Friday, July 24, 2009
When I think of my roots, the image above is one of the first things that comes to mind.
This is my great uncle, l'Oncle Elzée (full name Elzéard). This is the house in which he grew up. It's the house in which my father was born. It's the house that stood across the road from the one in which I grew up, and I am deeply attached to it and the soil on which it stood.
L'Oncle Elzée was our next door neighbour. Weather permitting he'd spend most of his days outside talking to his dog Lassie, chatting with the sparrows or simply sitting on his stoop singing - or more specifically what we Acadians call "turlutter" (which, I just found out via Google, has a VERY different meaning in France). Most days included at least one visit to the homestead.
As a child I often watched impatiently through our living room window to see if the door to the old house was open; as soon as it was I'd run over to join him.
I loved the house's creaky floorboards, the green and pale blue walls and the central staircase that led to the tiny upstairs bedrooms - oh how majestic it was to my impressionable eyes. And then my favourite: the tiny curved staircase that led from the back corner of the kitchen to the attic, home of old papers, photos and everyday items from the past. I dubbed it the secret staircase and to this day imaginary plans for my dream house include one.
L'Oncle Elzée told me stories about the people who lived there and I imagined how it might have been. I would never tire of it. He and I were both early risers and spent many a morning together surrounded by remnants of our ancestors. Like clockwork, at about 10:30am he'd say "Ben c'est l'temps d'aller faire bouillir mes patates!" (it's time to go put the potatoes on for lunch).
I also spent many a summer afternoon playing in the barn, and remember the year Mom, Dad & l'Oncle Elzée decided to till the field in front of the barn and fill it with corn and potatoes. Some of my most cherished memories ever are from that garden, marvelling in how many small white potatoes I could find in the rich, dark soil. I still marvel at it.
Sadly neither l'Oncle Elzée nor the house are with us anymore and the land now belongs to someone else. After all these years I still grieve these losses, tears rolling down my face as I type. I hope the new owners will be good stewards and I hope they tread lightly, for they tread on my roots - roots that are very near and dear to my heart.