Wednesday's Child: excerpts
Rhea CÃ´tÃ© Robbins
Collette et manchettes, 2 cents
"BUANDERIE DE FALL RIVER! FALL RIVER LAUNDRY, No. 24,
rue Hartwell, Collette et manchettes, 2 cents, piÃ¨ce tapis battus et
nettoyÃ©s Ã la vapeur, 4 cents la verge. Linge lavÃ©, empesÃ©, repassÃ©
ou non, au grÃ¨s des clients. On va chercher sans frais tous les
paquets Ã domicile..."
â€”L'IndÃ©pendant, 4iÃ¨me annÃ©e, No. 3 Foi, loyautÃ©,
progrÃ¨s, Fall River, Mass, 20 janvier, 1888
Perfect, present, future tense. In French. Everything in French. Even if it is
in English, it is still in French. A layer of French living laid over by layers of
popular culture or popular culture covered by Uving done in French. InterÂ
twined. I wish I had a happier story to tell, but I've made my peace with its
ugliness. It is a truthful, unpretty face. I have learned to love the story I
hated. One of the deep reverberations that I must reacquaint myself with.
Legends. Customs. Recipes. Folktales. Stories. Songs. Futuristic visions. I
have visions of perfect, present, future tense. What am I in the future of my
Franco-American womaning? Do I learn the language? Do I write my way
to freedom? Will I be understood by even myself, I wonder, let alone
someone without a cultural blueprint. I am scared. Afraid of the outcome.
The judgments. The pronouncements. Some have more of the inner sanctum
secret passwords than others. Some have the original recipes. Some can
sing. Some know the essence of the moment told in French words. I can hear
the heartbeat of QuÃ©bec. I can hear the St. Lawrence River, lefleuveSt. Laurent
running in my bloodstream. I am giant and I have out of the body experiÂ
ences picking up tankers on the St. Lawrence looking down from the 13th
floor of Le Concorde. I eat the soup, bread, plat principal, and desert without
a bit of explanation necessary. I climb on my knees the prayer stairs at Ste.
Anne de BeauprÃ©. I am close to Jean CÃ´tÃ©'s grave on l'Ã®le d'OrlÃ©ans. He arrived
just yesterdayâ€”1600 something. I married the very distant cousin. I eat the
soup. I bake the bread. I am a couseuse. I make bold the colors in my house.
I get dizzy admiring the roofs in QuÃ©bec. The colors on the houses leave me
breathless. I have been shamed to white, but I vow to return to the palette
of true colors. I dream the visions of young women in French. Equanimity
in the cultural unearthing of their legacy of the near millennium. Do-it-toyourself archaeology. The cookbook of life rendered for what it is. That
which sustains the generations to come. Pride, not shame in the female cook
pot. Modern day tapestry of living unparalleled in its boasts. On parle
franÃ§ais, ici the commercial advertisements read. Understood, at last.
QuÃ©bec Studies, Volume 33, Spring/Summer 2002