Our friend Estelle died Sunday, March 17, at Gifford Medical Center. Estelle began coming to the Randolph Senior Center memoir-writing group in September 2010, and her stories about life in Brookfield were one of the highlights of the Tuesday group. Several of them ended up in our second anthology (The Hale Street Gang: A Sense of Place). Cynthia Jackson was her co-writer; Cynthia would visit Estelle once a week at Joslyn House, Estelle would talk, Cynthia would take notes, and John Jackson would bring the exquisite results to the Tuesday group, where either Estelle or I would read them aloud to the group. Estelle liked to hear her words read back to her. I would, too, if my words were as entertaining and full of life as hers. I remember that when Estelle gave her one and only public reading, her family turned out in force; some of them drove three hours to get there. She was well loved, by family and friends. Here's one of her first little pieces. Many more followed.
This is not a day-to-day journal, it's just my thoughts as I grow older and all my friends and neighbors are dying off. There is nobody to talk to about the farm, Abbotts, Blairs, the little house on the hill. It is strange; I don't want to let it get me down in the mouth, and mind you, I won't, God willing.
Dancing! Square dancing! Loved it, especially the swing around! My Dad was a great dancer; I loved it when he was in our square. At one party, he came over and took my hand and led me onto the floor; it was one of the best dances I shall always remember. It was at a wedding reception, before I was married, and it was in an old farmhouse, which was where all the parties I ever knew were held. All the French people had parties at the drop of a hat, usually Sunday nights.
Especially in the winter it was so cold! At that time there wasn't any Prestone for cars, so they let all the water out of the motors so they wouldn't freeze. After the party they would have to fill them up again, but they sure didn't seem to mind. The wives would heat the water in a big boiler on the stove (wood, of course). By the end of the night it was warm or boiling. The men put on their war mackinaws, mittens and hats, then each one had a pail to carry the water. Very exciting! Then the women and children would run to the cars, wrap themselves with blankets and snuggle down for the ride home. No heaters in cars! Everybody had such a good time, but they still had to get up 'round five o'clock in the morning. I often wondered if my parents stayed up, because the parties lasted till quite late. Then, too, they always had a little moonshine, which was passed out in an ounce glass, everyone taking their drink in turn, out of the same little glass. That's all they had at one time, but of course it was handed out quite often. But nobody seemed to get drunk, as there was a lot of singing; everybody would take turns singing a song, and there was always plenty of dancing and laughter.
One Monday morning my sister and I were sorting clothes to do the washing, talking about the most recent party and the new family that had moved into town. Now we were talking about the men in the family, who were all good looking. I was telling my sister that Homer was the best looking, but what a name! We both laughed, but my father said in his soft voice, "Never laugh at a man's name, as you might be having him for a husband." And I DID! My sisters in Massachusetts always sent our letters to Mr. and Mrs. Omar Therrien. That was the French way to spell and pronounce his name. They didn't approve of his American version. But he stubbornly held onto the name he was baptised with: Homer Therrien.