2016-06-23 / Editorial

C Norman’s Attic of Memories

The colors of my youth
By Norman Beaupré

One aspect of my youth that seems to last in my memory are the colors. When the eye is struck by the vivacity of colors, especially in the burst of youth, well, there develops in the child who is growing up an entire rainbow engraved in his memory, sensitized by the attraction of the beautiful and the true.

What would life be without colors? Black and white, that’s all, just like the old films of the past. Without colors is without imagination and without the ability to see things as they are in nature prodigious with all kinds of colors. The child is very sensitive to colors. At least, I was. While growing up I was attracted to the bright colors of my environment. The child loves the colors that are inculcated in him by virtue of the senses and his penchant toward the blossoming forth of everything that is color. I was and I continue to be even in my full maturity.

I have just completed a collection of tales and stories entitled, “Memories of a Dreaming Francophone Youth,” in which is found the story of the “Purple Balloon” (Le Ballon Viné). “Viné” is not standard French, it’s rather the color “pourpre.” Back home we used to say “vine.” It was part of our spoken language, we Franco-Americans. As for the color “pourpre,” it only existed in dictionaries or in the language of educated people who had learned it one way or another. “Pourpre” was for those who spoke well. However, “viné” belonged to us and we used it all day long, a term that was not that well known and appreciated. I say in my story about the purple balloon that purple was a favorite color of many, especially of older people, when I was growing up. A beautiful purple hat, a purple coat, purple gloves, a beautiful purple ribbon and any article of clothing that was purple and worn with pride with a sense of belonging to the Franco-American community that prided itself in its independence as far as fleeting clothing styles went.

I know that not everybody loved the color purple. There were some who preferred other colors that were brighter and more appealing to the eye, especially for young people. But, the color purple seemed to attract the ladies more given to not so bright colors and softer in tone such as mauve, lilac, brown and beige, and, of course, purple. The color purple seemed to fit well in autumn and in winter. It was a striking color in the eyes of those who loved the color that was between prune-colored and purple that we called “vine.” In English it is called purple or sometimes plum. But the color “viné” everyone recognized. Well, almost everyone, especially in our Franco community – except for the men who hardly paid any attention to colors. Very often the husband asked his wife to choose a tie for him or even a shirt, a pair of pants, socks and sometimes shoes that were the right ones and matched. Many of the men had no sense of color or harmony of colors.

As for me and my particular tastes and harmony of colors, I’ve always loved red, the bright scarlet red, the color green and its adherent, aqua blue/green, as well as purple. I like the other colors, but I prefer these. I love the pink of a beautiful flower and the azure blue of the sky. The rainbow pleases me a lot especially having seen the full arc that I saw in the desert of Brazil with Sister Priscille of the Good Shepherd Sisters, or in French, “soeurs du coeur immaculé de Marie.” several years ago. I never lost it in my interior eye.

When I was very young I admired the colors of the clothing my mother wore, especially the dresses, since my mother was a proud woman. She loved bright colors, happy colors. The darker and lusterless shades of colors were terrible to her taste. I remember one of the dresses she wore on one of her photos taken on a visit to one of her sisters who lived on Monroe Street in Augusta. I was barely 2 years old then, I believe. She wore a dress that was brownish and what attracted my gaze was the clown collar with various shades of colors that harmonized well with her dress. I still have that photo taken on the lawn in front of aunt Mina’s house.

As for the color “vine,” well, this particular color has never stopped hovering in my imagination and my interest in things. Why even today, the color “viné” stimulates in me associations such as ripe cherries, what we called “wine cherries.” The ripened plums on the branches that had this beautiful color, whose fruits shined in the full sun, and the beautiful landscapes of a sunset when the colors change from the brilliant hues to the tender and subdued shades of the setting sun and sometimes with purple bursts of colors. I loved to sit in the grass when I was young and admire the colors of sunset until mother called me in the house to get ready for bed. The colors that I had been admiring stayed glued to my interior vision and I fell asleep in the soft and tender alleyways that lead me to infinite vistas absorbed by the power of sight and drawn to my child’s brain.

I remember that our neighbor, Mrs. D., who also lived on the hill, liked to tell her husband, Frank, that she did not like colors that were too pale since she found them lifeless, without any brilliance. That’s why all the interior walls of her house were of a darker shade, sometimes even somber. The neighbors and relatives found her a bit strange in her choice of colors. Her name was Rose-Eva. There were so many women in our Franco community that had two first names. There was Marie-Ange, Marie-Thérèse, Rose-Alba, Rose-Hélène and so forth. I, who was the child of colors, I associated these names with the colors that came to mind. For me Marie-Ange was the color of the angels, the angelic pink; Marie-Thérèse was the color green, the green of the prairies; Rose-Alba was the color purple because this lady was old; Rose-Hélène was the blue color of a cloudless sky for Rose-Hélène always had a beautiful smile on her lips. Colors always inspired me in some way or another, and stimulated my imagination that so often was a dreamer of sorts. What was the color you favored in your childhood days? Has it changed? And you, the men who dare read my columns, are you sensitive to colors or do you just don’t care? And all of you, my readers, do you like the color “viné”? Let us all use the term viné now and then just to express the Franco-American in all of us, Irish, Polish, Hispanic, or other ethnic background. Why not?

Dr. Norman Beaupré is a native of Biddeford and taught more than 30 years at the University of New England. He obtained his doctorate in French Literature from Brown University. He has traveled extensively in France and in several other countries. He is the author of 20 published books both in French and in English and his latest project is a collection of tales and stories in French that emerged from his active imagination and deals with his Francophone memories.

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