For two relatively short periods — once when I was a baby and again a few years later when money was tight — my parents lived with Grandma Annie and Memére in the old cedar-shingled house at the corner of Bellevue and Dunlap in the heart of Frenchtown.
We slept in the flat upstairs when I was a newborn but later moved to the rear wing of the long, narrow house.
I still dream of those back rooms. Along with the old kitchen, which I described in a previous post, there was a large bedroom and a much smaller one.
The room I slept in was close to the kitchen. Usually the smell of eggs or bacon frying woke me in the mornings.
Sometimes on rainy days, Annie would make pancakes or waffles with a fruity syrup. I will always associate the sweet tart aroma of associate blueberry syrup with the sound of rain beating relentlessly on windowpanes.
But it is Sunday mornings I recall the most clearly. Annie and her mother rose early for mass, and the sounds of their voices — arguing, as mothers and daughters do — woke me and kept me from falling back asleep.
Alone together, they spoke only French. I don’t recall their conversations. Perhaps Memére had misplaced her gloves. Maybe Annie was missing a hat pin.
I waited for them to leave, for the front door to slam so I could burrow back down under the covers for more sleep.
When they returned home, Annie would start breakfast. The sounds changed, coffee percolating, eggs breaking, juice pouring, toast popping.
When breakfast was finished, she would begin preparations for Sunday dinner. Pans rattled as she removed them from cupboards, the refrigerator door opened and closed.
Over dinner, there was much conversation, and everyone lingered long over dessert.
Sometimes in the afternoon, relatives from “up north” would visit and the living room would be noisy with the swooping cadences of French Canada.
Other times, the afternoons would be long and somnolent, with the only sounds — save for the turning of newspaper pages — coming from the mid-afternoon mail plane.
The rhythm of my life has changed considerably over the years. But the sound of two women arguing in French, the clatter of pans in the kitchen and the drone of a single-engine plane on a summer afternoon can instantly transport me to that other time.
And the smells, too, but that is another post.