In a small village in rural Québec that was just the way it was – you grew up, you got married and you raised a family. She was only 16 years old when it was decided she should marry the neighbor’s young son. She had already finished her limited schooling by age 10 and was helping in the kitchen and learning how to be a good wife.
Neither of them really knew what life had in store for them but she was destined to be wife, mother and have many children as per the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church which was the religion she was brought up in. By the age of 21 she had already given birth to 5 children only 3 of which survived. The growing family moved to the city so her husband could find work as the village did not have enough industry to sustain its residents and only a few family members were needed to work on the local farms.
It was not easy bringing up a family with 2 to 3 children in diapers at any given time and by the age of 30 she had birthed 12 children and fortunately I was one of the 9 lucky ones who is here today to recount her story. Life got tougher when they moved to the city. Jobs were not easy to come by and her husband’s pay was less than adequate to support the family. Stopping at the tavern the night he was given his pay packet did not help their meager lifestyle.
Hand-me-down clothes and darned socks were the order of the day and trading with the neighbors was the most common way to make ends meet. She took in laundry to help pay the bills and somehow she always managed to find enough food to feed all of us. She got us to school on time by walking us there and making sure we never missed a day – not if she could help it.
When I think back now I don’t remember her ever having something new to wear or going out to the movies but I do remember her ironing clothes all day on Saturday to make sure we all looked our best for Sunday mass at the local church.
Eventually we all grew up, moved out of the house and on with our own lives but we always took care of her because, if we didn’t, then who would. She had made us all who we are today and she sacrificed herself and her youth for us. She taught us right from wrong; she did her best to ensure that we got an education; and she showed us that there was always hope if we put our minds to making things happen.
It was in 1997 that she finally took a plane trip, her dream flight, to Florida where all Québec snowbirds look forward to vacationing in the cold winter months. By then she was a widow and her life was her own but she never stopped caring for and worrying about her children and grandchildren. She made and continues to make a huge impact on the lives of all of us and she is remembered with love and fondness.
My name is Françoise Lapierre and my mother’s name is Marie-Louise (1922-2009) Longueuil, Québec, Canada