Marius Barbeau A glimpse of Canadian Culture (1883-1969)
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Barbeau's Story

Early Years (2)

We lived in a large brick home. Time was spent in a large kitchen in a wing in back at right angles from the main hallway that went from left to right. There was a table, a large stove, furniture, a side door leading outside, and in back, to the right, the door leading to the large bedroom of my parents. Above, there were bedrooms. My mother had a large upright piano in the front room, and she would often play; one of the pieces was "La prière d'une vierge" (Prayer of A Virgin).

The garden in front of the kitchen was closed-in by a tall fence of lilacs and plum trees with wonderful small red fruit, which when ripe were used to make preserves. This garden was full of flowers, asters, "phlox" and so forth, and also currants, gooseberries, which were my favourite when in season, huge strawberries that my father grew with care, red and white raspberries, a few plots of shallots, leeks and one or two hot beds. One had to move about carefully and respectfully in this garden: avoid breaking anything, avoid picking the strawberries or raspberries. Avoid eating anything until my father gave it to you. Sometimes I would sneak a few of them.

The centre of this garden (if not of the world) was the apple tree of the "fameuses" - a tree without equal that had red-striped white fruit. It was round. It's trunk was rather whimsical and twisted. I still see this tree as the earthly tree of the Temptation in Paradise.

My parents were strict; I was not allowed to be friends with the young neighbours, sons of habitants, who did not speak well. My mother was an educated woman, having been a novitiate for seven years, up to the age of twenty-three, with the Gray Sisters of the city of Québec. My father was a habitant, but a somewhat pretentious man. I grew up as a shut-in! When I was eight years old, I was sent off to catechism for my first communion. I used to like this outing into the world. At catechism in the sacristy, the priest who was teaching us had us recite the answers to the mysteries, and so forth. We did not understand anything, but we repeated them word for word. My parents had me learn all the answers. I was too young to make my first communion. I was eight years old, and usually one waited until one was ten or twelve years old. Yet I made my first communion. It was an event: white bows over the heart, white bands on the arm!

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