Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Search For The Twins - Part Two

Even though it was still early in the morning, the day was already fulfilling its promise to be hot and sticky. Julia was thankful for the healthy breeze that was blowing through the window giving her some relief as she labored over the stove in the kitchen. Shortly after Eugene had appeared that morning, the twins had trailed down the steps, too, in their night shirts. Except for baby Phillip who was still sleeping in his crib upstairs, the children were in the dining room with their Aunt Rebecca eating their breakfast cereal of oatmeal. It had their favorite topping....cinnamon sugar.

In those days meals were served in the dining room. The small table that might be in the kitchen was reserved for food preparation. In fact the dining room was always humming with activity, aside from eating, of one kind or another in the household. Children did their school work at the dining room table. They played board games there such as checkers and chess. With her sewing machine nearby in the room, Mother used the dining room table to cut out pattern pieces to that dress she might be making for herself. Father sat at the table and paid the bills and made entries in his farm journal. It was a room that served many purposes.

As she watched over the potatoes frying in the skillet that morning turning them at just the right moment of crispness, Julia fingered the letter in her skirt pocket. It was from her cousin Emily. She had received the letter the day before. Emily wrote to say she was coming in the fall all the way from Vermont to spend a few months with Julia. The cousins had not seen each other since 1897 shortly before Julia and David married.

Emily's letter brought painful thoughts of the past to Julia's mind. "We are sending you to Vermont to live with your Aunt Leonia for a while." Like ghosts the words Julia's father spoke to her that day so long ago returned to haunt her. They laid like heavy weights upon her chest once again to the point that she could not breathe even after these many years later. That entire chapter of Julia's life began to seep into her mind as she stood over the stove preparing the day's breakfast for the farmers.


"Papa, no!" She pleaded.

"My dear child, your very soul is at stake." Her father insisted.

"But I love him, Papa." She cried.

"Julia, I can not permit you to marry this man and leave your church. I must insist you go and stay with your aunt. Your train leaves next Wednesday for Vermont."

Tears washed over her cheeks as she rushed out the door and to the haven of the old oak tree in the corner of the yard far from the house. This is where Julia always went when she was troubled and needed to think and find peace. She leaned against the oak and began to sob as she slipped to the ground. The rough bark snagged her Sunday dress. She did not care. She prayed for peace.

Peace did not come to Julia that day although like a trusted friend it sought her out through the protective canape of the old oak, the soft breeze, and the sweet scent of lilacs. But it could not penetrate her anguish which imprisoned her spirit.

The following Wednesday Julia boarded the train for Vermont. Her heart broken, she waved a somber goodbye to her parents who stood on the platform outside the train station. The engine chugged along slowly at first then picked up speed. She felt so alone. Whenever she glanced at the strangers on the train, she saw no one but David. She caught herself sighing again and again. Wishing the world would disappear she closed her eyes and fell asleep for a while.

Suddenly there was a jolt and she was awake. The train had stopped to pick up more passengers at the next station. Once it was underway again, Julia allowed the countryside the train passed through to become a meaningless blur for her. She looked down at the purse that laid in her lap. Her mother had made that purse for Julia out of a remnant that came from her own wedding dress.

People were frugal back then. Nothing went to waste. Everything was recycled and used again and again in one form or another. Women were highly skilled at sewing and altering clothing. Their husband's old suit was cut down to fit Junior. Wedding dresses became purses and Sunday dresses for the little girls in the family. Worn tablecloths became tea towels, napkins, and hot pads. Every piece of fabric that still had thread life to it and could not be used in some other way became part of a quilt.

Julia loosened the strings of her purse and carefully reached inside. She pulled out a lace handkerchief that she had neatly folded earlier before she left home. She unfolded it and stared down at its content. It was the rose that David had given her. She had pressed it between pages of a book for a keepsake. He had picked it off one of the rose bushes on the Langlois farm the night of the square dance when they met for the first time. She closed her eyes and let the train rock her back and forth into a twilight state where she began to remember what it was like the first time she saw David.

Julia knew of him before she met him. She had heard that his first wife had died after giving birth to a son who survived. But she had never met David or seen him before that night. The moment she laid eyes on David that night she was smitten with him. He was a beautiful man. Tall. Muscular. He had strong features and the darkest of eyes.

Toward the end of the evening, David was smitten with Julia, too, by all indications. After a few dances, they had slipped away together from the crowd and the clatter. They found a moonlit path to walk along where they talked and talked to each other. Their courtship progressed rapidly after that first night.

Julia's parents were not pleased with her new suitor, because he was Catholic. But it was not until Julia started talking about becoming a Catholic herself so that she and David could marry that her parents decided to intervene and send her off to Vermont in order to separate the two.

After Julia arrived at her aunt's home in Vermont, a series of letters began to go back and forth between Julia and her father. Her letters always started with "My dearest Papa,..." and ended with "Your loving daughter, Julia." Letters from her father started and ended in a similar fashion. Then one day a money order arrived for Julia from her father with a letter instructing her to purchase a train ticket and come home. The issue was resolved. The quarrel was over. Julia had prevailed. She was free to become Catholic and marry her beloved David. She had her parents' blessings.


When she reached for the jars of jam on a high shelf in her pantry, Julia was still deep in thought about Vermont and what had happened years ago. The sound of horses' hoofs hitting the ground outside in the farm yard as neighbor farmers started showing up to help David with the threshing distracted her from what she was doing. Suddenly a jar of jam too close to the shelf's edge toppled off and crashed to the floor below. "OH, NO!." Julie shouted.

"Mama?" One of the children said in a small worried voice. It was Leon. He and his twin Leonelle were standing in the doorway of the pantry. "Are you hurt, Mama?" He asked.

"Oh, my hearts of love. No, mama's not hurt." Julia replied warmly. "Come here to Mama." She bent down and kissed each of them directly on the mouth which was the custom in her family. Then she rose up and pulled them toward her and pressed them tightly against her body. "Mon beau enfants (My beautiful children)." She whispered as she thought of what could have happened years ago and what might not have ever come to be today.

(To be continued....)

Epilogue: It is true that Julia's parents sent her to Vermont to be with relatives after she expressed a desire to become a Catholic. They were Protestants even though they were French and had come from Quebec which should have made them Catholics.

The detective in me has concluded that Julia wanted to become a Catholic so that she and David could marry. The Catholic church would have been very strict about mixed marriages back then. Plus there would have been influence coming from David's Catholic family. I believe her parents were trying to separate her and David by sending her to Vermont hoping that the two would forget about each other. At least it is a romantic thought.

The fact that Julia returned home eventually and became a Catholic and married David suggests to me that some communication was taking place between Julia and her parents while she was in Vermont and that letters most likely flowed back and forth between them giving Julia an opportunity to change their minds.

And surely there was the rose that she pressed between pages of a book, the rose that David gave her.


  1. Oh, you are such a good writer, Susie! I am so intrigued by this story and can't wait for the next installment!

  2. Just think. If you weren't doing this it would never happen. There is likely no one else to crystallize and tell this story, and those are the best to be told. I've never done what I'm in the middle of at Patterns. It's fun but far more challenging than the kind of one post at a time writing I'm use to doing, and yes, there is a lot of research made quite fun and simple with the internet.
    I love farm settings and you're capturing it well.
    I like your epilogue and I think you are right. Sometimes you have to fill in the gaps with plausible romance. =)

  3. Thanks Tammy. I am pretty sure the final installment is going to be a good read. I have been putting it together in my head for several days now. I hope to post it next Sunday. That gives me a week to write it.

    Tom, it is true that probably no one else will put down this story. Lloyd, my cousin and the one relative I have designated as family historian is a capable writer. I have been trying to get him to establish a blog. Maybe someday he will do it.

    You mentioned research. I have been all over the page doing research on this story on the Internet investigating different areas of it. Vermont. Railroads. Fashions in 1900. Geneologies.

    My husband and I paid a visit to our local 1890's historic farm last Friday. We go there a couple times a month. Anyway, we took a tour of the house, again for he umpteenth time. Since there was only one other couple besides us, I was able to ask the tour guide lots of questions. I worked the information I got from him about the house and the customs back then into this most recent post.

    As you say, this type of writing is demanding, but rewarding.

  4. Susie you are a gifted writer and I feel very fortunate to be one of your readers. Through my years of teaching- I know that one way to be a good writer is to be a good reader... so here I am learning all that I can from the best of the best. (Tom is also one of my favorites!) I haven't tried anything like this on my blog but I do enjoy it when others do. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Susie, I may have to put my story on my other blog that I still have secreted away. I use it now for my experiments but I don't think NFSD is the right place for a story about my family and parents right now. It will soon be a free fire zone over at NFSD.

    I do enjoy your well written and very interesting story though. Keep up the very nice work.

  6. Hi,
    I just wanted to say thanks for stopping by my blog today and leaving a comment.

    This looks interesting. I must come back and read more.

  7. Kind of a myopic comment, but can't help myself: meals in the dining room were great!

    When I was a kid we usually ate in the kitchen, but if we had "company" it was often in the dining room - almost always if my mom cooked on a holiday. Also, once in a while she just felt like having a nice meal - candles, a "centerpiece" etc. - and that would be in the dining room.

    With today's crush to earn money and most households having to have both people working - and the whole frenetic pace of the kids being signed up for five after school programs/activities each, adults often underutilizing what vacation time they have... seems like the sheer time that's needed to maintain traditions large and small is evaporating.

  8. This is a wonderful series. I'm enjoying each installment and wait in anticipation for the next! I admire you for doing this! Will you print the story?


  9. NANCY: You're kind. I think we are learning from each other on this writing business. I know I have picked up ideas at your blog and at Tom's and others. It would be wonderful if you decided to write about some of your family members that came before you. It would be a great gift to give your grandchildren who might not know these people. It is a way to link them to their past. This is why I am writing about Julia. I want to create a link for my grandchildren to her.

    JENNI: I use one of my inactive blogs for experimenting. One time recently when I did that, a reader of mine left a response. I had to tell him it was just an experiment after which he understood. Why not create an entirely new blog for writing about your parents and grandparents? I see what you mean about your political blog being inappropriate for that. I agree.

    MORNING GLORY: Welcome! Please return. When I was at your blog recently and added my name to your Woman to Woman roster, I did not entirely understand what I was supposed to do after that. Now I know that I was supposed to create a "My Favorite Things" post. Next time you have a W. to W. posting I should be in a better position to participate. Sorry I misunderstood. I'm not usually that dense.

  10. PAUL: Myopic comment or not, I agree. Meals served in the dining room are great. But what makes them great in my opinion is that it is usually about family coming together not only to eat but to visit with one another. It is true that today's families live such hectic lives that simple traditions such as the family dinner table are being lost to soccer games and the like. I'll have to do a post on the continued importance of the family dinner table.

    PAT: I am glad you are enjoying this series. I do not know what I will do with this particular story once I have it completed, or where I will go from here with this Julia series. I will have to wait and see in what direction I am inspired. It just seems to me that the memory of people like my Great-grandma Julia should not be allowed to die out but should be kept alive through story telling like this. I believe it benefits our children and their children.

  11. Susie, I am so pleased to read your story about Great Grandma Julia. It also makes me happy to see the wonderful comments your readers write to you. You are doing a very good thing with your time for our grandchildren and their's. I also know how much you enjoy researching and writing. I have always known about your gift of writing, and I am happy you are now sharing it with others.


  12. Oh Susie...what a gifted writer you are! I am so enjoying this story.
    This story will be a special blessing to your children and is their family story but it is also written by YOU! Extra special.

    I look forward to reading more!!'

    Thank you so for sharing this with us!


  13. I feel like I have read a romance
    novel from the turn of the century,
    with the words, "To be continued."

    I was a very satisfying story, and
    thankfully love won out.

    Have I forgotten who Emily is, or
    will we find out next time?

    Great creativity.

  14. susie q - We do need to keep the heritage of our families alive. I think it helps to keep families together. At our house we do many things at the dining room table, we eat our meals there, I pay the bills there, I do my sewing there, the kids play board games there and my grandkids do their drawing (coloring) there too. It is the center of our home and I pray that it stays that way.

    So many kids today don't know how to use a sewing machine or how to put up jelly and jams or other fruits and vegtables. I remember my aunt Margaret teaching me how to can tomatoes....It was so easy and they tasted great. My daughters showed very little interest and the don't know how to can. Our days of fast food sure have paid a tole on families.

    Our church encourages us to write journals and do our geneology. I'm not very good at keeping these records, but I see the need for it. A young man in our church gave a talk just last Sunday about reading from his great, great, great grandfathers journal and how he trecked the plains and mountains of America to the great Salt Lake City valley to live. It is amazing what some of our ancestors did to survive.

    I love the picture of the house, it is so pretty and well kept. I can imagine Julia and her family living there. Thanks for the story, I can't wait for more.

  15. Its been a pretty hectic last couple of days and I am pretty drained physically and emotionally but I just wanted stop over and wish you and your husband a Happy Anniversary. I saw the picture and caption on your sidebar but I didn't have enough time to leave a comment the other day.

    I want to see what it is your grandaughter is making with strawberries on top of them, yummy:-)

  16. In case no one noticed, my husband left me a comment. He reads my blog now and has a special interest in my continuing story about the twins (my grandfather and his twin brother). I thank him for his comment. He has been supportive of me in my writing endeavors. I thank him for that too.

    One of these days I want him to establish his own blog so that he can record his memories of his parents.

  17. Susie Q: Thanks. One of the reasons I am writing this story is so that my grandchldren will have a link to their Great-great-great-grandmother Julia and that time in history. It is a wonderful thought that through stories like this one we can connect to our history as a nation.

    Sharon: My Great-grandfather David was a romantic man, I bet. So, yes, this story includes a little romance from that period. I remember how much attention he paid to me when I was a little girl of 5. He was always trying to get me to sing him a song. He paid me a nickel each time I would sing for him. About Emily, she is a fictitous character in this marriage of fact and fiction. But I bet that Julia had a cousin in Vermont that was probably close to her age. What her name actually was, I do not know.

  18. Can't wait to read part III. This is a wonderful story, and is as good as any I've read in magazines..

  19. Lucy: My bet is that most dining room tables serve multiple purposes today in American homes where children live.

    When our daughter and her four children lived with us for a few years after she divorced, both the dining room table and the kitchen table were humming with some child related activity. In order to protect the top of these wood tables, I went to Office Depot and purchased extra large cushioned desk mats for the children to work on. That did the trick.

    It amazes me how many younger women don't even cook today let alone do any canning. That's nearly a lost art along with making bread from scratch without the aid of the bread machine...not that I am willing to toss mine out the window. I am glad that our three adult children (including our son) feel at home in their kitchens and know how to cook.

    You mentioned journal writing. I wish some of my ancestors had kept journals. I talked to one of the tour guides at our local historic farm where I was able to take many of these pictures,and he said that in order to really get a feel for what was going on in the life of the average person during this period of time you need to read the journals that were kept. I'd like to get my hands on some of those journals.

  20. Jenni: Thanks for stopping by and wishing my hubby and me happy anniversary. Our children surprised us (well, surprised my husband because I already knew about it) by coming to our house the evening of our anniversary with a complete dinner for the entire family. I can still taste the Italian Beef our daughter Margaret made.

    Yes, I will get around to doing the piece on Cooking 101 with granddaughter Jackie. I have some darling photos of that event. Oh, and those are fresh raspberries you see.

    Susie: Thanks so much for stopping by. I am glad you got to read my story. I thought you had forgotten about me. :(