Yesterday's Magazette

6 – A Letter To Charlotte

A Letter To Charlotte

By Therese Gaudette

My mother came to the United States from Canada at age 19. Here she met my father, also Canadian-born. They became U.S. citizens, married, had five children and 21 grandchildren. After my mother died, I was surprised to come across a letter to one of her granddaughters. Following is a copy of the letter, verbatim:

Dear Charlotte,

When I was a little girl, about seventy years ago, I lived with my parents in Canada, in the country about thirty miles from Quebec city. The little church was built on our own land across the street where we lived. My mother died when I was three years old.

You see, there was no electric lights we had oil lamps, there was no radio, television, no automobiles we did not have any Christmas tree decoration or gift. It was not the custom then. Christmas, a holy day, was celebrated by going to church, to the Midnight Mass.

Early in the evening you could hear the sleigh bells from the horse drawn carriages, bringing people to the village for the celebration. I remember the Church bells, the candle lights, the manger with the child Jesus, the singing of hymns and carols. To me it was all so very beautiful. After the Mass, our family and friends would come to the house and gather around the wooden stove to warm up. I remember being cold, hungry, and sleepy.

My aunt Lucie and my sisters would serve tea with tourtieres (meat pies) and sugared home made doughnuts with tea and coffee. People would go back home with a warm happy contented feeling and we were happy too. All these things stand out clearly in my memory.

During the year we had all the food we wanted and could eat but we had to work to help. We had cows, horses, sheep, pigs, and chicken. We had plenty of cream and butter and milk of course. We had to bake our own bread and pastry. We also had plenty of fresh vegetables. We had a sugar bush about one thousand maple trees, so in the spring my father and my brother would make maple sirup and maple sugar.

I remember coming from school and putting slices of maple sugar with cream on a sliced of bread for lunch. this was the best tasting treat; it was natural and very nourishing too.

There is a lot of pleasure living on a farm but as I said we had to work and help although it was very rewarding.


Your Memere

P.S. Grandmother in french is Grandmere. Memere is the affectionate term.

I later learned from my brother Louis––he believes that his daughter Charlotte may have received the letter in conjunction with a school assignment. It was touching to read Mom’s brief letter describing parts of her life. It makes me feel she is still a vital part of mine.

My father died in 1976, and my mother was widowed for two years. I have vivid memories of one Christmas when she came to spend it with me and my family. Nothing stands out more than the picture of her coming down our stairway to join us for the celebration. She wore a long, black crepe straight-cut skirt, a black long-sleeve crepe blouse, and simple jewelry; elegance personified. The smile on her face was exquisite. I saw through it a mixture of happiness to be with us and courage at facing the holiday without my father for the first time. It was heart-wrenching.

As she neared the bottom of the stairs, she turned in awe at the most wonderful picture, a lovely snowfall, like large cotton balls floating from the heavens…a gift, I’m sure,  especially for her. It was to be her last Christmas. She died in 1978 at the age of 76.

Her letter to Charlotte was my gift. I now have it in her handwriting, a splendid account of her early years, a small piece of history that had been missing for so long but means so much to me today.

A native of Salem, Massachusetts, Therese now lives Summerfield, Florida, with her husband, Roland. They have six children and 10 grandchildren. Therese writes poetry, short stories, and memoirs. A first-place winner in a Cancer-Relay-for-Life Poetry Contest, she has published several poems and articles in newspapers as well as an article in Woman’s Day. She is a member and past-president of Writers’ Bloc, writing and critiquing group she founded in 2001. She contributed a memoir to Dolls Remembered, an anthology of stories about childhood dolls.

Vol. 36 No. 4 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Winter – 2009-2010


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