Working Christmas. 4:45 a.m. make coffee, plug in the white-lit wreath, turn on the radio to the Mt. Washington station playing Christmas carols.
Marginalia: read Brault’s French-Canadian heritage in New England for info on Sts. P. & P. and the people, remember theme of despised and rejected. Here in Maine the French were so treated in the established Yankee culture.
Relate when I’m inside; interspersed with service. Something on the language – the need to retain it. The Québécois newcomers retained their agrarian small-town mores and language in the mill towns of Maine. “Lose your language, lose your faith,” went the saying.
The road to the Catholic/French papermill town is dry and cold. The mountains beginning to be silhouetted against predawn twilight. The mill is wreathed in billowing steam and smoke, like any morning, but it’s Christmas. The employee’s parking lot is almost, but not quite, as full of cars as on any day. Having dropped Allen off, I pull out onto the road, then look back over my right shoulder at the mill, at its ridges and hills of logs and chips, the grim grimy structures, smokestacks of our providence. As usual. There he will be the working electrician, as usual.
All is as usual when I drop my husband at his place of work and move on down the highway. Only on this day is the difference seen on the highway itself: deserted for long stretches. I drive perhaps fifteen miles until coming to a closed convenience store. I pull up beside the roadside phone sitting beside the building in the parking lot. “Operator, can I make collect call?
“What’s your number?”
Collegiate J.D. answers and says he will accept the call. I ask him to check if the stove is off, if the wreath is unplugged. The wreath, he tells me, is lit. I wish him a Merry Christmas, say a few friendly words, and ‘bye: we won’t spend much of it together today. We had a family exchange of gifts and dinner that night before, and he assured me it would be all right: his spending much of the day at home alone.
How can that be? How can I be off away and him alone? It is the struggle to write. He has endured it. Well.
I pull away in the Subaru and proceed down the highway 25 miles, carols tinkling on the radio. The roadside is dirty with old snow, gritty with sand and pocked by melting from applications of salt. The sun is just beginning to fire the fir hills. Transforming them.
to be continued…HERE!