2012-05-31 / Editorial

Grandmothers

Norman’s Attic of Memories.
By Norman Beaupré, Ph.D.

In the Franco-American/Québécois culture grandmothers are called méméres. This word is even used for old ladies who are not grandmothers. Today, children of Franco-American parents who do not speak French often continue to call their grandmothers, méméres. It’s a sign that certain French words remain anchored in our cultural heritage. I also notice that some who are not of our culture use the word mémére. It means that this term, which takes its roots in the Québécois culture, refuses to die. So much the better. It’s the same thing for pépére, grandfather. Mémére and pépére means for us Franco-Americans the good feeling of home.

Personally, I only knew one grandmother, my father’s mother, Laura Simard Beaupré, mémére Beaupré. I did not know my maternal grandmother, Rose Anna Cordeau Hubert. She died when I was only a year old. My mother used to tell me many things about my grandmother Hubert, and that’s how come I got to know her. (My novel, “Deux Femmes, Deux Rêves,” incorporates the life and times of my grandmother Hubert as well as my mother’s.

I knew my mémére Beaupré very well. She lived on Cleaves Street facing our house. She was a very good cook and well-known throughout the neighborhood for her fruit pies and her holy salve. Of course, she made all kinds of good things on her black stove and in its oven. With the years of baking and cooking she had tamed her stove so that it gave her the right results she anticipated. There was the bread she baked golden and crusty, pork and beef roasts with browned potatoes, all kinds of fruit pies, cakes and cookies. Her sugar cookies were light to the touch and oh so delicious. On New Year’s day she made us some molasses taffy that she pulled until the long thick string of taffy turned blondish and mouth watery. Then, she would cut it in pieces and wrapped them with waxed paper. Among all of my memories of my grandmother’s cooking there’s the fried dough she made early in the morning to the delight of my two sisters and myself. We used to eat several either with butter or jam. She would cut her raised dough into strips, and then put them in hot lard to fry. What delightful and tenacious memories of fried dough! Also, I’m the one who used to deliver with my little red wagon the pies that had been ordered by certain ladies of our neighborhood. She sold them 25 cents each and I got a whole nickel for my deliveries. At Christmastime my grandmother used to bake close to 100 pork pies and several fruit pies for those who had ordered them and did not want to bake. (I will talk about my grandmother’s holy salve when I discuss the religious customs of our ancestors).

My grandmother loved to sing. Her favorite song was “Écrivez-moi.” She loved family reunions and children who had laughter in their eyes. She loved baby showers and bridal showers when she, my aunt Eva and my mother became the focus of the party for they knew how to make the ladies sing. When these three ladies entered, the other ladies used to say, “Here come the Beauprés, now we’re going to have fun.”

I’m sure that my mémére resembles all of the other Franco-American méméres because they’re all cut from the same cultural fabric. My grandmother Beaupré died on January 11, 1949. I will always keep her fond memory in my heart even as I grow old.

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