Bonnet is one of the words that holds a different meaning...

By Olivia Reed

Now that winter weather has presented itself, Christine Dube puts on her bonnet as she steps outside.  Bonnet is one of the words that holds a different meaning through her Franco-American tradition.  Bonnet is defined as a winter hat.  As I interviewed her, I realized there are many different definitions in her life.  Her heritage is important and reveals her entire person, because she is both a product of and a part to her family. 
Her grandparents grew up in the Acadian region of Maine.  Her family is both Catholic and agriculturalists, which amounted to their being many children, aunts, cousins, and grandchildren.  The more children, the more farmhands were available.  While Christine herself was never a farmhand, she has heard years worth of stories about the homestead in Madawaska and her life falls out of this tradition. 
She was raised in Fort Kent, Maine on a lake house.  She later moved to an apartment when her parents divorced.  Both of her parents are native Mainers who still reside in Aroostook County.  Born on March 15, 1975, her life is shaped by her family; digging deeper reveals that she has done her own shaping.  Through her mother, she inherited dual citizenship of both Canada and the United States.  This allowed her to go to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology.  She remained on the Deans List for both Dalhousie and the University of Maine, where she later went to get a second undergraduate degree, this time in Social Work.  She followed her mother's footsteps into the land of "helping people."  Her mother is in the social work field in Fort Kent.  Christine grew up around a community of sharing.  You helped your neighbor with his fields, with his children.  You shared stories, meals, and sometimes relatives.  She grew up poor in a farming community and aspired to reach back out to the people who reached down to pick her up when she was young.  Working at St. Josephs Hospital in Bangor, Maine, she is not as close to home as she thought she would be, but home is within her, felt through her as she talks with me. 
She wears the ring her grandmother gave her, and moves it around her finger as she tells me she named her grandmother.  "Kowie," she says, "I didn't want to call her mamere- so I gave her a new name."  To this day, the first grandchild's imaginary name has remained.  Leonnete still goes by Kowie to this day; it is on her vanity plate of her car, all of her friends use it.  Christine began a new tradition.  Which makes you wonder how traditions begin. 
 Traditions extend many years, yet had to begin with one person, one year, one decision.  Christine cannot remember how the family crest began, but knows that hundreds of years ago someone decided for each last name there would be a family crest.  And surrounding the family crest is a reunion/celebration that happens in the summer for those of Acadian heritage in Maine.  The family crest is decorated and holds the last name in bold lettering.  Each year is dedicated to one last name.  If it is Pelletier, or Dube, Christine goes, to see her relatives.  Many she has never seen or heard of, some she has.  Photos come out; stories are told and swapped.  People come from all of the United States and Canada.  The Acadian heritage has grown throughout the continent.  So, Christine says, " Really, Bangor is not that far from home." 
Every thought seems to tie her back to her childhood, her beginning.  Kowie taught her how to sew, her mother taught her how to cook traditional recipes such as ployes, an Acadian buckwheat pancake.  Trying to separate a person from their beginning is difficult.  Trying to raise Christine out of it to talk about herself is nearly impossible.  So we talk about the past to recreate the future.  A professor once told her, "If you are aware of your past it can create a new future for you."  This is the definition of her life.  Through her awareness and continuation of her heritage she is able to create a life for herself.
Her biggest worries surround money and happiness.  French-Acadians are known for their work ethic.  Christine remembers her last year of college she worked three jobs.  She had fifteen hours of work-study, forty hours at Mr. Paperback, and forty hours at Occupational Health Inc.  At OHI she worked overnights, so she was able to sleep a little there, and do a small amount of homework at Mr. Paperback.  Money is always foremost in her mind because when you grow up with too little, or just barely enough, you remain highly aware and concerned with having enough.  Christine would be a hard worker even if her wellbeing didn't require it.  She grew up with work being a part of life, like playing or eating.  Play doesn't seem as sweet unless offset with the time spent working at something.  She works at St. Joseph's Hospital doing casework for the public that needs her.  Last year at this time she was working as the Director of the Psychology Office in Families United of Ellsworth.  She left there because of the increasingly heavy and unfair workload coupled with a lower salary than St. Joseph's offered.  Christine knows how to stand up for herself and knows that she worked tremendously hard through college in order to give herself a better life.  She is successful in her field because of her independent thinking and ability to work through problems that are presented.  Her heritage gave her these qualities.  She worked with these qualities to evolve into a successful woman in the 21st century. 
Christine is not married, nor does she have children.  She is twenty -eight years old.  Her grandmother had all of her children in her early twenties.  Her mother was done giving birth to three children by the time she was twenty -four years old.  Christine has difficulty with this tradition mainly because of her mother's marital history.  Her mother married and had three children.  She found her husband cheating on her and had her marriage annulled.  She was later allowed to remarry in the Catholic Church to her second husband.  Christine is the oldest child and is still left unsettled by her parent's separation.  She doesn't know what to look for in a male partner because of this.  She has had four live-in boyfriends since she was twenty years old.  She is very demanding in her relationships, yet wants a man to take care of her.  She has not yet found this balance and is unwilling to settle in non-perfect territory.  Through her work she sees broken families, and though she has some distance from these situations, she feels the history behind her and does not want to feel broken personally. 
The heroine is within her.  She maintains life with hope.  She is doing it on her own.  She has risen from what she grew up with to provide for her self and help others within their lives.  She visits home every other month and shares her heritage and history with joy and heartache.  She is covering her maternal instinct with her two dogs, J.J., and Isaac.  She will succeed.

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