, Mémère had a certain red shirt that was in dire need of washing and, of course, had to be hung on the line facing the river. 
Traverse pas la rivière quand la chemise rouge est sur la ligne. (Don't cross the river when the red shirt is on the line.) 

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MATTIE

By George Hall, Presque Isle, Maine

Published in ECHOES, No. 42*


When I was eight years old I wanted a star in the window.  It was 1941, and my friends who had fathers or brothers in the service displayed blue stars in their windows honoring relatives in the military.  I didn't understand the somber meaning of the gold stars, or why my parents looked so worried when they listened to news about Pearl Harbor.  I knew only that my father was too old and my brother too young to be drafted. The fact that my mother was an airplane spotter didn't cut any ice with my friends. 
 It wasn't until later in the war that I could boast about my mother's sister, Captain Mattie Pinette, the personal and confidential secretary to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe: the man who made the final decision to launch Operation Overlord, code name for the invasion at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. 
 Mattie Pinette was born in 1903 in New Canada Plantation, near Fort Kent, Maine, the fourth oldest in a family of 13 children born to Amelia and Joseph Pinette.  Joseph, a potato farmer and lumberjack, later moved his family to the Guilford area where many of them worked in textile mills.  However, from the age of seven, Mattie was raised by her Uncle Uldrick and Aunt Delia Dumond who ran a general store in Fort Kent.  Mattie grew up with her peers, skating, swimming, and having lawn parties where they danced to Victrola music and talked about boys.  When she was older she worked part time in her uncle's store.  Mattie was educated at the St. Louis Convent school, the model school of Madawaska Training School.  From there, Mattie attended Beals Business College and Gilman Commercial School in Bangor before what she calls "an interesting and exciting 40 years in government service." 
 Now 95, Mattie lives in her own apartment in Washington, D.C. Witness to nearly a century, she has always kept in close touch with her friends and relations in Maine and throughout the world. She has survived a shipwreck and the V-1 and V-2 rockets during World War II, and a Northeast Airlines plane crash at Washington's Friendship Airport in 1961 while returning from Maine. She has naturally slowed down somewhat and lives with assistance, but she would say that there are not many things in life she wanted to do that she has not done, except perhaps do more for her family, friends and country. 
 In 1923, Mattie's first job in Washington was secretary at the Bureau of Weights and Measures.  While there she was asked to transcribe a speech by then Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover.  Although she was the secretary with the least experience, she was the fastest transcriber.  She was flattered, but the job was difficult.  She said, "When it came to Hoover's speech, he mumbled and was very difficult to understand."  In 1929, after many promotions, she transferred to the Bureau of Aeronautics where she remained until joining the WAC (Women's Army Corps) in 1942. 
 The Bureau of Aeronautics was an exciting place for Mattie in a country crazy about flying.  Lundberg had flown the Atlantic solo; Amelia Earhart was famous for extended flights.  Lundberg, Earhart and Eddie Rickenbacker came to the bureau many times to discuss the state of aeronautics or renew their pilot licenses.  The most memorable but unpleasant experience for Mattie while with the bureau was recording the testimony of the surviving witnesses of the Hindenburg Disaster at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937.  The German dirigible's tail section caught fire and fell to the ground tail first while mooring.  Sixty-two of the 97 passengers escaped uninjured.  Mattie couldn't forget for a long time the stench of the burned bodies which lingered in the hangars where the dead had initially been placed and where later much of the testimony was taken. 
 When Mattie first went to Washington at the end of the Harding presidency, times were difficult at the home of her natural family.  Although Mattie's salary was very small, she sent home all she could to help her parents, and her brothers and sisters and their families, a practice she has continued to this day.  I cannot remember a Christmas when my family did not receive presents from my aunt.  In later years when I reminded her of how we all looked forward to her presents, she laughed and said that at one time it was becoming quite a burden as the families grew and grew.  "I remember one time I had 52 packages to do up and take to the Post Office," Mattie recalled. "I didn't get my Christmas bill paid until April.  In those days they didn't charge you interest." 
 Mattie was eager to learn and to go on to new experiences.  After Pearl Harbor, the Bureau of Aeronautics was largely taken over by the Army Air Force, and Mattie found herself with a diminished workload and "sitting heavy," as she called it. "I had always had a job where I had to work hard; that's why I liked it," she said.  When she  heard of a Women's Auxiliary Force for the Army she applied, was accepted, and went off to train at Fort Des Moines in Iowa where she graduated as officer third class.  The corps had no ranks or benefits comparable to those for males in the military until 1943, when General George Marshall asked Congress to give military status to the WAC so the women would have prisoner-of-war protection, veterans' hospitalization, and burial benefits to their families.  This bill was signed by President Roosevelt in 1943.  Mattie graduated as a Second Lieutenant in what later became the Women's Army Corps. 
 She did not immediately work for Eisenhower's staff as he was not to be appointed SHAPE [Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe] Commander until after the War in North Africa.  She was initially assigned to Army Air Services in Washington as liaison officer between WAC Headquarters and Air Services to survey which Air Force jobs could be filled by women.  After six weeks, she and four other WAC officers were selected as the best to represent the corps to be sent overseas: first for a short orientation in London, then off to Algiers in North Africa where the five Wacs were assigned to various headquarters working to defeat German Field Marshal Rommel's forces in North Africa. 
 From Scotland, the five women began their transport to Algiers on the British troop ship, the Strathalan, the largest ship in a convoy of 40.  About 70 miles from the Port of Oran, the Strathalan was hit by a German torpedo.  The Wacs, British nurses and combat troops were eventually all picked up.  Mattie and another of the women spent 10 hours in a lifeboat before being taken to the port of Oran where they were reunited with the other three Wacs and then flown by B-17 to their assignments in Algiers where Mattie was assigned to General McClure. 
 During this time Mattie and the four other officers were ordered to Casablanca to work at the ANFA or Casablanca Conference.  They were told to report at a certain time prepared to be away from headquarters for approximately two weeks and to pack sufficient clothes.  The last order struck the Wacs funny for they had lost all their kit at sea with the exception of what they were wearing at the time.  As Mattie said, "An order is an order so we made no comment about our lack of clothes."  In a later interview, Alene Drezmal, another of the five, told of the thoughtfulness of Chief of Staff George Marshall.  He sent his aide to say that he knew the five had lost everything, and if they would give him a list of their needs, he'd send a cable.  Thy needed everything: combs, uniforms, underwear, sanitary napkins.  The order was sent and soon everything arrived, all the clothes in correct sizes. 
 At the Conference, Roosevelt, Churchill, General Marshall and their staffs thrashed out several political and military problems.  The most important question to be decided by the Allies was the future conduct of war after the Germans were defeated in North Africa.  Each day all the minutes of the meetings were dictated to the secretaries, typed up and printed, ready for the next day's meetings.  Mattie said she often would work until 2 a.m. and still report for duty the next morning. "You know, you don't feel tired.  You're so imbued with the importance of what you're doing and the necessity that it be done, it isn't until it's all over that you finally collapse."  Although the Wacs sometimes worked 18 hours a day, Mattie remembers an evening when President Roosevelt invited the women to dinner.  The President was interested that Mattie came from Maine because of his summer place in Campobollo. Mattie remarked to me that after Winston Churchill arrived, he and Roosevelt were in friendly competition: "One would tell something interesting and funny and the other would feel he had to top it." 
 After the Casablanca Conference Eisenhower was made Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, and he asked Mattie to become his personal and confidential secretary.  After some preliminary tests taking Eisenhower's dictation and testing her knowledge of other protocols, Mattie was flown to his new headquarters in Bushy Park, London.  Mattie's fluency in French was one reason she was selected, in addition to her experience and efficiency as a secretary.  General de Gaulle and many other allied officers and their aides were often at headquarters to confer with Eisenhower about Overlord.  She worked for Eisenhower at London and at Field Headquarters in Portsmouth, England, and later on the continent.  She transcribed many of the cables back and forth to Washington and sometimes accompanied the General on his visits to the troops throughout England who were training for the assault at Normandy.  She was there when other American, English and British generals such as Patton, Bradley, Montgomery, and Alexander came to meet with Eisenhower. 
 In the summer of 1944, after the beachhead in Europe had been firmly established, General Eisenhower moved his headquarters to an apple orchard just outside Normandy.  Because he would be in the field most of the time, he assigned Mattie to General John Lewis who General Marshall had appointed head of the SHAEFE mission to France after the liberation of Paris on November 3, 1944.  She was destined to be a great help to General Lewis because of her contacts with Eisenhower's headquarters and, again, her fluency in French.  This general had come straight from Washington and had no established network. "I knew everybody," Mattie recalled. "Of course he (Lewis) came direct from the States so whenever he needed information I knew where to go." 
 Mattie served in Paris for 18 months and witnessed the surrender of the German forces to the Allies at Rheims the day before the announcement of  V-E day.  She and three other WAC officers who first went overseas together hosted a pre-signing party for the Allied representatives.  She flew back to Paris for the celebrations on May 8, 1945, V-E Day. 
 Before leaving the service, Mattie worked with Ambassador Grady on a report to the United Nations regarding the proposed state of Israel. In January 1946, while still in uniform, she was assigned as Military Administrative Assistant to Ambassador Grady, head of the Allied mission to oversee the Greek elections. 
 After resigning from active duty in 1946, Mattie accepted a position with the new Atomic Energy Commission as Chief of the Employee Development Branch, recruiting scientists, engineers and administrative specialists.  She received her master's degree from George Washington University while pursuing her career and later became extremely active in the national and international Association of University Women.  She raised money for several scholarships for women students from the U.S. and overseas.  She retired from the A.E.C. in 1964, but remained active, traveling extensively for the AAUW as well as for her own pleasure. 
 Mattie has been the recipient of many awards:  the Bronze Star, the Croix de Guerre and the Army commendation medal.  She is both humble and proud of her roots and of having been chosen one of two Outstanding Alumnae by the University of Maine at Fort Kent in 1970. 
 She is one of two surviving children of Joseph and Amelia Pinette. A younger sister Aurore, is an Ursiline nun. 
 A reporter from the Bangor Daily News, who interviewed Mattie in 1946 while she was home on terminal leave, wrote: "She attributes her important assignments to luck.  In reality, they were a recognition of efficiency in the Nth degree.  She is the perfect business executive, keen, alert and highly intelligent, yet with it all a woman gracious, kindly and considerate." 
 That's ma tante Mattie: my star in the window. 

George Hall is professor emeritus of English from the University of Maine at Presque Isle.  Although his roots are in western Maine, he and his wife Carol-Ann have resided in Aroostook County for the last 28 years.


*ECHOES has published the journal of Maj. Mattie A. Pinette of Fort Kent, Maine

A Normandy Journal:  Day by day with Eisenhower's secretary by Mattie Pinette, ECHOES, No. 42

&

A Normandy Journal Part II:  Day by day with Eisenhower's secretary by Mattie Pinette, ECHOES, No. 43

with a third segment to follow in No. 44 of ECHOES.

ECHOES has published the journal of Maj. Mattie A. Pinette of Fort Kent, Maine in the Nos. 42 & 43 issues.  Back issues, $5. 

To order this important text of Franco-American women's witings:

ECHOES

PO Box 626

Caribou, Maine  04736

or call

207-498-8564 


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Calico Bush, Read It Again For The First Time--Ever

A Review by Rhea Côté Robbins, Brewer, Maine

Calico Bush, Rachel Field 1894-1942,  A Yearling Newberry Book, 1931, 1966, $4.99 US/$6.99 CAN 

 Calico Bush by Rachel Field is a book that I recently discovered.  Although classified as juvenile fiction, and first published in 1931, I find it as refreshing a read as if published yesterday--one which fits all ages.  There is a timelessness about a story the quality of Calico Bush which transcends time and genre classification.  Field, the first woman ever to be awarded the Newberry Medal, won it for her book, Hitty, The First Hundred Years.  Field would spend four months of the year on Sutton Island off the coast of Maine. 
 Calico Bush is a story of Marguerite Ledoux, a 1743 French immigrant to the New World.  On the ocean voyage, Oncle Pierre, with whom she was traveling along with Grandmère, died due to a disease he contracted aboard ship along with several others.  The captain of the ship put off his passengers at Marblehead, Ma. because he feared the spread of the disease.  Marguerite and Grandmère, bound for New France, were left on a strange shore with only the clothes on their backs and very little money.  Soon Grandmère also took ill and died while at the Poor Farm.  French-speaking Marguerite was all alone in the New World, and so she was bound-out to an English-speaking family who were soon to leave for an island off the coast of Maine somewhere near Mount Desert Island. 
 The story, historical fiction for juveniles, relays with accuracy and sensitivity the relationship between Marguerite and the family to whom she is bound-out in regard to relations between the French and the English.  Field, according to a 1942 Horn Book published in her memory, "touches on feelings not frequently dealt with in a book for girls."  Given the publication date of 1931, and the issues upon which Field writes in this book, looking in retrospect from the vantage point of diversity, multiculturalism and other enlightened views, Calico Bush is a phenomenon.  Field was a woman writing about subject matter as language and cultural differences long before it was considered important as an issue. 
 Calico Bush also presents the intersection of cultures with the Native Americans of the land.  With delft pen, Field sympathizes, and accurately portrays the way in which some of the new settlers successfully attain a compromise with the Natives.  The turning point in the book is when Marguerite, lonely for her culture, language and customs, goes out into the woods by herself and has an encounter with a passing Native American.  Later in the book, this encounter proves to be the deed which spares the entire family. 
 Field writes deeply and in an enlightened manner about the nuances of the cultures, and the subsequent conflicts between the cultures as well as the Maine coastal landscape.  More importantly, she writes a story of a girl's bravery in facing the adversities of being a pioneer off the Maine coast.  She offers to the reader, in both French and English, the essences of the rituals of each culture, alongside the takeover of the land which belonged to the Natives, with a sensitivity to all peoples involved in this struggle of New World settlers and Natives.  She writes for her audience of young people, particularly adolescent girls in a way that inspires a strong coming-of-age story for young girls. 
 I recommend this book as pleasure and classroom reading for young people, their parents, and teachers if one is interested in a story particular to Maine--the coast, the cultures intermingling, and a strong, rare insight into the pioneering story for women and girls.  This book is one I wish I had known about in my adolescent years because of the attention it gives to the girl Marguerite, a French girl, in a land that is strange and foreign to her which eventually becomes her home. 

Rhea Cote Robbins is the author of Wednesday's Child, the 1997 winner of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Award for creative nonfiction.

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Mémère Michaud
I can still see
You sitting
In your swivel rocker
Next to the kitchen window
Knitting des pichous
Glancing outside occasionally -
It seems just like yesterday
Yet it's been a couple decades
Since I
And others last saw you
Weearing tht simple cotton dress
White sweater 
On your shoulders
Hair silver and thinning.
Sometimes you were so quiet
But your presence 
Warmed the home
As it did our hearts and souls.
I can still hear your laughter
Bouncing off the walls
Eyes sparkling and dancing
As I stood in the kitchen,
A rotten apple plastered on my forehead -
Thanks to an ungrateful cousin
Insulted 
By my laughter
When he fell over with a fence post
He had been perched on.
The story is still recounted 
At family gatherings to this day -
Including the imitation of my French accent
That's OK
Because then I can see you again.
 

Yvonne Mazerolle

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Calendar Honors County Role Models

By Paul J. Gough Staff Writer, Presque Isle Star Herald, September 16 1998

 PRESQUE ISLE - Twelve women selected as role models in Aroostook County were honored Saturday at the kickoff party for the 1999 Women of Aroostook Calendar. 
 The calendar, which is published by the Maine Center for Women, Work and Community, celebrates women who make an important contribution to life in Aroostook County. The 1999 edition marks the third year the calendar has been published.
 The kickoff party, held Saturday afternoon at the Aroostook Centre Mall, drew past and present honorees, staff and board members of the local Center for Women
Work and community, and shoppers who stopped by the center's celebration cake and exhibit on a cool and rainy day. 
 The Maine Centers for Women, Work and Community was established 20 years ago as a nonprofit agency to help displaced homemakers. Two of the 15 centers statewide are located Aroostook County, one in Presque Isle and another in Houlton. Another site Is being considered for northern Aroostook County, although outreach work is being done in the valley from the Presque Isle office. 
 Marie Wilcox, who leads the centers' efforts in Aroostook County, said the organization is now serving more than displaced homemakers, women who are forced to return to the work force after death or divorce.
 "We find the profile is changing," she said. Many women served are younger and need retraining, Wilcox said. The agency helped more than 100 women in the last year, although that doesn't count drop-ins or people who attended mini-workshops on basic life skills and career exploration the agency sponsors.
 The organization focuses on the economic empowerment of women with counseling, employment training, life-skills development, leadership training and workshops and individual help that help women start their own businesses. "We help women to build confidence and skills to improve the quality of their lives or get into the work force or both," Wilcox said. All services are free. 
 Calendar sales are the center's only fund-raiser, said Suzanne Senechal-Jandreau of the center's Presque Isle office. Nominations for the next calendar -- 2000 -- will be gathered this fall and a committee will select the 12 women in the spring. So as the center honored its new Women of Aroostook and began to sell the 1999 calendar, it was getting ready to start the process all over again. 
 Jandreau said the women honored for 1999 and in years past aren't necessarily high-powered career women. Among those honored are a woman who celebrates French culture in song and a 90-year-old woman who struggled to raise 10 children as well as children's advocates and an education professor.
 "We recognize the homemaker and other role models in the community, not just in academic and business" circles, she said.
 Agnes Porter of Caribou, whose love of gardening can be seen throughout the city, said she was honored to be one of 1999's Women of Aroostook. She carries a message of
wellness and discipline, telling people to strive for their dreams despite hardship. "If I can do it, you can do it," she said.
The other 1999 Women of Aroostook are:
 Ruth Anderson of Fort Fairfield, who retired this year after 26 years as a professor and administrator at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
 Ida Roy of St. Agatha, whose efforts have kept Acadian music alive in northern Maine.
 Edna Jandreau Hartley of Caribou, whose 90 years the selection committee showed courage and strength of character.
 Dawn Degenhardt, who began the Maine Adoption Placement Service in 1977.
 Darylen Cote, coordinator of education services for Health 1st.
 Natalia Bragg, whose most recent accomplishments include a tourist-information booklet and World Wide Web site for the Washburn region and promotion of the Aroostook County Herbal Trail.
 Frances Banks, a church leader and driving force behind the establishment of the emergency food pantry in Mars Hill.
 Marcella Belanger Violette, the first St. John Valley woman to earn a doctorate and an advocate for the preservation of the French language.
 Leoria St. Peter, a foster mother to many children and an enthusiastic supporter of the community.
 Geraldine Chasse, founder of the Madawaska Historical Society and an expert on local history and folklore. 
 Susan Lougee, a physical education teacher in Presque Isle and an energetic volunteer for community activities like serving on the board of directors of the Opportunity Training Center and coaching for the Special Olympics.

To order a calendar ($10 donation) call:
207-764-0050
or write 
Presque Isle Center for Women, Work, and Community
33 Edgemont Drive
Presque Isle, Maine  04769

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DEMERISE LE VASSEUR BRILLANT 

MY MÉMÈRE 

 

By Barbara Ouellette Ouellette, Old Town, ME

 Do I remember her soft, sweet voice?  No.  Do I remember her gentle touch as she held me close?  No.  Do I remember her face? Only from photographs.  What could a five-year-old remember so clearly as if it were only yesterday?  the love of a Mémère, that's what. 
 Mémère has been gone for forty-three years, but her presence has remained with me every day.  Mémère was born Demerise LeVasseur in Caribou on June 7, 1893, she died on February 1, 1955 of a heart attack brought on by high blood pressure, and a life of hard work.  The strong love of a Mémère is why I'm sure that I remember her so clearly. 
 Mémère's parents died when she was a young child.  She was the youngest daughter of five children.  When her parents died, she and her younger brother, Dinis went to live with a woman in Augusta, who later became her Aunt by marriage.  This woman was not a kind or gentle woman.  She expected Mémère and her brother to work very hard.  They were required to do housework, laundry, and whatever else the woman wanted of them.  There were no carefree childhood days for Mémère.   At the tender age of eight she was sent to be one of the mill girls.  She worked in the Augusta cotton mill standing on a wooden box because she was so small she couldn't reach the machinery. Both she and her brother were sent to do this child labor.  Maman said that Mémère used to say to her "I worked from six to six for 25 cents a day."  I'm sure that Mémère never saw a cent of that money. 
 Mémère met the man who was to become my Pépère at the house where she lived.  They got married when Mémère was 18 years old.  They married in July of 1911.  Pépère, who had also worked in the cotton mill, had been working in the woods, and living in Old Town when they married, so Mémère moved to Old Town.  Pépère's father had moved there a few years prior, so they had family there.  Mémère and Pépère had three children.  The first child was born in 1912.  A son named Romeo.  Romeo died of pneumonia at the age of two.  My Maman was born in May 1915, named Marie Meledore, she was the apple of her parent's eye, and remained that way until their death.  They had another daughter named Eva, born in January 1920.  This was the family they had, which was small for the times. 
 When Maman was a baby, Mémère used to take her to Augusta every fall.  They would stay with Mémère's sister, Sophie, through the winter.  Mémère would work in the cotton mills, while her sister watched Maman.  Pépère worked in the woods all winter, this was the reason Mémère did this.  After Maman turned five and started school this practice did not continue.  By this time Pépère had acquired a job at the Chapman Foundry in Old Town, and no longer worked in the woods. 
 This did not stop my little Mémère from working.  She continued to work extremely hard by taking in laundry.  At the time she was doing this they had bought a house on French Island which was not finished, so Mémère had to go to the river to get her water to do the laundry.  She toiled until the day she died. She never turned anyone away that needed anything. There were several members of Pépère's family that needed a place to stay, and they knew that Demerise would put them up.  She was a kind and generous person, always giving of herself and what little she had, because she knew what it was like to go without. 
  That is what I remember most about my Memeri, her kind heart.  I remember standing at the edge of her vegetable garden as she was looking through the cucumber patch.  I would spot cucumbers that were probably two or three inches long, and would ask for one.  She would say in French, because she spoke very little English, though she could speak English.   "It's too small Chère," and my reply would always be, "pleeeeeaaaaase," and she would give in. 

 When my parents got married, Pépère converted the upstairs in his home into an apartment for them, so we lived on the second floor of my grandparents' home.  My Mémère was always up and down those stairs, and so were we.  There wasn't an inside stairway, but an outside one.  I don't remember this, but Maman tells me that every winter Mémère would come upstairs with all her poultices to ward off any wintertime illness that we might catch.  Maman said that we were always so sick during the winter, but when Mémère died we weren't nearly as sick.  This was most likely Mémère's way of keeping us healthy, since she had lost her only son, I'm sure she was not going to take any chances with her grandchildren. 
 Not only did Mémère leave me her love, and the feeling of being special, she also left me with many skills.  Skills and talents that my Maman has passed on to me, unknowingly, but nonetheless passed on.  Out of all the traditions and skills carried down, I am the one of three granddaughters who has kept up the needlework.  At times I think I was born with a needle in my hand.  Though life is busy and seems to get busier as I get older, I still take the time to sit and do needlework.  I put the needle away for a few years when I first got married, but then we got reacquainted.  I remember going out and buying embroidery threads again, and the thrill that came over me when I started purchasing all the different colors.  When I get ready to start a new project (I have several going at the same time) I feel like a kid in a candy store.  Putting everything together I need for whatever new piece I'm starting: the fabric, the different colored embroidery threads.  It is a feeling that can't be explained very well on a piece of paper.  I often wonder if Mémère felt that way as she chose colors, cut her patterns, started the stitching of her quilts, and watched as the pattern emerged as she worked along.  These are questions I can no longer ask her.  I would like to think she too felt that way.  A work of love, is what I call it.  She also had several projects going at the same time.  When she died there was a quilt that wasn't completed, my Pépère had the ladies on French Island finish the quilt, and gave it to my oldest sister.  My Maman and I are replicating that quilt today. 
 Working in the flower garden is another work of love that Mémère did and my Maman, at the age of 83, still does.  Half my front yard is perennials.  I also have huge flower boxes that my husband made for me, just loaded with flowers.  Springtime has always been my favorite time of the year.  There's nothing like watching the green sprout out of the ground.  Every year it's a thrill to watch the plants come up and lift their little faces to the sky and blossom. 
 Mothers' day has become a traditional flower shopping day for Maman and my sisters'.  Guess who comes home with the most flowers?  It's like my needlework, it makes me feel so good to see all the different colors, and watch them grow over the summertime.  Again, I wonder if Mémère had those same feelings. Mémère also had a huge garden full of gladiolus, I remember because Pépère continued to keep this garden going long after Mémère died.  It was one way for him to keep her memory alive. 
 So, from Mémère and Maman I received the talents and love of stitching, and flowers.  Today, I still stand on the side of that same vegetable garden and look for the cucumbers, and beg my Maman for the first one.  She always gives it to me!  Traditions, skills, talents, and the love of a Mémère continues on and on and on and.....

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Ida Roy...the Voice of the Valley

Taken from Happenings, Maine Daughter's Regent's Desk

(Ida is a member of the Maine State Circle Daughters of Isabella, Evangeline Circle #464)

While growing up in a farm in St. Agatha, Ida could be heard singing through her daily chores. And although the little girl won honors for her rendition American melodies, it was the French songs she loved best and her love of Acadian music has become a lifelong passion to keep this musical art form alive.

Singing has always been a mainstay of lda's experience. From the long evenings of family singing in the old farmhouse to her annual solo performance at the Maine Festival, she has shared her gift with grateful listeners throughout the St. John Valley and throughout Maine.

Many of the songs that Ida sings have been passed down from parent to child for generations. Ida credits her own father for sparking her passion for singing. The songs she sings tell us about history of the Acadian culture, about the journey of the Acadians from France, the trials, hardships, and joys of a vibrant and imaginative people.

With the assistance of Roger Paradis, Ida has been recording this musical history for the last 26 years so that these songs will be preserved for future generations. She has been featured in Down East for her contributions to the culture of the Acadians.

Ida has dedicated her life to the cultural enrichment of her community. When asked, she is always willing to share her songs with family, friends, and community. To them, she is lovingly known as the "Voice of the Valley."

The following is an expression of lda Roy's gratitude at the May 1997 breakfast, Evangeline Circle #464, Van Buren, Maine. She was selected as Queen for the Year.
 

"I'm Giving Back My Crown Today"

By Ida Roy

Let me be your souvenir of heart today'
Dear Daughter's of Charity--Friendship!
Your Friendships means alot to me'
We can go hand and hand sharing together.

Dear Daughters of Isabella, you are the most
beautiful of all!
The best of my souvenirs.  I was proud to wear
the Crown,
This will be my best souvenir among the years.

We can never grow old!  Because love knows,
That's what becomes of love!!!  Sharing-
Charity and Friendship,
This poem is for you and me.

Our union of Faithfulness, and trust we share,
I will not exchange our St. John Valley!
For those City lights, that I have to choose
What is life without love!  Dear Daughters;

Daughters, let's give a hand and walk with thee'
Let's make what they ask of you, Charity-Sharing
and Friendship,
This will be my souvenir to you among the years.
Dear Daughters.

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I Had A Dream:

Did you ever dreamed of receiving a letter from heaven? 
and specially from your mother 
I did!!! 
I will tell you all about it;

One Saturday after-noon feeling like taking a nap; I laid
down on the couch, like any other day very comfortable, I
went to sleep.

About an hour later, I dreamed that our Carrier came in and 
handed me a letter with no stamp on it the envelope was 
thick and sound like there was money in it;

At the time my thought was, that my mother had something
to tell me. I was happy anxious to read what my mother 
wanted to tell me.  Just as I straightened my arm to take 
the letter that my mail Carrier handed me.

I woke up with my arm in the same position of in my dream. 
But there was no letter; Just as I sat, the telephone rang; 
It was one of my friends "Just a minute I said!  the mail 
Carrier just passed and I saw him put a white envelope in
my mailbox."

I was anxious to see what he brought me. I said to my friend, 
I'll call you back and I hung up the phone.

I opened the door and straightened my arm to take my mail
from the mailbox.
Imagine what I received a letter without stamps. The letter 
was thick Just like in my dream. I thought  GEE When I 
Opened the envelope l3 Virgin Mary medals, and 12 Membership 
cards that I had ordered and had paid for, I had forgotten
about it.

This was ordered before the holidays, from a Lady here in 
Van BUREN. My thoughts of my mother and Saint Mary in heaven
too.
IT was a good feeling. I know it sounds weird, but my dream 
came true, in this way: right now and then!

It is a true story ! My mother's dead and she must be in 
heaven right: In my dream I knew she was dead;

Maybe my mother wanted to tell me something? Maybe she wanted 
to tell me that she loves me  She never told me that she 
loved me, Now it is something to think about?!!!
I LOVE YOU MOM! YOUR DAUGHTER. I MISS YOU!!
 

Ida Roy , Van Buren, ME

1997

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CUPBOARDS

It's been forty years since he built them, 
so they agree the cupboards need painting. 
They decide on cream color. 
He removes the red push button handles. 
It's a start,

To do it right, the doors need to come off 
and the shelves emptied out, he says. 
It'll be such a mess. 
Let's do it another day, she says. 
Another day comes around, 
but she has other things to do. 
He complains that the doors are hard to open. 
She marvels at all the dishes 
the small cupboards hold.

It's a winter project, he'd rather do it now. 
He could start on the doors, 
but she doesn't want the doors off 
until she's ready to empty the shelves. 
Besides, she's busy sewing a new winter coat.

To do it right, the shelves need painting, too. 
He offers to help take out the dishes. 
She argues there's no place to put them all 
and they'll need washing, 
especially those on the top shelf. 
The set her aunt left her never gets used. 
He wants to get rid of them. 
She couldn't do that - what would her aunt think? 
She's dead!
That Doesn't matter.

He convinces her to set a date 
to start on the cupboards. 
The date comes around, 
but she's not feeling well.
He grumbles each time he opens the doors 
and closes them with a quiet slam. 
Winters come and go,

He dies first, 
so she ties twine loops through the holes 
where the handles had been.
 

Trudy Chambers Price 

2-24-94

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FOX FUR

Two women in furs 
walk in front of us 
as we leave the theatre. 
I take off my mitten 
and reach out, then 
pull back and look around. 
My friend wants to know 
what it's all about.

The little girl in me, I say, 
as I recall sinking my fingers 
into the cool hairs of my city aunt's fur coat 
when she came to visit.
I hugged it and inhaled her perfume 
as I climbed the stairs 
and laid it across the bed.

After Mom and Aunt were safely 
into their tea and conversation, 
I slip away to bury my face into the fur, 
lie beside it and caress each creature. 
I feel the ripples of their backs, 
trace with my fingers the seams 
connecting body to body. 
I stroke the tiny fox feet, 
holding each one, letting it slide 
from my hand.

My cat, Suzie, joins me on the bed. 
She sniffs and steps cautiously, 
making a wide berth around the foxes. 
Then she rolls, stands, shakes 
and rolls some more. 
We lie on top of the fur 
and I hold her close.
 

Trudy Chambers Price 

2-20-93

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The Curse of the Purse

In memory of Rita Lucille St. Germain Côté, March 10, 1919-June 18, 1982

I couldn't find the aspirin in my purse tumbled mess, over-crowded business papers, eye glasses, tampons, pads, notes, sanitary napkin, family photos, licenses to fish or drive and I remembered
 my mother died
  because 
 my father 
  could not
  find
her nitroglycerin tablets 
 buried in her 
 Woman's Life
 Burden.  Her Purse.
A man lost in a woman's landscape
 totally helpless
when faced with the
 quintentially female
  terrain
symbolized by 
  a purse.
When he died
 almost two years
later
I was given
 her pedestrian effects
 such as her daily purse
  A shrine of 
   crumpled tissues
   lipstick kissed
   an old habit of hers
   lint
   the occasional paper clip.

I peered into
  the purse
 coming to terms
 with my mother
 who she was
  scattered
  hurried
  harried
A grocery list
  with numbers
  scribbled
  on the back
 as proof to her old-fashioned
  husband where
 she had spent "his" money
  all added
  neatly
  accurately
numbers at random
 as living and dying
  can be.

I found
  lost in the torn lining
  of her purse
  the tablets of nitroglycerin. 
 

Rhea Côté Robbins

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Continued from Vol. 2 Nos. 2/3

Edith Starrett Masse's Work Roles: On the Farm and at Home A Narrative Study of Her Diaries 1942-1945 

By Suzette Lalime Davidson, El Cerrito, CA

Maine and the Family
The state of Maine covers approximately 33,215 square miles, but has a small current population of slightly over 1,000,000.   Maine is known as "Vacationland" because of the beauty of its natural environment which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year from all over North America.  For the brief summer season of June through September, the economy and the population of Maine expands as the tourist industry supplies the state with most of its income.  The paper, lumber, blueberry, potato, poultry and seafood industries also comprise the Maine economy.  Once the trees change their color, however, and the cold sets in, the tourists have usually gone away.  The winter may come as early as a snowfall on Halloween and stay as late as Easter.  The bitter cold of Northeast winters, the limited growing season, and the unpredictability of weather in all seasons, contribute to the way Maine people have made their living.
Prior to the post-World War II tourist trade, which became more prominent with the creation of the Maine highway system, the economy was more heavily based on the agricultural and timber industries.  Maine water ways, such as the Kennebec River, were the first transportation systems for shipping goods and running  lumber.  The rivers became the sources of power for the textile and lumber industries in the early 1800s, which attracted immigrants from many places who were seeking employment.  The Maine railroads, built in the 1840s , connected Maine and Canada.  They transported paper and raw materials to ports in the southern part of the state, as well as making a connection to other New England Railroad lines. 
The ethnic make-up of Maine consists of Native Americans of the Abnaki nations, part of the Algonkian Community, which include the Pasamaquoddy, Penobscot, and Micmac tribes.   Three of the seven Abanki tribes living in the area of Vassalboro prior to the Europeans' permanent settlements were the Kennebees, or Kinaibik, the Sachadehos and the Norridgewocks.   Anglo-Americans settled on the southern coastal regions of Maine in the 1600s.  In 1740, German immigrants came to the Sheepscot proprietary colony to farm and make iron.   In the 1830s, Irish immigrants from Boston came north to work in the mills in the town of Lewiston .   Swedish immigrants, who settled in the northeast sections of Aroostoock county, arrived in the 1870s and 1880s.  Immigrants from Russian, Italy, Poland, Bulgaria and Norway came to Maine between the 1880s and the end of World War I.   Nearly a third of the total population of Maine, however, are French-Americans who migrated in two waves.   First, in the seventeenth century, immigrants from Brittany settled in North America, in a region called Acadia.   In 1755, when they were banished from that region of Canada by the British because "they refused to bear arms against Frenchmen,"   they settled in northern Maine along the St. John River Valley.
The second wave of immigration occurred with the advent of US industrialization in the nineteenth century.  Many  "land-poor" French Canadians came to the United States seeking work in the textile and lumber mills.  In this tradition, my great-grandfather Louis Zepherin Masse  came to Maine from Becancour at Trois Rivieres, Quebec, following his brothers.   He met my great-grandmother, Edith Starrett,  whose paternal ancestry was Scottish and English and whose family had lived in Maine for at least three generations.  Both Edith's parents and her grandparents had lived in Kennebec county. 
Kennebec County, and the river of the same name, were named after one of the Abnaki tribes.   It is in the mid-western region of the state and contains the capital, Augusta, and the town of Waterville.  The development of the region's diverse economy placed Edith and her family in a unique setting.  The industrialization of the Kennebec River region brought water-powered mills and the establishment of two post-secondary schools in the town of Waterville. 
The paper mills, owned by both in-state and out-of -state interests, were thriving operations by the 1860s.  The Maine textile industry was hard hit during the depression of 1873  and many immigrants, who had come to Maine to find work, returned to Canada.  Many who stayed formed the large French sections of town in both Waterville and Augusta.  The region supports two colleges in the town of Waterville,  Colby College and Thomas Business College, and a branch of the University of Maine in Augusta.  Kennebec county also depends upon the seasonal tourist trade.  There are many lakes, including the China Lakes and the Belgrade Lakes, which draw tourists and local vacationers.  The economy in Kennebec County includes industrialized settlements, which support post-secondary schools, a region of lakes which attract the seasonal tourist trade, and a sparsely populated farm region of small towns.
Vassalboro, which is equidistant between two larger towns of Augusta, and Waterville, is made up of two villages, the "East" and the "North."  The region connecting the two villages is know just as "Vassalboro."  The North is the site of a textile mill, which was built in 1841 by John Lang.   The mill attracted many Irish, English, and Canadian immigrants to the town in the 1880s.   It changed hands many times until it's permanent closure in 1955.  The East borders the China Lakes region, a popular spot for local fishermen and visiting tourists.  At the time of Edith's diary, Vassalboro's economy had been changing from a predominantly farming community to one which was more dependent upon the area's industrial resources.  A century earlier Vassalboro had supported a number of family farms, as well as the new industrial mills.  As farming technology became more advanced, and crop production became more competitive, Vassalboro residents were relying upon different jobs.
In 1914 Louis Z. had purchased the lumber mill just beyond the center of the village of East Vassalboro; he had built a mill in the town of Weeks Mills and was seeking "greater water power" to expand his business.   Louis Z. managed the small lumber mill, and established the Water District on the China Lake stream.  Across the road from the mill, he built a home for Edith and their children.  During the 1930s, a dam was built behind the elementary school near the boat landing on China Lake.   Louis Z. directed the project and the W.P.A. provided six workmen.   The two businesses were sold to his son, Herman Masse, after Louis Z. retired.  Louis Z. also built a "camp" for their family on Three Mile Pond in the China Lakes region.  The camp is a summer cabin with a screened-in porch and one upstairs room, suitable for summer use.  Edith's family spent time there during the warm months.
Edith's house was located within a mile of two of her children's houses.  At the time of her written account, Edith was the grandmother in her family, which is made up of many folk.   Next door to Edith's house was the home of her son, Herman Masse, his wife Ruby Foss Masse, and their children, Kenneth and Marion.  Across the road, which is now Route 32, was the mill Louis Z. built in 1914.  If one crossed over the millstream behind the mill and went up the hill, one would find the home of Edith's eldest daughter, Malvena Robbins and her husband Maurice.  The Masses had two phone lines, one that connected them to the Robbins home and one that was installed by the phone company.  Louis Z. had hooked up the first line before they had a regular phone connection.  It was often used to announce the departure or arrival of members of the family coming to visit or assist with chores at either house. 
Malvena Masse Robbins, her husband Maurice Robbins,  and their four children Louis I.,  Gerald, Wallace and Marjory, lived on a farm on the same road as the Friends Meeting House.  In the town of Windsor, about half an hour away by car, lived Edith's sister Pearle and her family.   Edith's youngest daughter, Agnes Masse Plummer, and her husband John Plummer, lived in Hampden a town in Penobscot county, about an hour and a half drive northeast of Vassalboro.   Edith also had relatives in Athol, Massachusetts, who visited in China, the lakes region, during the summer.  To be continued.

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ACADIAN COUSINS 

By Marie Thérèse Martin, Rumford, ME


The French population of the Rumford area of  the State of Maine is primarily of Acadian extraction and make up the majority of the population of the sister towns of Rumford and Mexico. 
 The Acadians arrived in the towns of Rumford-Mexico between the years of 1890 and 1930.  Most of them came from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  Those from Prince Edward Island came from the north end of the "Island" from such towns as Tignish, Miscouche, and Nail Pond.  From New Brunswick, they arrived from Petticodiac, Rogersville, and Cocayne.  They were primarily from the smaller coastal towns of New Brunswick. Our Acadians left Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick in search of a better life and the turn of the century found New England booming.  In Maine, paper mills and cotton mills were being built on the Maine rivers. Rumford Falls was the site of one of the largest paper mills in the state. Workers for these mills were badly needed.  And so the word got out.  Come to Maine where you can make a decent living.  The exodus became a flood and these early immigrants went back to their homes in PEI and New Brunswick and spread the good news.  They came to Rumford and Mexico and other Maine towns such as Biddeford, Westbrook, Augusta, Waterville and Lewiston, by the thousands. 
 In PEI and New Brunswick there was little money to be had.  They barely survived by farming and fishing.  Families were large and the children often had to leave to find work in St.John and Montreal.  Schools were very poor and few went beyond grade school.  The Acadians had not recovered from the Deportations of 1755 and 1758.  They could not own property or vote prior to 1875, and had been kept in bondage by the English land lords. 
 The Acadians in our area remain close.  During the recent holidays, the women in the photograph, a group of Acadian cousins, gathered to remember the foods and history of their Acadian grandmothers. 

Acadian cousins

 They represent the families of: Martin, Richard, Poirier, Arsenault, Cormier, Daigle, Gaudet, Boudreau, Gallant, Bernard, Chaisson, Breau, and Cyr in their ancestral lines. 
 Traditionally, Acadian foods are served during the holiday season. Acadian women used what was available from their gardens, and with an abundant potato harvest every fall, there was no end to their creative use of the potato.  They also raised their own animals.  Pork was plentiful, so you'll find it used generously in many of their recipes. 
 At this particular gathering, we served various Acadian dishes presented with slight variations, as interpreted by each Acadian grandmother.  The cousins introduced their own grandmother's recipe with an oral description passed down from grandmother, to mother and daughter.  What a wonderful cuisine.  Some call it, soul food! 
 Included in this holiday fare, were: meat pies of all descriptions, rapure ( locally called Chiard ) , a variety of cranberry sauces, date filled cookies, and fudge of all kinds.  Of course, we brought to the table a number of modern day favorites including several molded and fresh salads, and condiments  including molasses and maple syrup.  Since the Acadians are known for having a sweet tooth, every Acadian woman, who has been lucky enough to know her Acadian grandmother, knows what a pleasure it is to taste some of these wonderful sweets.  Our ancestral celebration gathering included filled cookies, many different kinds of fudge, squares apple pie and date squares.  ( a recipe for most of these delights is included in my book ) 
 After dinner, the Acadian cousins, representative of the outstanding women in their lineage, enjoyed a lively discussion remembering their grandmothers and great grandmothers, family joys and tragedies and a sharing of current accomplishments of the new generation of children and grandchildren. 
 I want to share with you today, a recipe from my book, "My Grandmothers' Face" called RAPURE.  We still make this delightful food using my grandmothers' pan.  Somehow it just doesn't quite taste the same without it. Our family has always been touched by the connection that links our Memere and that pan .  These traditional gatherings are a memorial to these dear women who so profoundly influenced our lives. I challenge all of you to start your own generational celebration. 
 " I am a link, You be one, too! " 
 

RECIPE FOR RAPURE

Evangeline

Évangéline Richard Beaudet Knolkemper
Age 80
is the daughter of
Alma Poirier Richard
One of Mother's favorite Acadian specialties is Rapure (Chiard).  Her recipe was her mother's although she adds her own personality to this ageless recipe.

Rapure (Chiard)

Authentic Acadian Recipe

1 peck of fresh potatoes
(grate all of the potatoes except for about 10 small potatoes, cook and mash these 10 potatoes)
1/2 lb. fresh pork cut into small pieces
1/2 lb. salt pork
cook fresh pork and salt pork slowly in cast iron skillet until crispy

To assemble:  Mix grated potatoes and cooked mashed potatoes together adding two eggs and one tablespoon of salt.  Add salt pork and fried pork to potato mixture.  Pour this mixture into a large baking pan 9 x 13.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350 degrees F until done, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  This recipe is best when fresh garden potatoes are used.
 
 

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Multicultural Pens

Route 7 & Timelines

Sandy Olson, Troy, ME

 I saw that deer lying in the brush on the side of the road and I jolted. Her entrails were lying beside her. I dont know whether she died crawling off the road or had been put there by the one who hit her. My immediate reaction was to get pissed off. THAT GUY, the one who hit her and left her. He probably swerved to hit her. Or a bunch of young testosterone filled boys proving their manhood, rammed her laughing and sped off, taking a swig out of a  Budweiser bottle. Was I pissed off.
 I take chances. I never used to take chances.My mother's voice was too loud.: never cross except at the crosswalk or you will die; drive a light color car or you will die; never wear white after Labor day or you will die; stand up straight,or you will die; your hair is in your eyes, how can you see?, your nails, look at your nails...Everything was a crisis, she was fear driven . "I was afraid" she said.  We were going down Rt 7 just like I was when I saw the deer, I was driving, which  throws my mother into a panic, foot through the floor, back braced against the seat, chin tucked down, eyes straight ahead, and she is carrying on a conversation like none of this is going on. She is telling me about when she was teaching; how she always told the kids how important it was to be themselves, to find out what they wanted to do and go after it, And I say, matter of factly,"Well, how come you never said that to me? "I was afraid" , she said.
 So it is not surprising to me that another day on Rt 7,   I woke up from a road reverie, the kind you have when you have driven the same stretch a thousand times or more, to the sound of loud scraping and skidding   from somewhere close beside me. Startled, I look up in time to see a small doe sliding toward me, the loud scraping was her hooves as she braced  on the pavement. I was tired, tired of being in my car and I am barreling down Rt 7 about 60 miles an hour. I am not paying alot of attention until I hear that sound, and in a split second I am focused.on some point in front of me I need to reach fast. I see her and my heart is pounding, my foot is pumping, as I am trying to stop this machine that is not me. My brain is flooded with guilt. Was I going too fast? I saw that deer's eyes, the terror as she stumbled to her knees in desperation. I don't remember ever seeing a deer on her knees like that.I could also see in her eyes that  we were moving ever closer to collision. I am frantic to slow down. And in a second the beast is under control. I dont stop for fear of having her plow into me. She  finally stopped skidding as I moved past her.  In my rear view mirror,she  ran  off the road and into the woods.
 It was one of those moments that I would later doubt had actually happened. Like the time I said I was afraid of men and always flinched when they came at me fast or up from behind.  Like the time I was babysitting for the Jacksons in Bethany Beach and I dropped a bag of groceries and Mr. Jackson screamed at me, coming at me and calling me stupid. Instead of turning around and flipping him the bird, I cowered and cried. His wife later divorced him, the asshole. And so I said to my mother then that I was afraid of men and she is incredulous, and says," Why, he never hit You?" The silence was deafening. I did not say any more. Do you believe that?. I did not ask the question that was absolutely saturating the air: "mom, did he hit you?" What was there in that little glimpse of reality that scared me so much. She never talked directly about him and what he did or did not do, and nerves were already worn thin enough without opening that box by myself.
 So here I was again..So carefully casting a blind eye  to her fear as she sat rigid in my car gripping the door handle while I was driving quite normally down the road,   I was easily convinced by her denials that she was just fine.It was not  happening. My mother was always in control. She told me she was a creative supportive teacher and I knew that was true. I had known kids who had had her for a teacher and she had changed their lives. She had changed mine too but not in the same way. It was  very confusing to me as a child that I had this different person for a mother. Somehow I just never got what she was giving.
 It was on  that day driving down Rt7 that the past started to unravel.  I looked at this scared old woman jammed up against the seat  and I started to wake up. She sat there in my car telling me what a great driver I was. I pointed out that she never let me drive her car. She said it was only that she liked to drive... and where was the truth? I had spent alot of years avoiding the truth. the truth is messy. My father could have hit my mother. My mother was afraid. And maybe, just maybe, I was wrong about the deer.
  Maybe some one was driving along late at night, tired  and in a road reverie like I had been, and  all of the sudden there was  that doe right in front of the car. He or she swerved but clipped the doe. The person stopped and went over to her, helpless and dying in the road,  picked her up and carried her over to the trees, and stayed with  her until she died;  watched her die, sat there after she died and then got back in the car and drove home.
 It's just my imagination, anyway. I  came upon this dead doe beside the road. That's the reality. It affected my day, the encounter.. the doe was well up off the road. It is likely that someone put her there. She was  young , not yet used to the dangers of the road. It was mid- morning when I went by. the accident probably  happened  around dawn when the deer and early commuters start to move around. There is a middle way. My mother and father were young and he was just back from the war in the Pacific without the words to speak  of what he had seen. He was restless and confused and damaged. I've seen my mother, in desperation, hammering my brother when he was drunk until he turned on her in rage, and I have heard her  change around the facts in many a story because she needed to in order to be able to go on. 
Sandy Olson, also a visual artist, is featured at the Davidson & Daughters Contemporary Art gallery, 148 High St., Portland, ME, January 16 to February 13 with an opening reception on January 16th, 5-8 P.M.

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KEEPING TO OURSELVES 

By Patricia Smith Ranzoni, Bucksport, ME

My mother tends boxes and handbags stashed with poems she's written 
since the five of us took all she had to give but those, in fact 
she calls one batch Treasures of a Tote Bag.  Years we've finagled 
to get her to let us help gather them perhaps for a book 
for her.  For us. I begged for her eightieth but she said Not 
now you know I don't  like calling attention to myself I'm 
sorry  mama  you might've been right should've kept mine shut up, 
no who does she think she is  in my cupboards no accusa- 
tions of arrogance from my desk. Hushed up in our bedchamber, 
mute in the stand my side of the stead no easy similes 
in there likening my mothertongued flights to common birds not 
artful enough to know fine seed over gravel as though no 
high-sounding flock needs grit for their crops to work some folded still 
in my from-scratch cooking books and sealed over figures in out- 
dated daybooks and ledgers too good yet to throw out in the 
old way of collecting mementos and scraps. Hand copy one 
now and again to enclose, for loved ones, Ever, who'd take them 
for granted like balsam fir pillows made winters. Keep their blis- 
tering secret-stitched patchwork for relations who know what class 
grains they hold what fragrance this is before them then just for us. 
 
 

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Thoughts, Feelings on Hair Loss 

By Joyce MacCrae Howe 


 I thought I could handle anything after the shock of being diagnosed with breast cancer on May 28, 1998. I also thought, as I was undergoing a bone scan, chest X-ray, ventricular output test, blood tests and finally the surgery, which removed a cancerous lump and associated lymph nodes -- that things could not get any worse. 
 I was wrong. 
 On July 21, 1998 I had my first chemotherapy. I experienced a teeth-clenching nausea for three or four days that Compazine, a nausea-reducing medication, only took the edge off. I felt tired as my blood count dropped. Again I felt things could not get any worse. 
 Again, I was wrong. 
 I knew that I would lose my hair sooner or later -- I just didn't know when. I called my hairdresser (and good friend of 25 years), Lena  and made an appointment to have my hair cut.  I reasoned that shorter hair would be easier to lose.  She helped me select a wig and ordered it that day. I felt better. I thought I was prepared. 
 The day before my second chemotherapy on August 10, 1998, I took my morning shower. As I toweled my hair, it literally came out in my hands. No words can describe how I felt. I was devastated. Although I knew it was going to happen eventually, I was completely unprepared for this. I called Lena again, and saw her that same day. 
 The decision to "save or shave" was made for me, since my hair was already falling out. This was awful.  She took me to another room, where we had absolute privacy and we shaved my head. I could not bear to watch.  I simply closed my eyes and I cried. 
 That was the worst day of my life. Worse than the diagnosis, the biopsy, the waiting for results, the surgery itself or the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs. 
 On December 21, 1998, I had my final chemotherapy session. I have a beautiful, smartly-styled wig, which I am told looks very natural -- not at all "wiggy." But I have not , nor will I ever get used to seeing myself without hair. I have a great support system that includes my husband, children and friends, but they have no idea how traumatic the hair loss has been for me. I am sure a small part of the way I feel is vanity, but it is by far only the smallest part. 
 It is difficult to explain to someone who has not experienced hair loss how I feel. When people say to me, "It's only hair and it will grow back," I want to shout at them and say how I hate it. 
 I guess for me, nothing could have prepared me for losing my hair. I think having a list of people who have experienced hair loss themselves, and who would be willing and comfortable to talk about it would help others immeasurably. I wish that had been available to me. I will place my name first on that list.  Please feel free to call me at 207-989-3589. 

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In Memory of Martha Pellerin Drury

1961-1998


 
Not too long ago I asked her for a song I could teach my students since I was looking around for something different.  She suggested, "Rame, Rame, Rame Donc", a tune she recorded when she was doing "Jeter Le Pont".  When she suggested it and certainly when she recorded it she had no idea --or maybe she did, who am I to say?--what a wonderful prayer and journey song it is for her and all of us as we approach the final celebration of her life.--Tom Luce

Rame Donc 

On est parti tôt ce matin 
Le vent du nord caresse nos mains 
Plus de soucis, loin des rivages 
Il n'y a que rêves et lendemains. 

Il est trop tard pour retourner 
J'entends déja chanter l'été 
Sur l'arc-en-ciel on est monté 
Vers l'océan de l'éternité 

Sourire aux lèves, le coeur léger 
Fini le temps de s'attarder 
Suivons les ailes du goèland 
Dans un élan de liberté 

Après le jour viendra la nuit 
Et les étoiles nous guideront 
Les anges viendront nous rencontrer 
Portant nos coeurs dans l'immensité 

Un soir ils nous verront passer 
Ramons à fond sur les nuées 
Sur l'arc-en-ciel on est monté 
Vers l'océan de l'éternité 

Rame, rame, rame donc 
Le tour du monde, le tour du monde 
Rame, rame, rame donc 
Le tour du monde nous ferons. 
 



 

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