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.
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.
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.