Volume 1 Number 4
Some of the Hottest News in Gardening
The Way It Was
Hunger & Dragon's Tears: 6 Haiku
"Woodstock 69" The Nurses Odyssey
Tickling the Past
UPDATE ON NOS HISTOIRES DE L'ILE (THE FRENCH ISLAND ORAL HISTORY PROJECT)
Child-rearing in the Franco-American Culture
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU ARE A FRANCO-AMÉRICAINE FEMME À LA NATURELLE ?
Poems...SOIREE AND MORE
Comparative Culture Writing
My Grandfather - a memory
Also A review of Wednesday's Child
All Contents are Copyright©Mary LaFleur Wolfe, 1998
SOIREE AND MOREI especially enjoyed the tour I gave myself of your home. Like Deb said, she would kill for a personal space like yours on the third floor. Deb has eagle eyes, she takes in so much. She said to me on the way home, did you see the QUILT??? Her maman's quilt? AAAARRRRRGGGHHHHHH!!!!! I MISSED IT, can you believe I missed that quilt The house was built for a Dr. Wheeler I think of the wife often. after she died, he went bankrupt... presumably from heartbreak. She lives here still. I know it. This house has such a loving spirit. It has been our friend. Like the Giving Tree, if you know the children's story... I have been admiring, enjoying, amazing at the decoration which Ethel made the lovely bottle which is decorated at the neck, has in it pot pourri and a string of white lights which you plug in and then the scent fills the room... I would like to know how to make this... What a party femme I've become! Sunday was really great. I needed that diversion. the Louisians have it all over us... the party attitude... I have one of your kitchen knives. It was on my plate. I truly am not a kleptomaniac.
RIVER CONNECTIONSThe Penobscot flows right by your house, by my house a little upstream and nearby so many femmes houses, The historical source for the salmon in our pies. I too can't be too far from that river, growing up with it right outside my door, and always playing on it. I grew up next to a river too. It was my play place. I spent more hours around the river banks, more than my mama would want to know I grew up near another river, the Androscoggin, and am not terribly nostalgic about that only because of the pollution. You talked about the river outside your door, and that's what I like about living with Bob here. I see eagles, nice sunrises. It's perfect except for the trains and that cussed mill. I never had realized how connected I was to the water until it was gone. I often think that a river is for daily living, while an ocean or lake is for the retreat times of our lives. Maybe our history as a people on the move connects us to rivers who move. It's kind of ironic to be trying to immigrate to the place that cast my family out... I feel like the cat that came back.... over 200 years later. I will even be going home with a franco last name. (more to come..."Responding to Sick Mamans")
"Maman always said I was Saturday's child," my mother said, smoothing the page with the poem opening Rhea's novel, Wednesday's Child. Saturday's child works hard for a living. Like her mother before her, my mother, Lenore Provost Langellier, worked hard for a living, first as an Illinois farmer's wife raising ten children. Then in her 50s, after my father became blind, she got her high school diploma and a year of training to work as a licensed practical nurse until retirement. She still works hard, of course. Humble by nature and Franco-American culture, she says with a laugh that at 77 there's a few things she can't do but she can work circles around people half her age. And that's no joke. Recently, she visited me in Maine, her first trip out since my dad, her husband of 56 years, died last October. We talked about her childhood, and as I listened, I wondered "which child am I?" looking for resemblances not just between her and me but also between the Midwest Franco-American experience and what I've learned through my FAWI femmes about Franco-American women in Maine.
Because it was her birthday, I asked her if she had any parties when she was a little girl. Only one, she replied, shared with her sister Dorene. My mother was born July 31, 1920, the second of seven children and the oldest daughter, to Nelda Bouchard and Lawrence Provost in St. George, Illinois, the name conferred by the Catholic church centering the town. Families were close, and mother described how her mother hosted one dinner after another for relatives throughout the year. The legacy of food and visiting survives today, embodied in the Cousins Club. The cousins of the Club, no boys allowed, are women related through their mothers, the Bouchard sisters. They have been meeting continuously each month since 1961. In the earlier years they rotated among their homes for a meal and card-playing, but more recently they go to a restaurant to eat and then adjourn to a cousin's house for some 500 (a version of euchre), but mostly for fun and talk. My mother and Dorene joined the club about fifteen years ago, when my mother retired from nursing. In the last few years, Aunt Myrtle, the last surviving member of the twelve Bouchard children, joined, sharing family history with her nieces.
My mother doesn't know where either the Bouchards or the Provosts came from in Canada nor exactly how they got to French settlements like St. George, Bourbonnais, St. Anne, in Illinois. But it's certain they were French. As a child, my mother learned her prayers in French, later to be relearned in English. Her parents were bilingual, speaking both languages at home, but reverting animatedly to French whenever they dropped in to see Mémère LeSage in Kankakee. Although opportunities to converse declined, "Maman never lost her French," my mother told me. Wintering in Florida in their later years, her parents met another elderly French couple. Her mother corresponded with this woman, translating her letters aloud for my mother to enjoy. The expression that my mother recalls most vividly is ferme ta bouche, as when Cousin Toni says, "I'm gonna tell you just like my mother told us: 'ferme ta bouche.'" It survives among the grandchildren today, transformed to a private family language and testimony to our roots.
Papa Provost bought a farm near St. George in 1917 or 1918, my mother recalls. Aunt Regina and Uncle Gene Granger lived on the farm one mile north, Aunt Delia and Uncle George Dupuis on the farm one mile south, and the three families "did everything together:" butcherings, barbering, and birthing babies. My mother describes a father who was frugal, shrewd, and hard- working, and the only one to keep his farm during the losses of the Depression. "We just had the necessities," but others in the family "lived higher than us," she commented. Papa predicted, "'they're gonna lose their farms'-- and they did," the last phrase set off, the last word stressed to avoid any mistake about the moral of the story. Family lesson learned and passed on. During the Depression years, the collector appeared at the farm once a year. While Grandma and the children watched from the house (in a scene I imagine from Steinbeck), Papa met him in his car and got in to "do some fast talking," Somehow Papa managed to raise the $800 interest due each year, but it was only at the end of World War II that he paid the farm off, paving the way for a modest prosperity and the purchase of "one farm after another."
The Depression years were difficult, but the family never went hungry. "Maman always canned everything" vegetables, fruit, and meat. The winter activities of butchering and canning meat took days of work, shared by women and men. First came the boudin (blood sausage), later the head cheese (fromage de tte), and last the cracklings rendered from the lard, what my mother calls grattons and what we call creton in Maine, a pork spread for bread. My mother remembers canning tomatoes one long day, Grandma seated, particularly tired with a leg aching from varicose veins, when a jar burst, spilling the steaming tomatoes onto her lap and burning her leg. On another canning day Grandma asked my nine-year-old mother and Dorene to fill the cob basket from the shed to fuel the fire under the processing tomatoes. The little girls decided to count all the cobs in the basket, totally absorbed, their chore forgotten, until Grandma came to find out why her tomatoes weren't cooking. I remember Grandma Provost as an affable but no- nonsense woman with whom my sister Celeste and I spent a week the summers around age ten, when she reprimanded my kitchen floor sweeping. "You're just tickling it," she said, showing me the correct technique, briskly stabbing at the floor with the broom.
When another baby was coming, Papa would go get Aunt Regina in the buggy. Midwife to the family, Aunt Regina came early and stayed a week or more with each birth. No prenatal care in those days, Grandma would simply stop by the doctor's office in Kankakee about a month before to tell him he'd have to come out again. Such was the routine of the birth my mother remembers first and most well. But this baby was breech and "the doctor came too late," my mother cryptically explained, describing how the infant's arms flapped as she suffocated. At school my mother and the siblings saw Papa go by in the buggy, with a little white box in the back, so they suspected the tragedy before they got home. My mother repeats how badly Grandma felt, to lose a "perfectly healthy" baby girl. As was custom, they had the wake at home in the parlor, surrounded by family.
Many of my images of my mother and my grandmother envision them at work, but my mother recalled the fun times, too. The oldest four children, for example, sang with their parents. "We sang in different parts I want you to know," and not just at home but for school and local programs, my mother's "knees rocking" from nervousness. I imagine them as the Von Provost Family Singers. After shelling, a room in the corn crib became a playhouse with large boxes made into a piano. Summer nights when the cousins came over to get their hair cut by Grandpa, all the kids played hide and seek, scampering like squirrels up the crib walls with their bare toes wedged between the slats, laughing and calling in the darkness.
Although there was a Catholic school at St. George parish, the children walked to the one-room country school, taught by Mrs. Beauclaire from Bourbonnais, except on bad days when Grandpa picked up all the kids on the road in his Klondike buggy with the windshield. Catholic education consisted solely of preparation for the sacraments. Still, religion ordered their lives; "we were all one thing," my mother comments, meaning Catholic. Sunday was often the only day they "got out," and the church was the social center with its dances and annual homecomings. As for education, "Papa and Mama didn't believe too much in that," my mother said. All but the youngest two children quit school after eight grade and making the journey to the big courthouse in Kankakee to take the Constitution test. To attend high school, Grandpa would have to drive them over the mud road each day, and "besides they'd hear about little things at the high school and didn't want their kids into any of that." The original home schooling.
So after completing eighth grade, my mother went to work keeping house for a Jewish family in Kankakee, earning five dollars a week. With the first money she earned, she had a telephone installed at home so she could talk from Kankakee with her mother. She also bought her mother other gifts, among them the family's first Christmas tree and a magazine rack she now has inherited. She worked for this family until age 21, when she married my father and they moved to Martinton with Mémère Cyrier and Grandma Langellier for the first two babies. Pregnant with my sister Joan, they moved to what I know as my homeplace, the farm on which we were tenants for the next eight babies and over twenty years. About her large family, my mother says simply, "you know, I loved babies and it never bothered me to have another. We always made room." When others began "limiting their families," as she puts it, "I just didn't do that. I tried it and I always felt guilty. It didn't take with me!"
A couple of years before Dad died, one blustery Christmas vacation, she invited my brother Kevin and me to the cemetery where our brother Craig is buried to see the gravestone she had gotten for him and for her and Dad. It wasn't an outing I'd been particularly looking forward to, but I consented, discerning the importance to her of having things prepared and settled. Their marker is commonplace enough, a low, rectangular gray granite with LANGELLIER carved in the center, Dad's and her names and birth dates below. "It's very nice," I murmured, somewhat miserably. Then she beckoned me behind the gravestone marker and pointed. "What?" I wondered. Inscribed on the back were all our first names, the ten children, five in a column, in order: Lawrence, Dennis, Joan, Craig, Kristin, Celeste, Kevin, Keith, Darryl, Colette. "You don't have to be buried here," she hastened to tell me, "but I just wanted them there." A pause. "One dollar for each letter. Sixty dollars. Not bad."
In her late forties, when my father's eyesight was failing (from macular degeneration) and I was in high school, my mother was in high school, too. She, Dorene, and another woman from the community drove three nights a week to Watseka, and then they took the two days of tests to earn the GED, my mother "so darn nervous" she went blank and didn't pass the first time. When it became clear that my father had to quit farming, she initiated another plan: to become a licensed practical nurse. Although my father was supportive, he "didn't believe I'd really do that." After all, my mother didn't get a driver's license until her forties, and she had never driven the 25 miles to Kankakee alone. Let alone the rigorous program at her age and three children still at home. But she enrolled and began a very demanding year of commuting, studying, and training at several different regional hospitals. "It was a rough year," she understates; and it's from this experience that she always praises my academic degrees and professional achievements. And then, as gracefully as they'd managed the traditional expectations for husband and wife, my mother and father changed roles. My father got the three kids meals and ready for school each day, and at age 52 my mother went to work nights at the hospital, 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., so that she'd be home when the kids got home from school and not miss any evening school programs. My dad always joked about the two dollars cash she'd ask him for each night before starting off, a cheap date.
It was after her night shift several years ago that my husband and I met Mom in Kankakee, and then we all went to Grandma Provost's for breakfast. We had a nourishing farm breakfast, including a helping of Grandma's daily stewed prunes, and then we set off for home and some sleep for my mother. En route we ran into a blinding blizzard, wind blasting snow across flat, black winter fields. In the white out, we drove the car gently into the ditch of a slight valley and stuck firmly. Abandoning the car, we linked arms to stay together against the fierce wind and driving snow and slowly made our way to the nearest farmhouse where we called for a tow truck. Remarkably, it came, but the lack of visibility made a rescue of the car too dangerous, and so we returned to Kankakee in the tow truck.
Not too long after seeing us off, Grandma Provost found us again on her doorstep, again hungry and this time soaked to the skin and shivering. We dressed in her and Grandpa's clothes until ours dried. She cleaned a chicken for our midday meal, unperturbed by the prospect of feeding three more people, she cleaned the store-bought chicken so thoroughly. "You have to clean it so well because they don't." And then I remembered watching my mother clean the chickens she'd just slaughtered in the yard: the colorful entrails, the corn-encrusted crop, the bluish gizzard splayed out on newspapers on the worn drop-leaf table, the smell of burning pin feathers over the gas burner, carcass held aloft by the orange chicken feet, in our old kitchen. As Grandma Provost scraped the clinging entrails out of the cavity, she chatted about her honeymoon train ride and her granddaughter, my cousin Kathy, who was dissecting brains as part of her medical studies. We had mashed potatoes with the chicken, made with both butter and cream, and generous salt and pepper were they ever good. And that ended up being the last time I saw my Grandma before she died.
Today my mother receives a small pension from her years of working at the hospital to supplement social security (recently reduced after my Dad's death). She remains active in every way. Elle travaillait forte c'monde là. A hard-working woman. This spring she was honored at the cathedral in Joliet as Woman of the Year in her parish (for a second time), most notably for doing the church linens and volunteering at the local nursing homes, but no doubt for a lifetime of service, community, and faith. Recently she had a bonfire and sleep-over for a number of her eighteen grandchildren. She played water volleyball for the first time this summer, and she's taking a train by herself to Memphis this month to visit my brother and his family. She reads and keeps everything on Franco-American women I send her. And we talk about it. As I listen to her voice, I hear the echoes of Franco-American women's lives, distant but distinct, and I'm straining to catch the sound of my own voice, too.
All Contents are Copyright©Kristin Langellier, 1997
By Yvonne Mazerolle, Old Town
2/92 Pain of the years rising And falling like the ocean tide Ebbings and flowings Oozing through the cracks of My mind As the water oozes through The rocks. Then receding and exposing Fully what lies beneath. In the reality of time The formations True extensions of Rocks and cracks Of hidden truths Lies, And betrayals The pounding and erosions Leaving distortions And various patterns Of sharpness and smoothness Left gleaming in the sun Shining, Fully exposed for others to see The beauty of her After the washing, After the cleansing.
All Contents are Copyright©Yvonne Mazerolle, 1997
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By Trudy Chambers Price, Woolwich
7-25-94 I drive to the graveyard and park next to my parents' stone. the one my father had engraved for them: a Masonic emblem on his side, an artist's palette on hers. I remember the argument: my mother insisted that he engrave her full name--given, middle and maiden-- on her side. he said it would be uneven, too long, that it wouldn't match his side-- I can still see the set of her jaw every time they argued and hear his muttering as he slammed the door-- For years the stone sat out in back of his shop, he waiting for her to give in, she holding out. I set and admire the engraving by a master craftsman and her original pattern she had drawn of the palette. The imbalance of the names doesn't bother me. Anyone who reads it will know who she was before she married. I look at my grandparents' stone next to my parents'. My grandfather's name is spelled out except for a middle initial. Underneath it reads: his wife, Sophie.
All Contents are Copyright©Trudy Chambers Price, 1997
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Some of the Hottest News in Gardening
By Mary LaFleur Wolfe, Brewer
This is some of the hottest news in the gardening magazines and seed catalogues for 1998. Today, especially, it seemed relevant to pass it on: It has been some time since researchers at John Hopkins U. School of Medicine found crops in the cabbage family, especially broccoli, to be high in sulforaphane, an inducer of enzymes that detoxify carcinogens in the body. Recently some very surprised researchers discovered that seedlings of broccoli have 20 to 50 times as many of those compounds as mature plants. This means an ounce of fresh broccoli sprouts is as potent as two pounds of head broccoli. I've read that they are sweet, too, though I myself haven't tasted them yet. I've also read that they reach maximum anticancer power the third day after sprouting but are effective for a whole week. They are said to be good in sandwiches, salads, stir-fries and omelets. If anyone has as much trouble as I do with the cabbage moth laying worms in their broccoli, this comes as awfully good news. Not to mention if you just don't like the taste. Greens are known to be some of the highest nutrition nature manufactures...sprouts have long been known to be one of the most nutritious forms of greens! Be sure when you get seed that it has not been treated with chemicals. Expect more information will be filtering down to general media sometime soon. Seeds are available at Johnny's Seeds, 1 Foss Hill Road, RR 1 Box 2580, Albion, Maine 04910-9731 or: Johnny's Selected Seeds Homepage. I understand that Natural Living Center will also be carrying broccoli seeds along with their other seeds for sprouting. Prices seem high right now, one quarter pound broccoli seed for $5.75 at Johnny's, but I suspect one season from now there will be more seeds available to meet the expected high demand. When you consider that you only need a teaspoon to a tablespoon for a cup or two of sprouts it doesn't look so bad. I am awfully excited about this...Will gladly tell how to sprout if anyone's interested. Power to the femmes...in all its manifestations. Mary
All Contents are Copyright©Mary LaFleur Wolfe, 1998
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Poems By Joyce Fairbrother
HungerBy Joyce Fairbrother for EBB A refugee family kept fresh fruit in a bowl on the table in their kitchen, to look at, not to eat. After the stale bread and propaganda of war they were too enthralled with the luxury of fruit to partake of the lusciousness before them. Enraptured by the aesthetic of plenty, they were content to visually feast and the fruit sat in the bowl on the table until it rotted and they threw it away. Before you, I was afraid to come to the table, too terrified to even dream of tasting fruit again. You are my half of an orange and I want to suck every drop of sweetness from you. You are the juice and the flesh and I need you in me and in my life. There will be a time when oranges are not in season and all I will have is the memory of sunshine on my tongue. Fall 1997
By Joyce Fairbrother Dragon's Tears: 6 Haiku Hills snuggle Autumn under a patchwork quilt of crimson and amber leaves. Ivy on alabaster- lush desire wraps tendrils round both our hearts. Poems come, gifts of Grace profligate as red roses twining up a white trellis. Your messages grow flowers in my heart Spring comes suddenly to my mailbox. Droplets cling to windowpane- rain washes away doubt... leaving only desire. Alabaster Irish Moss roses flower in variegated granite fields. Link directly to the haiku portfolio on my siteAll Contents are Copyright©Joyce Fairbrother, 1998
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UPDATE ON NOS HISTOIRES DE L'ILE (THE FRENCH ISLAND ORAL HISTORY PROJECT)
By Amy Bouchard Morin, Old Town
The group is working hard putting together the book about life on French Island (Treat & Webster Island, Old Town, Maine). The first section of the book is a history of the Island from the time when it was bought for a little more than $100 back in the early 1800s up to the year 1900. From the year 1900 on the book will include stories and information we have researched, some from the transcripts. We are now in the editing process so I can't tell exactly how the format will be finalized. However, I can list some of the contents as follows: At least 200 photos (some will be scattered throughout the book with a family album at the end) Stories/histories of the businesses on the Island - and the people who ran them: The Depression Prohibition Stories of Island characters 1920 Census Some peoples reminiscences Exerpts from the original book of transcripts Activities (games, swimming holes, sports, etc.) Work (men and women). Most of the material is at hand and ready to be organized into some order. Jim Bishop and I are the editors. Carol Nichols is our graphic artist, and she will do the final set up of the book. (She did a beautiful job with the recipe book which we published last summer and it is now in its second printing. We have received many glowing compliments on the recipe book...the last one from a magazine editor who received a cookbook as a gift. She called it a "gem.") The group wants to be able to sell this new book below cost so that everyone who is interested can afford to buy one. We approached several local business people and clubs for pledges and donations, and nearly everyone we approached contributed. One organization held a supper/variety show and donated the profits to the book. Nos Histoires has exceded its funding goal and now has on hand enough money to print a book of excellent quality. We are not trying to make a profit on this and the group is currently discussing future projects that will benefit the community. One thing the group has discussed is setting up a university scholarship for a student with ties to French Island. Harold Lacadie, one of our co-Presidents who is retired and a photography/computer buff, is hard at work putting all (over 1000) of the photos on computer disk. The Old Town Library wants Nos Histoires on the City website and these pictures will be a part of our contribution. Harold is setting them up so they are indexed and every picture has the names of each person listed. If you type in the name of a person all the pictures of that person in the index will come up one at a time. This should be a great site when it is completed. Nos Histoires received a grant from the Maine Humanities Council to help with expenses for copying all the old photographs. Rita Graham, Harold Lacadie and I are going to Augusta in February to attend a reception and luncheon in the Blaine House. The Council is very pleased with the work our group has done, and I understand that they have put several of our photos in their brochure.
All Contents are Copyright©Amy Bouchard Morin, 1998
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By Rhea J. Côté Robbins, Brewer
The following is a chapter taken from the full volume of Wednesday's Child which contains 48 chapters, and from which 14 chapters were gleaned for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Chapbook Award. Encore Une Catastrophe Le train à grande vitesse qui partit de Boston à l hr.p.m., lundi, a été jeté hors de la voie sur le pont qui traverse la rivière Merrimack, près de Haverhill, Mass. Neuf passagers ont été lancés dans l'éternité et près de 30 personnes ont reçu des blessures plus ou moins grandes -L'Indépendant, 4ième année, No. 2 Foi, loyauté, progrès, Fall River, Mass, 13 janvier, 1888 Chapter 44 Ont été Lancés dans l'éternité Just yesterday I moved toward my past. I could not help but remember it is the scars that we return to on anniversary days. Or nights. My father's anger and my sexuality converge at a point of intersection. I am explained in his anger's memory. Birthdays and balloons. It is through the pains of living we are provided with the turnstile of learning to enter the plains of knowing. We are on our way to Portland for a weekend. It is my father's birthday once again. I look at a photo of him when he was ten or so and I see a thirty-year old midget. Serious and somber. The cares of his life foreknowledge. This little boy never had a balloon to play with. He was too burdened by cares in his childhood to take on the weight of a balloon. I can see that in his face in the photo. He is eighty earth years; spiritually, he entered eternity twelve years previous. On the highway, I make my plans. I will buy him a Happy Birthday balloon and tie it to the bush besides the headstone in the cemetery underneath the lonesome pine. I think of where there is a florist shop and I remember one on Water Street. In 1969 I was companion to the drunk. The "drunk from Water Street" my boyfriend had told me. We stand at the corner of Water and Gold Streets, he and I, boyfriend and girlfriend. I am crying. I cannot tell him why he cannot walk me home. I don't want to tell him. He is persistent. Finally, I say, "because, my father may be drunk." "Is that all," he says. He laughs. "My father is drunk all the time." He kisses me and walks away. I was afraid to lose my new boyfriend because I lived with an alcoholic. Well, he lived with an alcoholic too. So we had something in common. We could tell each other about the Friday or Saturday night fights. The drunk songs that played all night long. The Singing Nun serenading the Salaud. During that summer of '69, I fished and did carpentry work. I was to be his sobriety. If things were to get rough or if dad was too ugly, I was told to walk a mile down the camp road and go call maman at work and she would come and get me. Those were the conditions of my sixteenth summer which I shared with my father. At the same time, there were rules of propriety governing my sexual ity, such as you can't date any boys until you are sixteen. Well, when I was sixteen, I did not have a boyfriend. We lived a dichotomy of existence. I wonder about the work detail program of keeping my father sober. I wonder if it was also a program to protect my unchallenged virginity? These were strict, old-fashioned French Catholic people brought up in the thick of living earlier in the century, illegitimate children and shame as dinner table companions. The supper hour in hell with alcoholism as the honored guest as well as French, Catholic, Water Street girls fresh into their virginity unplucked. The vilification of the open season on cardboard cut-out whores was the running favorite opinion. Those made-up boasts by visitors to the district. A town of art museums at an ivy league college and dead nuns running close second to each other vying for headlines. Shame of belonging to the culture blasted in newsprint. Deep, entrenched madness of one representing the unfit nature of all. Accused. Subliminally, unacquitable, all of them, perpetrator and victim. Nothing of any worth here. Leave them all to go to eternal, living hell. These are the memories, re-born continually, in an unexamined way of life in an entire community. Who are these French people living in this town's race-horse quality bet to reach the finish line of upper crust living? He fished. I painted. I had discovered the miracle of burying heartache in oil based artist's paints and canvas boards. I was innocent of stretched canvases. I only knew virginity as stiff and unnatural canvas boards. I had not the luxury of experiencing without guilt, the loveliness or richness of stretched canvases. That was not to be for my kind. I committed sin by entering the art supply store. My spirit of French woman proclaimed in my step and manner, "Unclean!" I bought and paid for the stolen gratification of creating beauty in defiance of the hatefulness and ugliness I was assigned to belong to as a member of my family and culture. I painted the undersoul of the alcoholic and his wife and their children. I defied the elements of the geography we stood on with a tear-off paper palette, oils, linseed oil, turpentine, expensive and sinful brushes and canvas board. I sinned luxuriousness of spewed color. I recorded a sunset for my father. We sat in the boat and I marveled at the sunset. The magic of the lake unparalleled in its beauty. Some geography more favored by God's touch than others. He told me he'd never noticed a sunset before. "What do you mean you've never noticed the sunset before? You've been coming to Great Pond for years and years. It's right there. How could you miss it?" "J'l'ai jamais vu," he insisted. "Moudgit pas fin." He liked to call himself names. Goddamned without sense. "I cannot believe you never saw the sunset," I insist from the veil of my sixteen years. Fresh childhood not yet wiped from my eyes. "I never saw the sunset," he tells me emphatically "until you pointed it out to me." I am completely incredulous. I think he's lying. I find him sitting in the Aidirondack chair, one of a pair, like two swans mated for life sitting in the front of the camp, facing the sunset. My father is sitting down. He's not working, sucking in his coffee and sitting-doing nothing, but staring at the sun in his intense French way of observing the world around him. From his observations he would make pronouncements. At home, he would always sit for twenty minutes or so in his chair when he came home from the mill, drink his 3:30 PM, three-minutes-on-the-boil coffee, tell my mother stories du polpe mill, but she was nowhere in sight, at the tailor shop, sweltering, remaking men's suits. He was on vacation from his 36 years of accumulated time at the mill. What was my father doing sitting? "What are you doing?" I accuse him, guilty of sitting, doing nothing, in my tone of voice. "I'm watching the sunset, moudgit pas fin," he tells me in his new knowledge. Whenever my father was into self-knowledge, he always discredited any previous knowledges. He was always goddamned without sense. I am suspicious. "Why are you," still accusing tone, "watching the sunset?" "All these years I come here to camp," he pronounces, "and I never once ever took the time to notice the sunset until you pointed it out to me the other day." I feel puffed up and proud in my sixteen year old self. Aged beyond my years. Embarrassed, because now I know he means what he said and that he really had been depriving himself of sunsets for years and years. We go out into the boat to fish. He'd bought me my own license since I was old enough to need one. The game warden shows up. Checks our licenses. We are fishing in front of the camp. My father became respectful to the game warden like he was when the priest came to visit once a year to collect a donation. He assumes his role of small, common man among the order of things. My maman and I know better come Friday night and his drinking. We are the small and inconsequential. After the game warden leaves, the embarrassment still fresh in my father's face, guilty of sins not showing on the surface, he tells me like he's beyond amazement and glad he's an upstanding citizen and purchased fishing licenses for both of us: "I've never been stopped by a game warden before on this lake." I'm upsetting his comfortable universe I can see. Or, he tells me. "It must be you," he says. Of course, who else could he blame? I sit at home on the lawn of Water Street and I paint outdoors. Everytime I paint, I paint outdoors. I don't know anything about oil painting. I just stand in front of the counter of the rows and row of oil paints in the very classy stationary and gift store, my idea of American elegance in the home decorating tastes displayed in contrast to the Franco-American decor of imitation Hummels. Family photos. Doilies. Statues. Three-foot Jesus on the cross with the giant rosary beads over the headboard of my parent's bed. Who could have sex in that atmosphere? My maman's avant garde forays into the Value Stamp elegance of a man praying over his daily bread. Her Temple Stuart dining room set. Hard-rock maple with two captains chairs, which created a huge discussion of Captain and Co-Captain in the house. She was no Co-captain, that's for sure. So, I enter the world of the artist supplies and earn my money to learn how to paint because I'm going to be an interior decorator. I have fantasies of what an artist is supposed to do. Where did I get these notions? On TV? From books. Old movies. The fantasies constrict my movements and create guilt much bigger than the taboo of an unworthy purchasing holy art supplies. Still, I sin in my movements of creating art in my own way without anyone's permission. I set up TV trays outside, plastic ones, to hold my supplies. I have a small, tabletop easel, metal; an artist's box suitcase, stained, to hold my paints and brushes. I own linseed oil because a clerk passing by answered my question impatiently about the use of it. I sparingly add drops to my larger tube of white. I'm sinning in oil paints under the Silver Maple tree. Alone. I paint the sunset from memory. All day I create a landscape not true to the real geography, but one in my mind of land mirroring the water. The water is non-reflective and the land echoes unevenly the shape of the water. I run a horizon line in a color of nonsense. The painting is light and daytime. Too bright to register the end of itself, so I mix black with all the colors and swirl the night into the canvas board. It begins to rain toward the end of my day. Maman and dad help me to carry my TV trays, paints, easel, canvas board, pots of turpentine, paper palette into the kitchen. She is getting supper. I am in the doorway, in the traffic pattern, in everybody's way and they never say a word to me of complaint. They go around me and let me paint by the aluminum screen door as the rain gently falls on the porch without a roof. In order for him to finish off the inside of the camp modeled on the room he had seen at the Bangor House in old time Bangor, she and he had gone to some farm to get authentic barn boards, complete with wooden pegs. One of the carpentry work projects that summer was to finish the living room of the camp in the same decor as the Bangor House bar and coffee shop. The painting took a week or more for the oils to dry. Soon it had disappeared. I missed it. "Dad, have you seen my painting?" I asked him. "You wait," he tells me, "I have a surprise for you." Oh. Oh. Now what, I think. That night he comes up from down cellar with the painting and it is framed in some of the old barn boards that he and she had gone with the trailer to get. My initials, as I was vaguely aware of signing paintings, and I was working out my artist's identity and how to sign a painting was one of my quests, my initials were partially covered up by the frame. My father, on the other hand was not contemplating the signature of an artist, had committed his act of sin uncharacteristic for this mill worker in the art world and framed my sunset, covering up my initials. I gave it to him. "You can have it," I tell him. "You can keep the sunset." So, for his eightieth birthday, I bought him two balloons and tied them to the cedar bush besides his headstone. I was going to get plain wishes, but his favorite grandchild, my daughter insisted we make jokes. One read, "No more birthdays, just the parties!" for the man who drank himself to death on several occasions and the other, "What hill? I don't remember any hill?" The land where he lived just down the hill from his eternal resting place. The florist asks us if we want a card to go with the balloons. "No!" We are laughing going out the door. "Are you kidding," I say, "these are going to the cemetery. He's dead. He doesn't need a card." We laugh our nervousness and irreverence. My father who's never had a balloon given to him in his life, has two floating above his grave. Waving incongruously in the wind. No card necessary. He understands. Or at least I tell myself he does. To be continued in the next issue.
All Contents are Copyright©Rhea J. Côté Robbins, 1997
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A review of Wednesday's Child by Gérard Robichaud, author of Papa Martel and Apple of His Eye
Wednesday's Child, 1997's choice for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Chapbook Award, and deservedly so, is, in my opinion, after a slower, more careful re-reading, still a terrific opening for a writer's career that displays here the stuff of rare, solid promise of even greater things to come.
There are certain sections, many paragraphs, even single sentences that grip me, hold me, knock me out. You have a precise approach to a point you wish to make that surprises you, when it comes, for it immediate authenticity. To do this often and easily, with passion, I consider, a writer's special gift. (page 24) "I have the quilt."
Again, (page 18) "That was when I began to speak in code. That was the time of my knowing."
Reading this, I get an instant feeling of tremendous CHANGES, as important as any other in history books, except these point to landmarks in one's most intimate personal life. The simplicity of that prose has a dramatic punch of its own.
There is a continuum throughout of a well-orchestrated, well-remembered, carefully nurtured ANGST, the wellspring of all artists who have suffered much, the basic data of the various "times of their knowing" that henceforth will be the very stuff that when and if recorded, that is, WRITTEN, he or she will share with the world, all the better to enrich it. You have a way of remembering those dry, belly-laughter, Gallic incidents of days spent in Catholic schools of great WORLD WARS between the forces of insanity of the good nuns and the natural sanity of healthy, intelligent children.
I love the salty dialogue between you and your dad. (pages 53-58)
I was struck by the choices each ethnicity devises to admit proudly their self-perceived inferiorities. Barbra Striesand's nose, English stiff upper lip. Franco-American's bad feet. And on and on.
A small note: I notice you also, as I've done many times, write in English which is a pure translation of a French sentence. Page 50: "How do you play poker?" he demands to know. (Demande a savoir.)
Again I must return to: (page 17)
"I recall the incident well because it is the time and place where my conscious knowing began. It is the exact pinpoint of time where I woke from a deep, sheltering somnolence, the altered state of innocence in childhood came to a halt that day. I remembered it well because I felt the door shut on my childhood self and I felt my apprenticeship into the female begin."
"That was the time of my knowing."
As they used to say in the Village [Greenwich], "Sister Baby, that knocks me out!"
Throughout one feels, as I do, the authentic French-American-ness of it all the way , in a salty, savory manner.
To purchase a copy of Wednesday's Child see below.
Social Networks and Third Parties in the Franco-American Culture
By Lanette Landry Petrie, Bradley
Franco-Americans distrust outsiders. No one,they felt, not even members of other ethnic groups who, like Franco-Americans, have been the butt of prejudice, could truly understand their special position. They saw themselves, because of their religion and their language, as better than they were judged to be, but they were well aware that they were looked down upon. Survival as a separate entity, against all odds, became a mystique. In spite of this mystique of survivance (survival) as an ethnic group, Franco-Americans did not support their own. They were unwilling, for example, to act in unison in political matters. Suspicion of the "other ran too high. The "other" could be someone of another religion or of another nationality, or simply be a member of another Franco-American parish, even a Franco-American neighbor. These attitudes had been learned through a succession of generations enclosed within isolated communities. Franco-Americans felt forever attacked and conquered by outside forces." This section from Ethnicity and Family Therapy, Langelier (1982 p..232), clearly describes the feeling of Franco-Americans to this day. "They have a history of self-help and of accepting advice from kinship networks or the local priest rather than from outsiders, who are viewed with suspicion and mistrust." (p. 238)
Brault tell us in The Heritage of New England, (1989, p. 13) about the social structure of French-Canadians, later Franco-Americans. "Quebec society was family oriented. French-Canadians developed kinship recognition to a high degree . . . weddings, christenings, funerals, holidays, and anniversaries were occasions for family gatherings, frequently lasting well into the night, but outings and more extended trips away from home also normally involved dropping in or staying with relatives. During these visits, much time was spent catching up on the latest offspring and family doings." "A few tasks required cooperative effort but as a rule individuals had few dealings with the people next door. Everyone loved to gossip and talk politics on the church steps before and after mass on Sunday mornings and on infrequent visits to village craftsmen, but the rest of the time they socialized almost exclusively with relatives. The Cure, or pastor, was the most powerful figure at the local level. His influence extended far beyond the sacred sphere as he was routinely consulted by parishioners concerning all matter of secular decisions. (p. 9)
Brault continues to tell us about the courtship and marriage patterns of French-Canadians, "Having become interested in a marriageable young woman; a youth would come calling on a Sunday evening. Traditionally he visited the entire family and tried to be as casual as possible. During group conversations or card games, glances would be exchanged, hints given, and ideally, encouragement received from the young woman in the form of a smile or a friendly look. Thus emboldened the young man intensified his visits and began making small gifts. Unless there were more than one suitor, acceptance of presents generally signaled that the courtship was progressing well. Eventually . . . the young man would ask the father for his daughter's hand in marriage. A frank discussion of the young man's prospects ensued. From time to time, the youth's father would accompany him on this occasion at which time a marriage contract would be negotiated by the parents. The contract was designed to give the couple a modest start, nothing more. An engagement lasting more than six months was discouraged. Considerable pressure was applied on single persons in their twenties to get married. Preceding the wedding day, on three successive Sundays, the banns were read in the parishes of both fiancees. In the Catholic church, this was (as is) intended to forestall any impediment to a lawful marriage." (1986 p. 35)
"Because Catholicism, especially French-Canadian Catholicism, has traditionally opposed intermarriage and divorce, Franco-Americans have married among their own. However, in the 1940's a trend began, so that now 50% or more of Franco-Americans marry outside of their own ethnic group, though usually within the Church (Dugas, 1976). This is the result of more frequent contact with other ethnic groups in military service during World War II and of attendance at public schools. Those who intermarry tend to wed members of the other Catholic minority groups, such as Italian, Irish, and Polish. Divorce is increasing among Franco-Americans though it has not yet reached the national rate. These emerging changes in marital patterns cause confusion and conflict among Franco-Americans who, as every other group, must rethink their traditional expectations. (Langelier 1982 p..237).
Working Daughters, Working Mothers, tells us of the importance of kin networks, "Family ties, first among members of the nuclear family and then among kin within an extended family network, were crucial in the process of immigration. "Chain migration," the sending by kin networks of some family members before others, was used in finding a city of destination, housing, and jobs in the new industrial situation (p. 90).
"Today, most Franco-Americans are acculturated to mainstream America, yet a surprisingly large number still adhere to attitudes and values that have been influenced by an ideology elaborated during an earlier phase of their history. Older Franco-Americans may view the world beyond the group with less suspicion, but many feel a loss in the declining use of French, the evolution of the parochial school system, and the drop-off in attendance at church and other organized ethnic functions. The struggle against a largely Irish church hierarchy once perceived as insensitive and, at times, hostile to Franco-American interests is not forgotten, but it is considered to be a thing of the past (Brault 1989, p. 159).
There is little to document the presence of domestic violence or how social networks and third parties played a role in the management of it. The close knit family existence would belie a level of protection that I'm not sure was there. The man ruled his household with support from the Church and very little interference from anyone. My own knowledge tells me that in past generations both parties, when getting married, were told, "You made your bed, now lay in it." It was thought to be helping the newlyweds to be more tolerant of each other's faults. Physical abuse was not condoned but outside interference was shunned. The family was considered a sacred unit not to be interfered with. I think grandparents had more of a role in protecting children. They would bring them home with them until things calmed down. There were no state programs to assist a woman who, with many children, wanted to leave her husband. It was also considered shameful. I will continue this in the next paper.
All Contents are Copyright©Lanette Landry Petrie, 1997
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The Way It Was
By Connie Magnan-Albrizio, CT
1915 - Charley Marteau's farmhouse on Hereford Mountain in the Provence of Quebec. A knock sent ma tante Aurore, Marie-Anne and Armand scurrying to the back door. Gusts of snow blew right into the house when it opened. "Come in! Come in!" ma tante shrieked to mon oncle Joseph. "Hurry! Close the door!" Mon oncle slapped and stamped off as much as he could on the porch, but he still dropped snow all over the rag rug. He handed Armand his snow shoes. The latticed frames were placed upright against the wall under the coat hooks. "You won't have any trouble picking out your own. Look at that," Armand said, pointing to the row. "Yours are double the size of ours." He was still chuckling as he watched his uncle peel off the snow-crusted mittens and struggle unsuccessfully to undo the earmuff ties of his visored wool cap. Marie-Anne rushed to their uncle, "Let me help you with that." "Ohmygod, look at that," Armand said, pointing to the hair springing straight up as Marie-Anne lifted the cap off their uncle's head. Joseph smiled good-naturedly as he rubbed his callused palm from forehead to crown. With extended arm and pointing forefinger targeted onto his uncle's head, Armand doubled over, legs crossed, hopping up and down laughing as the hair kept popping up after every pass of his uncle's huge hand. Laughing uncontrollably and ith tears streaming down her cheeks, Marie-Anne pulled a high-backed chair close to the stove and laid the cap and mittens out on the seat to dry. Ma tante helped her brother shed his red and black checkered wool jacket and then gave it a good snap to loosen more snow before hanging it over the back of the same chair. She bent low to wipe the snow off the floor with a dishcloth she had pulled from her large apron pocket. "I'll do that, Aurore," Joseph said, swiping at his hair with both spittle moistened hands. "It's done," she said straightening quickly. "Sit ! Take those off before I have to rewash this whole floor." Joseph plunked onto the edge of the chair-turned-clothesline and loosened the leather-string ties, then slipped out of his rubber highcuts. Momma poured him a steaming cup of tea, put a jigger of brandy in it, and put a plate of raspberry-filled crepes on the table in front of him. "Not only did that sonofabitch Charley pick himself the prettiest bride, but the best cook to boot." He had not noticed ma tante at his elbow with a platter full of food when he spoke. A darkness clouded her features. She grunted and slapped four thick slices of crisp bacon and a mound of home fries onto his plate. "Want more than that?" Mon oncle blushed. "No. No. This is fine. I ate before I left." Her face froze and he added quickly. "Bucking that wind and those squalls did set me up for another meal though," he said and dug into the food. "M-m-m, this is good. Aurore, you know how to give a man a good start in the morning. This is real good." Ma tante threw him a dirty look and with a "hmpf" turned, skirt swishing, back to the stove for the kettle to fix another pot of tea. "Is mon oncle Lucien with you?" "No, Armand. Maybe you could help me again this morning. We have to roll clear up to the schoolhouse and back to town. If we need to roll again, he'll take his turn next storm." The six-line team was already hitched to the roller when Armand joined his uncle outside. "I want to get this over with," mon oncle Joseph said self-consciously to the boy. "There's lots to do at home. I wish your father did what he gets paid to do" "Momma and I appreciate your help." Mon oncle Joseph nodded and the pair scurried up the two side steps to the platform seat. By seven that evening the snow on the full length of road was hard packed and the route was open to use. Mon oncle Joseph turned down an invite for warm bread and a steaming bowl of pea soup to make his way back home on snowshoes. Dawn, the next morning, the girls beat Armand to the barn for milking. His sisters had already dumped one pail apiece into a big four-pail chrome pot. "You were suppose to put the cheese cloth on but you're so lazy I did it for you," Gizelle grumbled. Armand stuck his tongue out at her and rushed to the two-goat powered McCormick cream separator. He gave the billygoats each a carrot, checked the bars in front and behind them to make sure they were held in solid, and punched the leather straps to make sure they were tight and working the gears properly. "Stop wasting time. Get the turnips," Marie-Anne said without even looking at him. "Again?" "Every day, Armand. Put a move on it. I showed you how yesterday." He nodded to Marie-Anne, grabbed the wheelbarrow and ran down the gangway planks out of the barn to the open shed his father had built onto the barn. He ran the filled barrow back up the gangway into the barn to the thresher and slipped the thresher's dangling leather belt onto the extra wheel of the billygoat powered rig. The sharp blades spun within the big bowl contraption which was bolted solidly to a four legged platform. He threw in three and four at a time and the frozen chopped turnips sloshed out a funnel into a bucket. He threw a bucketful of the slop into the trough in front of every cow, then he set up to milk. "Don't forget twine and chain," Marie-Anne called. He grimaced then tied twine around the tails of his cows and hooked the twine's loose end to a nail on the wall across the alley. This was to keep from getting hit in the face with the swishing tail and to keep it from plopping into the pail of milk. He could not remember which of his cows were kickers, to help himself, he hung a piece of chain over the backs of each one. Marie-Anne had explained that if a chain was laid loosely over the kidneys, the cow wouldn't kick and the pails wouldn't get toppled. Gizelle finished first and sneaked off through the walkway back into the kitchen before the cleanup. Marie-Anne helped him rinse out the cheese cloth in the log tub Poppa had cemented to hold water. Spring water flowed into this tub on one side from the stream, and flowed out on the other side to dump behind the barn into the garden spot. It was always clean and circulating. They skated on the frozen garden area in the winter and the vegetables got watered automatically in the summer. These underground lead pipes kept the milk and cream cold and fresh for days. They put covers on the full cans which were underwater to their necks. Then, they shoveled three wheelbarrows full of droppings and old hay down the chute to the outside manure pile. Armand lifted the rear bar to let the goats back off the slats strung around two round drums. He penned and fed them, then raced his sister back to the kitchen. Marie-Anne dropped the rinsed cheesecloth into the bucket set in the walkway on purpose for that reason. Later, ma tante would wash and rinse them in scalding water, then string them on lines near the stove to dry. "I hate barn work" he muttered repeatedly as they rushed through wash-up, breakfast, and were on the road to school by seven thirty. "We've had a bad winter. The snow is packed six feet deep," Marie-Anne said through puffs of steam. "Mon oncle said it was eight feet," Armand answered and broke into a run. "I can't lolly around chattering about the weather, I've got to hurry up. This is my month to light the stove." It was an honor to be picked to light the round Buckwood stove, set a bit to the right of the teacher's desk in front of the class. Marie-Anne ran with him. She supervised everything he did and corrected him right away so that he wouldn't pick up any bad work habits, even in school. Mam'selle Jeanne was a pretty red-haired, freckle-faced teacher who spoke French and English. She shifted from one language to the other so quickly and expertly that the children understood her most of the time. Armand felt she had taken a shine to him because she planted a thank you kiss on top of his five-year-old head when she came into the warmed room mornings. She also urged him, more than she did the others, to answer in French but to try hard with English. "Your mother tells me that your father does business on both sides of the line and that he often takes you with him -- " "Oui, Mam'selle." "Both languages are most important to you then. Someday you may find that you have the worth of two men if you are bilingual, so make an effort, Armand. Try hard to understand, to speak, to read and to write both." If she had asked him to grow a second head, he would have tried his darndest to do it. The one-room schoolhouse was built close to the deep woods at the end of the road. After storms like the ones they had had, the children most always saw bear prints all around the lean-to wood shed. Sometimes, through the window, during classtime, they saw black bears, big and small, scavenging around. Schooled to know that forest creatures are afraid of fire, at day's end, students followed two by two behind the teacher with each one's lantern at full flame and extended out at arm's length until each was safely escorted to his or her front porch. Lots of times Mam'selle Jeanne stopped at the Marteau house to say hello to Momma and to ma tante Aurore. She often stayed for supper and if the weather turned bad, stayed overnight. She told city stories of lamps lit by electricity, and of trolley cars hooked to an electric line that ran in the middle of paved streets. She kept them hanging on her every word with movie house stories of Charlie Chaplin, Tom Mix and Valentino. They loved having her around. Armand realized that she only dropped in when Poppa was gone. She always made sure by asking Marie-Anne before even coming near the house. She had never said she didn't like his father, but Armand sensed it, he just couldn't figure out why. He was very much aware that she found the heavy chores forced onto the family when Poppa was away terrible, because she never stopped fussing about it to Momma. Armand found this funny. He wondered why she couldn't figure out that these were their chores even when he was around. Mam'selle Jeanne taught Momma and ma tante Aurore to read when they sipped tea after the children had gone off to bed. Once the women mastered that, she helped them write their names and then to write spelling words as she dictated. She lived with her sister and brother-in-law in town and had begun to stay often at the Marteau's during stormy weather. They laughed a lot with her around. Momma's gray cheeks pinked even though she was getting heavy and clumsy, and ma tante's face softened and her disposition sweetened. She even called Armand dear by accident and from that moment he made it a point to stay clear of her in this unnatural state. God only knows what she'd do to him when the mood passed. Before mud season and Poppa's return, Momma and ma tante wrote simple dictated sentences. It was decided between the ladies not to let Poppa know what they were doing. He didn't fancy schoolwork much, especially for women. It was hard for Armand to figure why he let his sister Evangeline board at the convent school to study so much, except maybe because she was a frou frou and useless at everything else. Mid-April, the roads were still solid with hardpacked snow as the children filed home from school. The weather had warmed but the sky had been very dark and cloudy all day. The school children were almost home when thunder and lightning bolts crashed in front, in back and all around them. "Get away from the trees!" Mam'selle Jeanne screamed at two little ones who had run for cover. "Stay with us in the middle of the road." Suddenly a flash hit something ahead and a thunder clap nearly threw them over in fright. "SMOKE!" Gizelle screamed. "It's our house." The band of children and their teacher ran to the Marteau's white clapboard house which was belching thick dark smoke. Poppa was furiously working the well crank and sloshing water into buckets as fast as he could. Mon oncle Joseph was running the buckets to the connecting walkway hoping to keep flames from the barn and stables. Mam'selle Jeanne ordered the smaller children to stand in the road. She ordered Gizelle to keep them together as she, Marie-Anne and the older students ran to the well to form a relay line passing filled water buckets to mon oncle Joseph and passing empty buckets back to be filled. A lightning bolt had split the Marteau chimney down to the stove and by the time Armand and the group from school pitched in to help, tongues of flame licked the inside windows and thick, black smoke poured from every crevice and opening. "Get over here!" Poppa yelled to Armand. "Take the crank!" Armand cranked the filled water bucket up from the well so fast, he lost half the water as he watched his father leap in great bounding steps toward his mother who had crumbled into a heap on the ground. In one swoop Poppa picked her up and ran her to the barn. Armand watched his parents disappear into the blackness of that shelter as though they had run into a big open mouth and been swallowed. At the same moment he lost sight of them, a cloud burst wide open, drenching the exhausted fire-fighters. Poppa seemed belched back to them from the barn opening as he ran, yelling to his brother "It's no use. If the rain doesn't stop it, let the damned thing burn itself out." Armand kept cranking. It couldn't be. He must've heard wrong. Surely Poppa who was better than the others could stop a fire. He threw his whole weight and form into cranking furiously. His arms ached and the muscles between his shoulder blades burned, but he kept on until Mam'selle Jeanne put an arm around his shoulder and told him gently that nothing more could be done. His aching arms dropped heavily to his side. Rain and tears washed his face and he didn't much care if she knew he was crying. "Go to your mother," she said, then gathered the children. Teacher and students left the Marteau farm quickly. Armand ran to the barn and sloshed his way to the piano box buggy where Momma was laying, the red stain on the quilt around her spreading. The boy put a tender hand to her gray cheek. "Are you all right, Momma?" She nodded. Armand looked up to see his father watching. "When did you get back, Poppa?" "Never mind that," he said. "Hitch the team!''" Raindrops fell as big and as hard as unripe strawberries as the Marteaus galloped like crazy to mon oncle Joseph's farm. A black bear pelt blanket was stretched taut over Momma and her bloody quilt. The next day Momma gave birth to a premature baby girl who died during the night. Within three weeks the Marteaus were back home, thanks to the help of friends and neighbors who cleaned up what was left of the farmhouse and rebuilt what had been destroyed. There were presents of new quilts, mattresses, curtains and cooked food. Momma went through thanking-everybody-motions but she was quiet and lost behind round vacant eyes. Every night of those three weeks, Armand had prayed to the Blessed Mother, "Take away the pain! Please! Take away her pain!" But, she didn't improve. Poppa passed the jug, laughed and talked about his horses. It was always business with him. The first week back into their restored home, Mam'selle dropped in every day to visit. She knew Armand's father was in the forest with every other man in the community, cutting and cording wood for the endless blaze needed for sugaring. Warm days and cold nights were perfect to keep the process of gathering the Sugar Maple sap in full swing. Snow didn't melt in the deep woods until the end of May, so the men snowshoed around four miles of forest, replacing empty pails, carved out of logs, for the full ones they took off the hollowed branch spouts. When mon oncle Joseph's one-horse drag pulled up, the full pails of sap were dumped into a wooden barrel. When that was full, he took off and dumped the barrel contents into a huge vat with a spigot. This liquid was then poured into a pipeline of hollowed out tree trunks, notched and fitted together. Sap gravity-flowed downhill, without a drop lost, into the waiting barrels at the sugar house. Here it was poured into huge copper kettles for slow boiling. When the syrup was thickened enough, some of it was transferred to other copper kettles for longer boiling which, when properly reduced to a very thick substance was poured into containers that were shelved and left to set and harden into measured sugar blocks. The men worked hard and long and insulated themselves against the cold with plenty of Charley Marteau's bootleg whiskey, dirty jokes and stories. At the end of the week, Poppa staggered in unexpectedly before Mam'selle had left. She took great pains to stay out of his way and to avoid eye contact. He parked his body heavily in the easy chair where he could see everyone and they could see him. He leered at Mam'selle while she spoke softly to the rest of the family. Donning her coat quickly and fumbling awkwardly with her hat and mittens, she tried to hasten a retreat. "What's wrong with him?" Armand asked Marie-Anne. "I don't know but he looks so funny -- " she answered casting a worried look at ma tante who had rushed to the kitchen for a pot of hot tea. "Get mon oncle! Don't waste time with a saddle, just git," Momma whispered anxiously, her eyes puddling and her chin quivering. Mon oncle Joseph didn't need explanations, he jumped onto the horse behind Armand and took off kicking up great hunks of hard packed snow as they galloped back to the house. Armand reined in to a skidding stop at the porch and mon oncle Joseph yelled, "Hitch the trotter to the sleigh and hurry up," as he raced up the porch steps. Armand drove the sleigh to the front just as his uncle and Mam'selle rushed out onto the porch. He jumped down to help her up into the sleigh as his uncle hopped onto the seat and grabbed the reins. Armand stood transfixed, watching the horse drawn sleigh speed away with the wind blowing squalls around them. He shivered, sensing danger but not fully understanding just what the danger was. In the barn, he rubbed the horse down, hooked a feed bag around the horse's head, then threw a blanket over the animal's back. He dragged his feet going back to the house, entering as quietly as possible. He found his father cursing and mean-mouthing his mother who had tucked herself away behind a closed bedroom door. Armand instinctively ducked around the table behind his father to make his way up the ladder to the attic bedroom. The others pretended to be asleep with hands clamped to their ears. He sang softly as he hunkered down under the quilt to drown out Poppa's shouting voice. Mon oncle Joseph finally came back. Armand scrambled to the attic window and watched his uncle unhitch the trotter and lead him up the walkway into the stable. In the house when that was done, mon oncle ordered Momma not to unbolt her bedroom door. Poppa let out a howl and the two men crashed around fighting. Poppa was stronger than his brother, but tonight mon oncle was steadier on his feet and got the best of him. Things settled down and Poppa's loud voice drifted up to Armand. "Who does she think she is? Too good for me?" "Be quiet, Charley! It doesn't matter. You're married---" "So's she." "You don't know what you're talking about." "We'll see about that," Poppa snarled and lumbered into the root cellar. Armand listened and figured Poppa must have gone down for a jug because he heard mon oncle say, "Put that away, Charley. A week's drinking is enough for any man." "Any other man maybe," Poppa slurred. "I'll fix that bitch...Too good for me...We'll see about that..." Armand crawled to the attic opening when he heard mon oncle Joseph leave the house. He figured his uncle would help himself to a fresh horse for the ride home, but Armand, frozen to the spot near the opening didn't dare move to check that out. He was afraid a noise might alert his father that he was watching. He'd find out later about mon oncle. "Come out," Poppa yelled. Armand heard the unlatching of the bolt and the squeak of the door before he saw his mother approach the table where his father slumped forward in the chair with arms extended on the table and head hovering low over them. "You shouldn't have done that," Momma said with a soft, trembling voice. Armand couldn't believe she said this. What was the matter with her? "What?" Poppa hollered, then collapsed face down on the table. The next morning Poppa was saddling his horse to join the men who were gathering sap and Armand found Momma at the table clearing the table. When she realized he had come down, she turned abruptly and did her best to keep her back to him, but he had seen her red eyes puffed to a slit from crying and it made him sick to his stomach. He fled through the walkway to the barn and rushed through chores wailing within the buffeting sanctuary of barn noises like a wounded pup until the jobs were done and he was totally exhausted and cried out. Armand didn't ask permission to stay out of class and neither did his sisters. Momma seemed oblivious to everything, even to their presence home on a school day. She didn't talk much. Armand didn't say much either. He had seen his father drunk and ugly before, but, he had never realized how much he feared him at these times. This cruel new awareness rendered him weaker and more exhausted. Despite this fatigue, Armand did his best to work fast as he fetched and carried for Momma without her asking. There was an unspoken understanding between them and nothing was ever said about that horrible night. The last Sunday in April, folks hurried home from Holy Mass to gather prepared food, drink, and games for the sugaring party in the deep woods. Everyone in the community waited all year for this annual get together. They relived the fun of last year's dancing, singing, gossiping and arm-wrestling over and over again speaking in wistful anticipation as they trekked happily toward the present celebration. The Marteaus were the first to travel the logging road to the sugar house. They started out, wheels sinking in mud until a quarter way in, where the going got easier because the ground was crusty hard with thick patches of snow. Half way in from that point, the snow was deep and they stopped to transfer everything from the wagon to the sleigh which was left at this spot for that purpose. At the sugar house, they emptied the sleigh and Poppa grabbed a shovel to clear snow from a square big enough to dance on and to ring around with tables and benches. Other families piled in and children stomped remaining snow down hard in preparation for the quadrilles and jigs they loved. After each new family debarked, Armand brought the sleigh back for others. When everyone had arrived, he tied the horse's reins to a tree branch then went inside the sugar house where the wood-fed fire roared and the copper vats bubbled. Sticky steam rose to the big opening in the log ceiling. There were shelves and shelves of pound and half-pound sugar loaves and measured jugs of thick syrup. "Give me a hand," Poppa shouted. Armand ran out to set planks across saw horses for tables. He helped his father put a kettle of pea soup chuck full of diced ham and ham hocks on the giant outside stone fireplace. Close to that, they placed two heavy brown crocks of already baked pea beans. Armand lifted the cover and dunked the heel of bread he had ripped from one of the dozen loaves Momma had baked before Mass. The bread dripped with molasses flavored juice. Just as he poked into the crock again for the hunk of salt pork floating o top, Poppa gave him a playful crack across the ear. "Get away. That's for later.," Men took turns stirring the bubbling maple syrup with long-handled wooden paddles. Boys whittled pallets indented slightly to serve as large spoons and handed them out. Grownups as well as little ones dipped these pallets close to the vat's edge, where the syrup was thickest, then rushed out to dribble syrup on clean snow. There were contests to see who could roll up the thick, cooled syrup into a taffy-like ball the fastest. The men broke out jugs Poppa had brought. They arm wrestled, smoked, exchanged jokes and stories, and made secret deals with Poppa. He was the only one they dealt with for whiskey. He was the only one who knew where and how to get it into the dry regions since the "Great War" had begun. The ladies sampled each other's food, exchanged recipes and their own stories. Four fiddlers struck up quadrilles and the rounds began for young and old alike. This went on and on and on all day, some even dropped with exhaustion or drunkenness and lay or sat on the frozen ground until some sympathetic soul came to help them up.. A few men stood in line to challenge Poppa who was the champion wrist puller. Armand rolled himself a fistful of maple taffy, sat on a nearby stump to watch and listen to men stories. Mon oncle Joseph was next with Poppa. They knelt across a stump from each other, one knee on the ground, right elbows solidly placed on the wooden surface with hands open ready to grasp and pull. "Jeanne got fired, Charley," mon oncle Joseph said, grabbing Poppa's hand and forcing it halfway down to the stump. "So?" Poppa said, using all of his strength to raise the hands to face level. "Someone sent proof to the governing board that she secretly married her sweetheart before he was shipped across---" "So?" "You goddamn sonofabitch," Joseph hissed between clenched teeth and gave his brother a quick thrust that kept both wrists iron-locked about one inch from the wood. Both strained, red-faced trying to best the other. "He was gassed on the Western Front and she can't support herself now." "Poppa let out a howl and threw mon oncle over. The two rose to their feet, staring fiercely at each other. The unblinking eye-lock lasted for what seemed to Armand five minutes until his uncle threw his arms up in disgust and stomped off. His father stretched arms and legs for a couple of minutes, took a hefty swig from the jug then knelt at the stump again, ready for the next challenger. Armand wandered to the women's circle and listened to the busybody chatterings about Mam'selle Jeanne. "Poor little thing." "Are they sure she was married?" "Oh, yes. My husband said an official letter from Quebec stating the time, the church, and the name of the priest who married them came to the Mayor's office. She was called in to defend herself. She broke down and cried. She's not only married, but she is five months pregnant." "She'll not be able to teach again." "Why shouldn't qualified married women teach?" "Do we have anyone else?" "An older woman from the states. From Maine. A Franco-American whose parents migrated before she was born." "She'll live with the mayor and his wife. I hear she's a cousin or something." Armand ran to the rear of the sugar house, struggling to swallow the bothersome lump in his throat. Leaning against a sugar maple he coughed several times and was surprised at the salty taste when he licked the moisture from his lips. He wiped his tear-drench face and, still leaning against the tree, slid to a seated position in the snow. He loved Mam'selle and he'd never see her again. He envisioned her, clutching a thin shawl around her skinny body walking the streets of Quebec with no place to go. He fancied himself hunting for his suffering teacher, trotting from street to street in his father's best surrey drawn by the high-stepping Strawberry Roan. The sun was setting when Poppa startled him. "What are you doing here? I've been looking all over for you." "Nothing." "Then let's clean up and get on home," his father, who seemed unaware of the boy's hate-filled stare, commanded. "I don't know what's wrong with you," Poppa said the following day after seeking and searching for his son whenever there was something to do. "But, get over it!" Connie Magnan Albrizio, a Windsor, Connecticut resident, is wife, mother, grandmother, business person, author of three novels, and several short stories and poems. She is a member of the Pyquag Writer's Group and a contributing editor to the "REFANE," Regional Pages section of Le Forum. The following excerpts taken from Charley & Son, Charley & Son: Over The Line, and In Charley's Wake, have been selected because they depict with insight and intensity the struggles of Canadian country women and children in the early 1900's. Hopefully readers will find occasion to marvel and be moved by the characters who are engaged in the ordinary but sometimes remarkable business of day-by-day living -- in full awareness of their mortality.
All Contents are Copyright©Connie Magnan Albrizio, 1998
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HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU ARE A FRANCO-AMÉRICAINE FEMME À LA NATURELLE ?
By Bonita Parent Grindle, Old Town
1. You know you are a Franco femme when you change the subject five times in one sentence without even thinking about it.
2. You know you are a Franco femme when you are listening to someone speak and they change the subject five times in one sentence and everything they say makes perfect sense to you.
3. You know you are a Franco femme when the walls of your maman's and grandmere's kitchen are experienced as a visit to a private art exhibit.
4. You know you are a Franco femme when you hear the new world french spoken and in your heart you hear a melody that the most remarkable song bird cannot sing.
5. You know you are a Franco femme when the church and it's traditions has an overwhelming power over you--even when you have abandoned the traditional church teachings.
6. You know you are a Franco femme when you have an ability to freely Laugh Out Loud at yourself and your peers and it's okay with your soeurs.
7. You know you are a Franco femme when your closet is full of life-sized statues of the Virgin Mary, First Communion Veils, jetons, holy pictures and Midnight Mass gowns.
8. You know you are a Franco femme when you believe that nuns float two inches above the floor in much the same manner that Jesus walked on water.
9. You know you are a Franco femme when your heart beats in an unique franco rhythm with your franco soeurs hearts as you share your upbringings, your fears, your pain, your joy, and your dreams .
10. You know your are a Franco femme when your heart swells with pride every time your soeur succeeds.
11. You know you are a Franco femme when your heart breaks in pain as the uninformed tell their dumb frenchmen jokes.
12. You know you are a Franco femme when you know you will break the silence that for generations has been imposed upon you and your soeurs.
13. You know you are a Franco femme when in a many situations you clearly understand the meaning of being an hyphenated American (Franco-American).
14. You know you are a Franco femme when everyone expects you to do everything and you just do it naturally and you do it with love.
15. You know you are a Franco femme when you hear the Star Spangled Banner and see the American flag raised and it is almost impossible to contain your joy and pride and at the same time....
16. You know you are a Franco femme when you hear O Canada and watch as the beautiful Maple Leaf flag is raised and your heart and mind flood with memories of your maman, your papa, and all those who gave you your rich heritage.
Indeed, the Franco femme is the genuine natural woman. Vive la Franco femme a la naturelle.
Bonita Parent-Grindle. June 5, 1997. Franco American Women's Institute.
(All portions of the above are copyrighted and by law may not be reproduced without the express permission of the author and the Franco American Women's Institute.
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"Woodstock 69" The Nurses Odyssey
By Yvonne M. Ross, Ferndale, New YorkFriday the rain had been torrential and constant. The Liberty Radio- WVOS- had been urging the people of Sullivan County to make entire loaves of bread into sandwiches, gather all spare boots and raincoats, and take them to the Grossinger Airport, to be delivered to the "PEOPLE OF WOODSTOCK". Saturday late in the morning, our phone rang, it was MARY, the O.R., Nurse at Loomis Hospital where I worked, asking me to join her and WENDY (our new English nurse) and go to "WOODSTOCK" to help out. I said O.K. My husband and 8 year old son drove with me to the GROSS:[INGER AIRPORT( only three miles from home). As 1 walked towards the landing strip, a huge Army helicopter took off, leaving many people behind. I sat on the grass, near them, waiting for my team. A few minutes later Mary and Wendy joined me. Wendy of the pink face and luminous blue eyes, re with excit- ement, exclaimed, Look! Look! JANIS JOPLIN! I looked and saw the small figure of a girl, in a colorful pant suit, with long brown hair, staring absentmindedly, alone on the knoll. Wendy again, Oh! my God! THE IRON BUTTERFLIES ! I saw a group of men, dressed outrageously, gesturing and walking together towards us. I really got excited too, when I saw JIMMY HENDRIX, good natured, smiling to himself, shaking his kin]cy curl, keeping rhythm with the tune in his head. I loved his guitar playing, the sounds he got out of it were so unusual and inspired. He really was different. The blue and white Helicopter had arrived. We got up quickly, two people were in already. It was a 4 passengers, they were 3 of us; Now, What ? You go, Mary said and she gave me a friendly push in. What about you two? I asked, We will catch the next one . When you get to WOODSTOCK, go the First Aid trailer - a white one- ask for Dr. Abruzzi, she yelled over the noise of the propeller. OK., see you later, I yelled back. The Heli lifted into the air. I lived in Sullivan County for many years, I knew we had many beautiful lakes such as SWAN LAKE AND WHITE LAKE towards BETHEL, and I was amazed at all the little " water mirrors" reflecting back at us. Then, I noticed the clogged roads, large and small, even some fields packed with some of the cars that were paralyzing traffic all over the County. I also saw crowds of people loosely knit, still making their way along the shoulder of the road and through the fields, in the hot an bright August sunshine, towards WOODSTOCK. They were in for along hike, it was still 6-8 miles to get there. The Pilot announced- we are there! Below, I saw many heads bobbing out of a small pond, adults and children, nude and pink, looking fit and graceful. I heard and felt a "SWOOSH", another Helicopter closed in. STATE POLICE! exclaimed our Pilot, and then saw the Motor- cyclists- about a dozen of them, clad in black]c leather, with heavy metal chains hanging from their bikes???, stirring the red dust on the path below. Whether it was the State Police or the Bikers who scared the bathers, they all ran out of the water " au naturel' and took cover under the low bushed. I was to meet some of them later under different circumstances. The State Police landed, troopers ran out of the Heli, surrounded the Bikers, confiscated their chains and were herding them out. It all happened so fast, I could hardly believe that scene. Now, we landed, jumped first out, heading for the Traffic controllers. had to find the First Aid trailer. Not far, they told me, just beyond the two tents, over to the right. I began walking on the flat above the Concert site, the music mingling with the roar of the approving crowd was deafening. but I could only see the stage poles, and many heads long haired, a few bald, some wearing makeshift newspaper hats, other fancy straw, still others assorted, colorful, corners-tied kerchiefs, and all sorts of baseball caps. To my left was a huge white and yellow striped tent( the drug Hsp.) further back, a smaller grayish tent(erg, Hsp.)just below them was the First Aid white trailer. I passed by a site littered with broken, jagged wine bottles, beer and soda cans, paper and plastic bags, and other assorted trash left out in the open and beginning to smell. Then, I saw and I could not believe it, right there, a pair of brown leather cowboy boots embedded to mid-calf into the drying mud. Appar- ently, their owner had been unable to rescue them from the vacuum sucking mud holding them tight as a girdle. Disgusted, he had walk- ed away, leaving deep, squashy footprints in the mud. What a site! I walked on, passing a group of tents close to the Path. Young people barefoot, girls with long dresses and tresses, young men barechested, long hair flowing, sat peaceful on Granny quilts, trying to keep their butts from the wetness. There was the trailer. I walked 2 steps, knocked and walked in. It was cool inside, the air conditioning was on. About 6-8 people were busy treating a long line of Festival goers, waiting patient- ly at the back door. Dr. Abruzzi had stepped out and one of the Nurses gave 1 whirlwind orientation to the First. id station!. - All the medications re on he large table in the back on the room, in Alpha Order. 2-Here take this and she hands me an Emergency Pad. ( I had my pen). Write in Last name, First Name, Town, State and Tel.#.( no time for more details). Patient's complaint. 3- Prep. the patient as far as you can. Doctor will do surgery(if needed), write the Treatment. You do the treatment and dispense the Med. 4- We are SHORT OF WATER, if stitches needed, wash only 3-5" around the wound - no more-. 5- Only 1/2 Cup of Water for Med. given here and only 1 extra dose given for later on. Here are some of the cases I treated that day. A boy of 3 - deep cut, rt. foot (broken lass) A teenage girl - deep cut, palm of rt. hand, jagged ( broken glass) A large group with Poison Ivy rash. ( some who had ran out of the Pond earlier) Lots of Sunburns (some serious- mostly children) Insect bites ( many already infected) Heat Prostration ( too many) Dehydration( remember, drinking was scarce) Someone knocked at the door, I opened to a tall, muscular man in khaki short and sandals, who promptly blurted out excitedly, I need a Doctor! A woman is in active labor!( I found out later he was John Roberts - one of the Festival Organizer). NOBODY MOVES. I am shocked. I step forward, I am a L.P.N. with O.B.( obstetrics) experience, but I do want to go alone, we need a Doctor! Reluctantly, a Dr. steps out.(Later, I found out the whole group in the First Aid trailer was from the Middletown Psychiatric Hsp.). The 3 of us ran out with Roberts leading the way. Suddenly, he stops, looks around, turns to us and exclaims I DO NOT SEE THE WOMAN! Thinking that perhaps she is being sheltered by the Young People in the tents, we ask. No, they have not seen her. Roberts by now, reflects both disbelief and concerned worry; where could the woman be? He repeats over and over She was right there with her husband ! Later I was to find out that her husband fearing the birth imminent, had gathered his wife in his arms, and ran with her to the Army Helicopter who flew to the Monticello Hsp. The Dr. and I left and went back to First Aid. I was promptly out on "a break" and I decided to go looking for my team. As I walked, I saw a bluish haze floating over the Crowd in the hollow below, and I smelled the sweet scent of "Marijuana". I changed direction. Further ahead, I saw the other white trailer I had been told about, "The Toilets". As I was thinking we need more of them for that crowd, suddenly I heard A crescendo of bewildered voices OH! and the trailer took a nose dive. People came running from all directions, attached themselves like leeches to the frame of the trailer and pulled down with all their might - NOTHING HAPPENED - , then some men jumped up and unto the edge of the trailer, but they still could not bring it down. So,, other men jumped up too and held the first one around their ankles, and they too pulled; finally the "Human Grapes" won and the trailer came down, everyone out of the way just in time. Now they were all running to their Music. I had never seen anything so funny, I was laughing so hard, my stomach quivered and my knees cave in and I collapsed. I could not stop laughing, I still could not get up. Feeling foolish, I picked myself up and went on looking for " My Team". I found Mary in an ill equipped trailer, dark and hot. She was busy sponging the legs of a young boy, who had doctored his Poison Ivy by applying "wet mud" to its itch. Now, it was a brown, disgusting, crack- ing plaster. He had an infection started somewhere underneath that mess. Mary was upset at the lack of WATER AND SUPPLIES. I offered to switch place with her, but she said No! She told me Wendy was further down , in the same situation. She also said she had a "Courier" a young volunteer, who brought her what ever supplies he could find. I Could not believe it when she told me we were leaving as soon as the relief nurses came in. How? I asked, but she only laughed. As I walked back to First Aid, I saw the YASGUR FARM and other milk tanker bringing in WATER. That day we treated every State in the Union and every Province of Canada in First Aid, how did they hear about WOODSTOCK in our tiny Sullivan County? Meantime, we ran out of TETANUS TOXOID, had to tell the people to come back in the morning. Amazingly, no one got mad about it. Later the News Media were to write " The People at Woodstock did not cause trouble because they were stoned on Drug. This is not true, of the 250.000 to 500.000( they could not agree on the number) a very small percentage was treated for Drugs. personally, I believe it was "THE SPIRIT OF WOODSTOCK"- "Good will to all men" that kept us peaceful these 3 days in August. I saw that Spirit in the First Aid Station where I worked that day, the Woodstock People were concerned and gentle, even if strangers. Nursing at Woodstock was an experience, you never knew what next. Now, my added duty was as "Sole distributor of Sanitary Napkins". That supply too was scarce, rationed to - one per day per person-. How ridiculous can you get? About 2 a.m. the Courier arrived, we were leaving. ] met Wendy at Mary's trailer. We had been quite a team, the nursing version of the "THREE MUSKETEERS", one American of polish heritge, the other an unaltered British (impeccable accent and gorgeous complexion) and I, a French War Bride ( now an American). We had a car, Mary was driving. One of the Nurse coming in to relieve was one of her friend, she had loaned her car, a Volkswagen Buy, she had driven in and said we could drive out. From Bethel to Liberty in the moonlight, we saw many abandoned cars in the fields and we wondered if their owners would be able to remember where they left them. We drove on, using the small, familiar country roads. We got home O.K., but were we tired. Tomorrow would be the closing episode of the WOODSTOCK Festival"
All Contents are Copyright©Yvonne M. Ross, 1997
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Comparative Culture Writing
My Grandfather - a memory
By Paulette M. Barry, San Francisco, CA
My Grandfather - a memory Dear Grandpa, Or is it Grandfather or some other fashion of the word? Do you or did you have a preference? Should my greeting be in Italian or are you bi-lingual now that you are in heaven. Heaven. I guess your daughter is there too, my mother, Ann Marie? And, I'll bet she updated you on what's happened to me since you died but I guess I wanted to speak with you myself. After all, it's about time - we never spoke when you were on earth, did we? By now you know that it's me, Paulette, your granddaughter. But, I wonder if I could kind of remenis with you and tell you what I recall about you and see if it's the same as your memory. I can see you, glimpse you, almost touch you in the mist of those early morning days in the early 1950's in Los Angeles. I can smell the dew and feel the promise of another summer day...that smell, that feeling so familiar, even now after all those years later. And I wonder sometimes, Grandpa, if my senses have stayed sharp because of the memories of you. I can still see you working with the vines. The grapevines. All the way up our hillside. And, you, working all day long, tending, tying, touching, evaluating, planting. Gently coaxing the vines to produce the grapes. I can see you keeping the vines from falling to the earth. The care you take, the focus, the dedication. I see you kneeling for hours, all day, day after day, doing you work. But, you never see me. Or at least I don't think so. I do not recall a single time that you spoke to me. Not once. I realize now that you spoke no English. How isolated that must have made you feel. It must have only been through the vines that you could find expression, camaraderie, solidarity, kinship. Such silence surrounding you, enclosing you every day. As a child I never knew that the language was a barrier. I don't know what I assumed, just that you never spoke to me. It might have signaled the beginning of spending a lifetime not questioning what seemed different - for me a lifetime habit of continuing to assume that there are always reasons for things that I cannot understand - and that those reasons are not always apparent to me. What I did know of you I learned from mother. She always told me stories about you and such stories of you, Grandpa, Salvatore. You know mother - always one for elaborate stories, stories that, I learned much later in life, were not always true, or rather hearts of stories were true, but real life to mother was clearly not enough - stories were always better. And, so, stories of you. She said that you had lived in Pensacola, Florida for a time and that you were the person who invented the glass-bottom boat. Or, how about the story that you had lived in Chicago and that you were a highly successful architect? How wonderful, what a successful and creative man. But, Grandpa, if you could speak no English, how could all of those things have been so? Is what I saw of you the truth? Is what my mother told me the truth? Are both true? Could it have been that, later in life, relocated to Los Angeles and the unfamiliar, living in your daughter's house that you spoke your original tongue to mama and to grandma? I don't know. But, I do remember what I saw. I was about seven or eight years old and you were tall, very tall with a broad chest. Or, were you tall because I was so small, Grandpa? I saw you always with brown gabardine pants, baggy style. I saw you with a brown gabardine shirt, buttoned up to the top, even on the hottest of days, with the sleeves rolled to your elbows. I saw you in the broad rimmed fedora hat, also brown. I can hear Grandma calling you into the house for lunch and you're stopping your work to eat and then return to the vines. I can remember that one day I didn't see you in the vines and I remember going to your Rosary. I remember that you died when I was very young, not much past eight. I remember mama mourning, closing off the house, drawing all the drapes so that the house was dark and still. I remember her sitting in the big chair with one of her cats and crying, sobbing. I remember, years later, but still a child, coming across a picture of you, Grandpa, in mother's bottom bureau drawer. The picture was about 11"x 14", it was black and white and it was a professionally taken photograph of you, dead, in your casket, flowers all surrounding you. That photograph scared me to death. I never told my mother that I had found it, after all I was in a place that I shouldn't have been - her bureau. But I couldn't sleep for the longest time without seeing that picture in my mind's eye - I can still see it, even now, as clearly as I could that day I opened the drawer. To this day, I never open drawers of others or even drawers that may have items in them that I am not privy to. So, dear Grandfather, my memories of you are my mothers stories, my horror at seeing that picture of you, my own self watching you, following you along, silently as you worked your vines. So many years have past. So much unexplained. So much to be left that way. But, I can still see you, Grandpa, tending the vines with such care and love. So quiet, so focused, so isolated with someone so close by, watching youÉbutÉforever silent. Love, Paulette
All Contents are Copyright©Paulette M. Barry, 1997
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Dear FAWI, Enclosed is a check for $10 for a membership for Claudette Bégin. She had previously sent an email. We'd also like to get a copy of the Inititative if it's also a hard copy journal. Or is it only electronic? Thanks. Alex Chis Claudette Bégin Union City, CA
Date: Thursday, October 23, 1997 6:08:01 PM From: email@example.com Subj: Bien merci To: FAWI2000@aol.com Bien merci d'avoir cousu ce site. J'ai surtout apprécié l'article sur la francofemme.
Date: Tuesday, October 7, 1997 8:40:28 PM From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subj: submission guidelines, s.v.p.??? To: FAWI2000@aol.com Chère Rhea, Enfin! I have e-mail and can finally ask you for submission guidelines for the Initiative publication. My e-mail address is: email@example.com. I'm looking forward to submitting a couple of poems at this time and hopefully other things later on (I couldn't ask for a better chance to write something other than the personal statement for my PhD program application!). I hope all is going well for you. Mille fois merci!!! --Maureen Perry Boston, MA
Bonjour Mon nom est François Simard et je fait de recherche sur les franco-américain, serait-il possible que je puisse recevoir de l`information sur votre association. Je vous remerçi de votre collaboration François Simard 1344, Boul Adoncour Longueuil, Québec J4J 5L3
Dear Sisters, Inspired by our recent trip to Maine and to my family, my husband explored the web for Franco-American stuff and found FAWI. What a wonderful institute. I am reading your newsletter, descriptions of the organization, biographies, etc. with much delight. I am very interested in being associated with your institute. After I read a bit more I will understand better in what way I can participate. In any case, I will want to join. Just a quick note, I am a French Canadian woman born in Lewiston in 1949. I attended almost exclusively French Catholic schools; I was raised bilingually, French at first, then English added when I made friends in the neighborhood and at school. Of course, today English is my primary language, but I am still fluent enough to write and speak with my family members in Maine and Quebec. I have been living in Northern California since 1971. I have been an active feminist since college. I am very interested in the Franco-American legacy; I have been exploring my genealogy in the last few years. This last trip I met relatives from my mother's side whom I never knew lived right in Lewiston. I regularly come back East - approximately once a year. When I go to Quebec, I have been searching out Quebec women's literature. Now I can read Franco-American women's literature too. My husband just got me "The Tight White Collar." I love that a French-Canadian woman wrote Peyton Place - of course it makes total sense since we were a major part of the mills. Who could have guessed from her name that she was French-Canadian? Perhaps you could let me know how I could participate at such a long distance. Looking forward to hearing from you, Claudette Bégin Fremont, CA
FAWI website is listed in Radical Journey, Fish Rapper Digest under ÒInteresting WebsitesÓ as: history, humor, authors, prize-winning poetry, this is an outstanding site, from Born Again Pagan to the Initiative, a publication.
Dear FAWI, It gave me a great amount of pleasure to have your phone call today. I want to hurry and get this in the mail and hope to talk with you soon. Like I told you, the biggest start to do work, to do good work, would be with me, right here. You can put my name on every little corner that you can find. I will be at your service at all times. You can learn alot from me about this [St. John] Valley and I'm very proud of it. I know you will understand what I mean. Thank you again for having me in your group. Take care. Ida Roy Van Buren, ME
Franco-American Women's Institute. Investigates and preserves Franco-American Women's history and culture, and their contributions to the culture at large. Has links to other sites of interest as well as a bibliography and some documents written by members. Claire's Home Page, WWW
Chére FAWI, Here's the hard copy, accents and all, of the poems I emailed you. Merci encore! By the way, I would like to know more about the discussion groups etc. I kept meaning to say so in my last email, but I keep forgetting. Merci une troisième fois! I hope all is going well. Take care! Maureen Perry Boston, MA
Dear FAWI, I was happy to join you at our library and now I want to list a few names who might be interested in your work for the culture of Franco-American women. [list omitted] I hope to be at your meeting on November 15th if possible. Enclosed is a donation for your beautiful effort. I wish I were 20 years younger and healthy. I could help to organize a group, but hélas! Best of Luck, Bonne Chance! Thérèse Picard Lewiston, ME
Franco-American Women's Iniative: Some of the projects which we have worked on thus far in the Bangor area are:
All Contents are Copyright©FAWI, 1997
- Meeting twice a month at Borders Bookstore and listed in their announcement bulletin to raise community awareness of our presence. We are meeting in the community because some women are intimidated by the university setting as a gathering place.
- Panel at the Maine Women's Studies Conference in the Fall on Women and the Church (ten or more presented)
- Listed in the Maine Women's Fund as a tribute to our Franco-American Femmes
- Annual Banquet at Winterport Inn
- Listed in the Encyclopedia on New England Culture
- Seeking Listing in the Women's Liberation Resource Network/WEB
- Presentation for the Women's History Celebration entitled: "Did She or Didn't She?: Franco-American Women in Parochial Schools (ten presented)
- Presentation to Maison Marcotte about Franco-American women's culture to 50 residents, and also to begin FAWI chapter there
- Listing in the Portland Sunday Telegram about the movement in the special section on Women's History month
- An online daily discussion of Franco-American women which is vital and exciting to issues which we are thinking about or which concern us
- Monthly article on Franco-American women/FAWI appearing in The Feminist Times
- Presentation at Borders on Franco-American folklore by Lucille Gosselin
- Maine Breast and Cervical Program Special Populations Committee
- Presentations on Breast Cancer in relation to culture
- Ongoing class presentations in all areas of education
- The Franco-American Women's Anthology
- One member, Amy Bouchard Morin participated in the UMaine/UAngers (France) exchange researching connections between Franco women's handiwork and the work done by women in western France.
- French Club that meets once a month at the French Island (in Old Town) Community Center. People trying to reclaim their use of the French language by speaking and hearing only French for 2 hours a month.
- Book on the parochial school experience
- Book on Memere stories
- Culturefest in Bangor in May
- Member of Maine Women's Studies Consortium
- Race, Gender and Culture, Panel, YWCA, April 15, 1997
- Eastern Maine Medical Center Family Practice Residency, Presentation, Eastern Maine Medical Center, History and Health are Interconnected, April 17, 1997
- Dragon Farm Symposium, Camden, Maine, April 19, 1997
- WEB Page with several links: http://www.fawi.net
- Accepted to present at the national conference sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the capstone conference of a series of five, entitled: Inclusive & Interdisciplinary: Building the New Curriculum Conference, two panels of 12 femmes will be presenting
- Liaison with Women's Resource Center as link between community and U/Maine Campus Franco-American Women
- Searching for Our Roots I France: Franco-American Women's Art and Heritage, WIC Lunch Series, April 30, 1997
- Several areas of expertise among our membership on many areas: Franco-American women's literature, gardening, house building, science, education, Quebec/Acadian culture, needlecraft, needlepoint, quilts, activism, writing, dance, the Religious, the Church, French language, communication, folklore, song, sayings, community organizing, art, forestry, the Northeast Franco population, Quebec, and other cultures in relation to Franco-American culture.
- In the works: Granting processes and other funding research.
- Work with elderly to set up teas and special events to honor our wonderful franco femme elders
- April 22, 1997 Maine History Class at University of Maine (Orono) Presentation of the French Island Oral History Project "Nos Histoire de l'Ile - Our Stories of the Island" -- Information pertaining to the formation of our group (why and how we organized), and process we used to gather the oral history of life on French Island in Old Town, Maine during the early-mid 1900s, as well as some of the history and stories taken from the transcripts.)
- May 19, 1997 Quebec May Term class - Slide show presented (in French) titled: "Franco-American Women's Art: Culture and Skills Learned at Maman's Knee"
- June 16, 1997 Orono High School French Class - Slide show presentation to titled "Franco-American Women's Art: Culture and Skills Learned at Maman's Knee." English (some French)
- June 17, 1997 Old Town Museum -- Presentation of "Nos Histoire de l'Ile - Our Stories of the Island" - the formation of our group (why and how we organized), and process we used to gather the oral history of life on French Island in Old Town, Maine during the early-mid 1900s as well as some of the stories taken from the transcripts.)
- July 14, 1997 USIA-sponsored Summer Institute for educational leaders from Africa -- Presentation at the French Island Community Center of fhe French Island Oral History Project "Nos Histoire de l'Ile - Our Stories of the Island" to the -Information pertaining to the formation of our group (why and how we organized), and process we used to gather the oral history of life on French Island in Old Town, Maine during the early-mid 1900s as well as some of the history and stories taken from the transcripts.) As well as a walking tour of some of the sites discussed in the presentation.
- Sunday Programs at the Old Town Museum (begins at 2:00 pm): June 22, Amy Morin, Old Town, French Island Oral History Project "Nos Histoire de l'Ile; June 29, Lanette Landry Petrie, Bradley, My Mother's Walls--Franco-American Art; August 10, Franco-American Women's Institute, representatives.
- June 26, Lillianne Labbé and Don Hinkley, Summer Delight Concert Series, Pickering Square Downtown Bangor.
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By Rhea J. Côté Robbins
1997 Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Chapbook Award winner for creative nonfiction!
Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance
12 Pleasant St.
Brunswick, Maine 04011
Send $13.34, tax, postage and handling for your copy today.
If you live outside the state of Maine, pay no tax, send $12.74.
For more information on Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance:
Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance
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Old Women's WisdomA wonderful book about the life experiences of women with 80 plus years of living life to the fullest. Their stories of culture: Franco-American, Acadian, Native American, Sweedish, and English language as well as isolation and economics are sure to intrigue and enlighten. The Women of this book are from Aroostook County, Maine and they give a genuine portrayal of the way life used to be for women growing up in "the County".
Read the women from these pages and learn why there has been much support for an important project like this. A book project supported by the Maine Women's Fund and developed by the Aroostook Area Agency on Aging, Presque Isle, Maine, USA.
$10.95 per book or audio cassette plus shipping & handling.
Shipping & Handling:
To order (Visa and Mastercard only), please phone (207) 764-3396 or Maine Toll Free 1-800-439-1789 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 1 book or audio $ 2.50
- 1-3 books or audios $ 3.25
- 3-6 books or audios $ 6.50
- 6-9 books or audios $ 9.75
- 9-12 books or audios $13.00
By snail mail, please write to:
Aroostook Area Agency on Aging
ATTN: Old Women's Wisdom
33 Davis Street
Presque Isle, ME 04769
All Contents are Copyright©AAAA, 1997
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Nos Histoires de l'Ile livre de cuisine
A Collection of Recipes from French Isalnd in Old Town, MaineThe above collection of approximately 150 recipes from French Island in Old Town, Maine is now available at for $7.50 (hand delivered) or $10.00 (which covers postage and handling). This collection is a compilation of recipes used in the late 1800s and the early-to-mid 1900s.
Many of these recipes have stories that go with them. You can find a recipe to make soap - (that's right, soap to clean), as well as soup to eat. There are recipes for boudin, corton, root beer, mincemeat, white perch chowder and rabbit pie, as well as delicious cakes, cookies, pies, and much more. All this in a spiral bound format on antique white paper with "old" pictures on the cover and section dividers.
The proceeds from this cookbook will go towards the cost of producing another book (in process) with stories taken from oral interviews with people who resided on French Island during this same time frame, at least 200 pictures, maps and U.S. Census, as well as a history of the Island, and more.
Nos Histoires de l'Ile is a non-profit group working to preserve the oral, living-history of these Franco-Americans.
To order or for more information contact Amy Morin at: Tel. 207/581-4220
You can contact Amy at her email address: Amy_Morin@voyager.umeres.maine.edu
154 College Avenue
Orono, ME 04473
La Femme Franco-Américine/The Franco-American Woman
Sous la direction de/Under the direction of Claire Quintal
500 Salisbury Street
P.O. Box 15005
Worcester, Ma 01615-0005
This book contains the stories of individual lives and studies of Franco-American women as a group. You will learn about les filles du roi, who left France in the 17th century to become wives and mothers in the New World of an untamed continent, and about farmers' daughters who left Canada in the 19th century to become workers in the new world of the Industrial Revolution.
Behind each story, there is a face, that of yesteryear and that of today. Each account bears the imprint of courage and perseverance against great odds. Each face bears witness tothe endurance and abnegation which characterized these women, generation after generation.
To order: Send $14.95/US and $3 postage/handling to:
500 Salisbury Street
Worcester, Ma 01615-0005
You can E-MAIL FAWI here: FAWI2000@aol.com
Go to Home Page: The Franco-American Women's Institute
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COPYRIGHT NOTICE This publication is copyrighted and all rights are reserved by the writers. No part of this publication may be sold, copied, reproduced, transmitted, transcribed, stored in a retrieval system or translated into any language or computer language, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, magnetic, optical, chemical, manual or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the writers. For back issues or For more information, comments or help, please write For comments or help, webmaster: RJCR@aol.com
Last updated February 8, 1998