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I should be thankful that my parents didn’t use birth control.

As the 11th surviving offspring of their traditional union I may not have made it here if they chose not to marry, or if they defied the rules of the Catholic Church and enjoyed intimacy without the worry of more mouths to feed.

I think they and the few lucky offspring would have been A LOT happier and less wanting.

Little Blonde Girl's First Communion

Little Blonde Girl’s First Communion 1970-ish. She did not look pleased…

Well, they made do and most of us turned out okay.  A French relative referred to our family as débrouillard. That term followed many of us through our adult lives as we coped with limited resources. 

During a research quest this summer, I harvested the following from older relatives on my parents’ encounter in Québec City, their subsequent letter-writing courtship and eventual marriage:

  • Mother did indeed want to get married and have children (probably not so many though);
  • Her younger sister witnessed how that handsome young English soldier was smitten by a pretty French girl;
  • While courting from afar, that young man wrote to her announcing his conversion to Catholicism so that she would accept his hand in marriage;
  • Their prenuptial agreement didn’t involve protecting one’s established wealth.  It was  more of an agreement that the children would be raised as Catholics in Ontario, and that English would be the only language spoken in the home.

Quel compromis!

  • Most of our names were derived from those of the Apostles, Saints or ancestors;
  • We were brought up effectively with good ole “burn in hell” fear, Catholic guilt, plus discipline by the hot welts of Mother’s lilac twig or Father’s belt;
  • Father was a humble carpenter.  Just had to throw that in there;
  • By the time they reached Kindergarten, my older siblings spoke English with a French accent;
  • By the time we reached high school, some of us struggled with French pronunciations, those ambiguous feminine, masculine nouns and the painful conjugation of verbs.

 

In comparison though, we all knew the Apostles’ Creed, Hail Mary and Our Father by memory. As one of the younger brood members, I was spared from Saturday evening Rosary sessions. By that time, I think our parents were preoccupied.

At least the younger brood didn’t have to learn the mass in Latin!

My brothers survived as altar boys with no visible scars or horror stories (at least that I know of).  Altar girls or “altar servers” were only allowed after 1983. A little too late for me.  

 

Those who could not grasp la langue had limited career opportunities if seeking jobs with the Federal Government or many private sector employers in the National Capital Region.

Four observations from a lapsed Catholic:

  1. Children learn to become good citizens by compassion and role models, not just through dogma and fear;
  2. Our world is over-populated (duh);
  3. Marriage should not be a life sentence;
  4. The Church has been presented with an opportunity to evolve along its difficult journey, with a more compassionate captain at the helm.

As I embrace my roots, explore the fractal branches of our family tree and honour my parents, I welcome the opportunity to parler la langue with colleagues and new friends.

Votre patience sera appréciée.

If you share similar childhood memories or scars, you will appreciate how Sera Fletcher rebelled at attending Sunday mass.  You may also appreciate her simplistic approach to belief systems and coping with loss in The Year of the Rabbit – A Novel About Fate, Family and Forgiveness.

Thanks for dropping by.

T

 

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