Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The French Connection

When I was small, my Nana and Papa (my dad's parents) were incredibly close to me. Leopold and Antoinette Seguin were, as the names might imply, French Canadian and both hailed from huge families. Among her siblings my Nana had two sisters who were teachers and nuns (I didn't know you could be both) and a brother who was an MP. I'm told when my Nana arrived in Pine Falls to be a nurse at the local hospital, my Papa took one look at her and determined because she was also short in stature, she would make a fine wife. He was not wrong. My Papa was a book-keeper at the local mill and even in a tiny town like Pine Falls there was a social pecking order between people who worked in the office/administration and those who worked on the shop floor. My Nana had a cleaning lady (which I suspect was not really necessary) and in keeping with the times she would have her lunch alone in the formal dining room while the cleaning lady sat by herself at the kitchen table. That is simply how it was done.

Together they had three children, Rita, Bob (Bobby) and my dad, Ron. Because my mom's parents lived some distance away, Nana and Papa were the center of our universe. I would toddle down the street to their house frequently to pass the time and spend afternoons playing Go Fish with my Nana at the dining room table or poring over her costume jewelry which was kept in a box in their bedroom and held endless fascination for my sister and I. They were both the types to dress up every day, my Nana in a dress and pearls and my Papa in a suit and hat - winter or summer. My Nana was also popular because she stocked our favourite foods and both my brother Murray and I would stand patiently at the fridge waiting for the banana ice-cream to be pulled out. One time when my Nana asked me what I wanted for lunch I famously replied "nothing special, just a little turkey or a roast, but don't go to any trouble, Nana". (I loved her cooking). My visits often extended overnight and they would prepare the pull-out couch in their living room and we would watch TV together before I went to sleep, chuckling together at Laugh-In or whatever other comedy happened to be on. When they wanted to have a private conversation when I was around, they would lapse into French, which I didn't understand, as sadly it was a time when passing on that part of their culture wasn't encouraged.

When we moved to BC after my mom remarried, they flew out a few times to visit but my Nana sadly passed away when I was about twelve. Once in my late teens I went to visit my Papa who, suffering from early stages of dementia, had moved into a new senior's home in Pine Falls. I found him watching baseball on TV (one of his favourite pastimes). He had reached that stage of life where he could vividly recall the scores of games from 25 years ago but couldn't remember if he'd eaten lunch. At one point as we sat together he turned to me and said, with a pained look on his face, that he couldn't remember if he had been a good husband or not. My heart breaking, all I could do was hold his hand and reply that yes, he'd been a very good husband.


  1. So many memories. They were wonderful grand parents!

  2. I love reading your recollections of Nana and Papa as it brings back things I haven't thought about in years, like Papa's collection of swizzle sticks and the old wardrobe in the basement that I used to hide in when we played hide and seek. It smelled of moth balls and every time I went in there I was sure that this time I would end up in Narnia. I named my boy Leopold Emile in the hope that he would grow up to be a gentleman just like Papa. It didn't work, though he is very gentle with animals. He's got a ways to go in the other sense of the word but we can hope.

  3. I still have that old wardrobe and their dining room table as well.

    1. Dear Stacey and Tim - so happy the wardrobe and dining room table live on! Many happy memories at that table and I had forgotten about the swizzle sticks! (Leopold may not have all of the same manners but if he loves animals he is a prince in my book!)

  4. And remember the "rec room" - with a bar! - downstairs? And the little man who "smoked"? And the tea trolley? And Papa's breakfast - toast, a boiled egg, lemon juice... So many memories now... And as for gentlemen, Stacy, I think they ALL have a long way to go when they are Leo's age... At least, I would say so, based on my boys. But they have good genes, (and Leo has a great name!), and hope certainly does spring eternal.

    Funny - I put my boys through French Immersion so that they would regain that bit of culture I missed... I wish they could have met Nana and Papa, and spoken to them in their first language. But at least we have the stories.