Search
  • Rebecca Drew

The Sun is Setting on this Journal (for just a bit)

It is time for the sun to set on the Floramont Journal for a bit. While Floramont will continue to exist, this journal will pause for the rest of Autumn 2021. This photo, literally and figuratively, represents a pause in searching for roots in Québec and Acadia by landing right here in the South. Ironically, the mountain in the distance is part of the Appalachian Mountains which begin in Québec before winding through the Southern United States.

Virginia mountain sunset

While my French-Canadian great-grandfather landed much further west (as in Napa, California), I am back on the East Coast, and I was born not too far from that mountain in the distance. Whenever I ask questions about the French-Canadian side of the family, it's just a shrug of the shoulders with a few tidbits here and there. When I share what I've learned about the fascinating culture of Québec and Acadia, I hear sighs and questions about why I find it so interesting. When I talk about translating a historical document from the vast archives, there is yet more sighing and exasperation.


If I asked my great-grandfather what he thought, I really believe he would say, "Just be happy. Don't over-analyze it. Look to the future." This doesn't mean I can't pick up a book and fascinate myself for a few minutes. It just means I won't waste anyone else's time. Then I think about that dream I had several months ago. I was looking through a drawer, and I discovered a tiny frame with a little sketch of two male mice in a cozy living room. One was looking up from a newspaper while wearing glasses, and the other one was facing him. The frame consisted of two gold lions flanking each side of the sketch, along with the year 1922 in tiny print at the bottom. Then, I turned over the frame, and I could hardly read the faded pencil. It was something like this in cursive French writing: ".......frére....de rien...." Most of the words were faded, so I could not read the entire sentence.


When I woke up from the dream, I knew I had to remember that year. When I had a chance to translate the words, it appeared to say "....brother....nothing...." Again, most of the words were faded. I took this to mean that the French language was fading from the family, and perhaps the mouse in glasses represented my great-great grandfather who stayed in Maine while his son, my great-grandfather, headed to California. Perhaps the other mouse was my great-great grandfather's brother who also remained in Maine. Although there were many other brothers, I suspect it was the one with whom he maintained close personal and business ties. Were they lamenting the loss of French-Canadian culture for the next generation?


Anyway, I went back to the frame's mysterious etching of the year 1922. Looking through paperwork, I found my great-grandfather's marriage certificate from California. Guess what? He was married the following year in 1923. I have no idea when my great-grandfather left for the west coast, but I know he was in Maine for the 1920 Census. When did he leave? When did his father learn his son was marrying an Irish-American woman clear across the continent?


You see, I have interpreted this dream as an indication of concern for losing the language and culture of Québec and Acadia. The lions flanking the frame may represent the British culture invading the French-Canadian culture. Can this be prevented? Can the descendants in the United States regain what was lost? Yes, of course. I believe they can, but it requires a lot of effort, and they may not regain all of it, just parts, and that's worthwhile to pursue. Also, it would help if they would welcome "outsiders" into their circles. All because I live in the South, a few generations away from my French-Canadian ancestor, does not mean I have nothing to share with descendants in New England. All because my ancestor left New England does not mean that I do not sympathize with the problems encountered by those who stayed, such as the English language mandates. Meanwhile, is it worthwhile for me to tell others within my circle, even the ones who have ancestors from these areas? So far, the answer is looking like a resounding "no."


Why the grim prognosis? When I reach out to fellow descendants within the United States, they mostly ignore me. There is no sustained interest on their part, even if they act like they are trying to hold onto their heritage for dear life. However, the few times I have contacted people in Québec, they reply with kindness and interest. Why the difference? I get the impression I'm not "pure laine" enough for many of the ones in the United States, meaning "pure wool," an expression denoting 100% French-Canadian ancestry. Well, excusez-moi.


Can you tell that I'm upset about the lack of enthusiasm for something I hold hold dear to my heart? Going back to what I think my great-grandfather would say, I can't help but take a lesson from his own behavior, the way he fully embraced being an American. I believe he would say, "Get on with it." Some may see that as an Anglo viewpoint, but shouldn't we embrace the good aspects of other cultures? Besides, what is more important? Knowing how to speak French, or simply being a good listener within your own language? I am choosing to focus on others within my circle. If they are not interested in learning about something, then it's wrong to keep babbling about it. Shouldn't we seek the interests of others as an act of kindness? This is the real lesson I am learning from my French-Canadian ancestors. It's how you interact with people that matters.


So with that, I bid you adieu.


Return to the Floramont Journal