Monday, July 16, 2018

Unintended consequences

"Je t'aime," the note accompanying the six red roses red delivered by my favorite florist read.

Although there was no signature, I was sure they were from my loving husband, who is visiting his daughter and grand kids in Texas.

I put them in a vase on his night stand where I could see them last thing at night and first in the morning.

What I didn't count on was Sherlock's reaction.

When I went to bed, the pup jumped up in the middle, did a double take when he saw the flowers and froze. Then he moved stealthily toward the night stand growling with each paw placement.

He stopped and stood there trembling.

There's a phrase, "Turned tail and ran" and that was just what he did.

I followed him and carried him back into the bedroom. He looked at the flowers and trembled.

I spoke as soothingly as possible and stroked one rose. He retreated as much as possible in my other arm.

Slowly, with soothing tones, I brought the flower closer to him. His nose twitched.

It took about five minutes to convince him that the flowers were not a danger. This morning he was asleep on my husband's pillow a few inches from the frightening flowers.



Sunday, July 15, 2018

The universe




We never know when or what something simple will lead to.

The Universe in Action 1

Last weekend we went to a lovely wedding.

I told my husband if I had not given up my nationality, we wouldn't be there. He looked confused until I explained.

Because I was a renounced American, when I die, it would complicate my daughter's inheritance, which is certainly not substantial, but still I did not see why she should be punished because of FATCA, the law that makes the financial lives of American expats a hell and which was the reason I had to renounce if I wanted to continue to live in Europe.

I therefore suggested I pay for Llara's grad school, but it had to be in Europe where it was a fraction of the cost and therefore affordable. Unlike the belief of many homelanders, expats aren't always rich and I definitely fall into the non-rich category.

She went to Napier in Edinburgh.

There she roomed with a fellow student, a bright and funny Greek women, who I got to know on trips to visit my daughter and later Rick met her when we spent a month in Edinburgh.

Thus, when the roommate was planning on getting married to a Frenchman, she invited us all to the wedding. Llara flew to France and we drove to Tillac, a beautiful little village west of Toulouse.

Thus my renunciation led to a wonderful day in a medieval church with a reception at a château and a chance to see a friend (whom we would never have known had I stayed American) launched into a new chapter of her life.

The Universe in Action 2

The man I refer to as the brother I would have loved to have has a son who is about to enter university.

The boy would not be here if his father had not bought a copier/printer in the Netherlands during the summer of 1990. To test it, he copied the want ads from the International Herald Tribune. Looking at them, he saw something of interest in Switzerland. Since he was Swiss, he thought he would apply.

He got the job and he and I ended up sharing the company apartment. I suggested we go to Argelès for a few days, where I had a studio.

He ended up buying a house there.

Next door, was his future wife and together they produced the young man who is about to enter university.

So maybe today I will buy a carrot from Chez Elisabeth, talk to a man in line who will introduce me to his wife and we will become friends and...and...and...It does open the possibility of a new adventure by just doing ordinary things.





Thursday, July 12, 2018

1st Abortion Trial



From Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles, a book about abortion before Roe v. Wade. We can't go back.

A Pre-Revolution Abortion and Trial


Today Pomfret CT is a post card of a New England town with churches, wooden houses, Robert Frost-type stonewalls and ivy-covered brick buildings. In autumn, leaves turn brilliant red and gold. The 40+ square miles covered by Pomfret lacks a town center as such. A graveyard, going back centuries, has the thin stone tombstones typical of Puritan times. Some are askew.
 
The population in 2014 was about 4,100 people. Selectmen, the New England version of an elected town counsel with equal voting rights, govern Pomfret as they have through the centuries.

Probably most residents today, would not guess that in 1745, 34 years after the village was incorporated and took its name from Lincolnshire, England, it was the scene of one of the first reported and prosecuted abortions in the new world. The University of Connecticut has published trial documents, which is why the information exists today. http://history.uconn.edu/taking-the-trade-biographies

As more people immigrated and the new settlers reproduced: growth was constant.

Although settlers found the class system more equal than the societies they had left, life was difficult. There were still poor whites, indentured servants, prostitutes and tenant farmers in comparison to those that garnered more prestige such as ministers, doctors, lawyers and landowners of various degrees of wealth.

Those living in New England faced a rugged climate and topography.

Religion was strict. There were churches that considered an organ too liberal and dancing dangerous. These limitations seeped into the general population influencing daily life. Celebrations did not include the too-Catholic Christmas.

Farmers represented about 90% of the people living in the colonies, although fishing, trapping, tobacco, blacksmithing, ship building etc. were also practiced trades.

In Pomfret, because of its land-bound location and climate, things like commercial fishing, shipbuilding and even tobacco growing were not viable livelihoods. Much farming was subsistence.

One of The First Abortion Trials in The New World
Sarah Grosvenor was lived all her life in Pomfret. By standards of the time, her family was well off. They owned farmland: her father was one of the first selectmen, elected as a village leader, in 1714.

There is no record of how Mary and Leicester Grosevenor felt when their daughter Sarah was born in 1723. They already had one daughter, two-year-old Zerviah. Were the couple disappointed that she wasn’t a boy? I could find no records of other children nor of Mary having miscarriages.

We know little of Sarah’s childhood but at 19 she found herself pregnant by a man eight years her senior.
·       Were they in love?
·       Did she seduce him?
·       Did he seduce her?
·       Was it mutual desire?
·       Did they make love once or many times?
·       Where did they make love?

One of the frustrations with old records, that the many questions they raise have no answer.
We do know his name was Amasa Sessions. Amasa is a Biblical name rather uncommon even in those times. In various documents he was described as “corpulent,” “capable” and “honest.”

In July 1742, sister Zerviah noticed Sarah was acting unwell. She suspected that her sister might be pregnant, but when she asked repeatedly, Sarah denied it each time.

The girls’ mother, Mary, was so concerned about her daughter that she asked a neighbor, Doctor John Hallowell, to look at her. Dr. Hallowell told the family Sarah was not pregnant.

For reasons that are unclear in existing documentation, Dr. Hallowell took her to another house, where Amasa Sessions visited the girl. When she returned home, she confessed she was, indeed, pregnant.

If Sarah had not been forthcoming with her sister, I am sure she did not rush to tell her parents that they might be grandparents. Although there is no record of any conversations, of her parents’ reactions, I can imagine they were not that different from any parent today who finds an unmarried daughter pregnant.

Zerviah was upset that her sister had not told her before, but Sarah had said she’d been “taking the trade” the popular phrase of the time for using herbs to bring on a woman’s period, a common practice when an unwanted pregnancy was suspected.

Unlike today, there seems be no societal arguments about when life begins. Communications took days, weeks, months by letter and horseback or ship, not seconds on the internet.

The mores of the time considered bringing on a woman’s late period with different plants before the baby quickened, not an abortion.

Marriage would not have been an impossible alternative for Sarah and Amasa: they were of a similar class. Session never denied he was the father. He was reported to have visited Sarah several times during the early part of her pregnancy willingly.

Amasa was the third son of Joanna and Nathaniel Sessions. The Sessions ran a tavern out of their house and because the father was involved in village politics, the fortunes of the family must have benefited from meetings held there, perhaps the way President Trump’s company benefits from other politicians staying at his Washington, D.C. hotel. That he was not overjoyed at being a father is a guess based on his reported conversations with John Hallowell.

Amasa expressed his fear that his parents would make the young couple’s lives difficult should they marry, but I could find no explanation of why he thought that.

However, with persuasion, Sarah and Amasa decided to marry and stop any attempt to get rid of the baby, something Sarah was said to be ambivalent about.

Despite that decision, two weeks passed. No banns were announced. Zerviah saw Amasa giving Sarah more herbs to “finish” what had been started. We don’t have any idea of which herbs they were, but they did not work.

The assumption abortion was only after the baby quickened, when the mother feels the baby moving sometime around the fourth month. Until then the loss of a baby was a miscarriage whether it happened naturally or with help. Missing periods could be corrected by bringing the body back into balance using various herbs. Sarah was in her fourth month when the baby quickened making the removal of the fetus an abortion not a balancing of her menses.

According to her friend Abigail Nightingale’s testimony at a trial three years later, Sarah had told she had felt the baby move for about a fortnight when abortion attempts were begun.

Much feminine medical care was general knowledge shared by women. A number of plants that can lead to abortion (abortifacient) were available and were considered effective.

Juniper to create savin, pennyroyal and seneca snakeroot were among the popular plants “to restore balance” and all grew in the Pomfret region. If a book of abortifacient herbs was available to women in Colonial times, I have not been able to locate it.

When the pregnancy continued, Dr. Hallowell surgically removed the fetus, but it took him two attempts over two days. The surgery took place at Sarah’s 30-year-old cousin’s Hannah’s house. Sarah told her friend Abigail that Dr. Hallowell put instruments on the bed and tried to remove the baby.

At one point, Sarah fainted. Zerviah brought cold water into the room to revive her.

Amasa hid out at Mr. Waldo’s the local tavern during the procedures.

Sarah went home that night, but did not miscarry for another two days. The fetus, which fell into a chamber pot, appeared damaged, was wrapped in cloth and buried near the house.

Within ten days, Sarah sickened most likely from infection caused by dirty instruments. This was well before the importance of cleanliness was discovered. Her family called in two other doctors who were unable to save her. 

She died 14 September 1742. Court records show testimony by Dr. Hallowell that he said he was responsible for her death.

Why there was no official court action for three years is not explained. Not until 1 November 1745, did two county magistrates issue calls for Amasa, Hallowell, Hannah and Zerviah. Hallowell’s depositions were delayed. He was in a debtor’s prison in Connecticut.

The Inferior Court heard depositions which still existent today.

Hallowell was found guilty of murder. Amasa, Hannah and Zerviah were named as accessories to the crime.

It still wasn’t over.

The Superior Court, in September 1746, charged Amasa and Hallowell, for destroying Sarah and her unborn child. Although a verdict was issued 18 November 1746, a technicality caused the case to be dismissed.

It wasn’t until March 1747 when the king’s attorney tried again. Amasa was released. Hallowell was sentenced to the gallows and lashes on 20 March 1747. He disappeared before either part of the sentence could be carried out.

Amasa married, raised ten children supported by his farm. He seems to have suffered no stigma from his connection with Sarah, served in the militia and died in 1799.

He and Sarah are buried within 25 feet of one another, ironic that they were separated in life.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Staying Awake









Decades ago my daughter and I were going to drive from a friend's house in Syracuse NY to Waltham MA. Before I left, I called my roommate to let her know we were about to take to the road. She also spoke to my daughter.

Once in the car, my daughter started to chatter. Although she was a talkative three-year old, it had never been to that degree. 

She recited nursery rhymes. At the 25th "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" I suggested she might want to nap. The blather went on and on and on. Only when we stopped for lunch did the constant talk stop BUT only until we were on the road.

Any of my suggestions to listen to music or try and imagine stories to ourselves went unheeded.

Some six hours later we pulled up in front of our apartment. I staggered out of the car, my head spinning. "I don't know what got into her?" I said to my roommate and explained Llara's constant talk. At this point she not saying a word.

"Oh, Oh." My housemate said. "I told her to keep you awake."

"And I did a good job," my daughter said. "I talked the whole way."

Fast forward many decades.

My husband and daughter were leaving in the middle of the night to go to Toulouse to fly on to the US. My husband had been working all day and into the time he was about to leave.

"Make sure he stays awake," I told my daughter. 

When I woke several hours later I had a Facebook message from my kid. "Rick never wants to hear twinkle twinkle little star again."

Monday, July 09, 2018

BUT

I love my dog Sherlock...

BUT  

Last night he tested that love. Within seconds he chewed the quilt my grandmother had made lovingly, removing part of the center.

My grandmother died in 1969. The quilt has traveled the world with me.

The quilt had a rainbow pattern made of nine piece squares alternating light and dark patterns within solid colors. The center was a black dog made from a dress I had before I was in Kindergarten. Much
of it was done when she could no longer see.

I'd just had the quilt repaired having picked out fabric carefully with the help of my mother-in-law.

It was in the second bedroom, which we call the snore room.

I am not into possessions. I want to own as little as possible, but this was more than a possession. It was a reflection of the most important woman in my life.

My husband, said and did all the right things. He did the masculine thing and wanted to fix it and called his mother to see what fabric she might have. He reassured me it would be better. And he hugged me. He told me we could make it even better.

I know we will find the red and orange fabric. I still have a little of the patterned fabric left over from the earlier repair and I am sure if my mother-in-law doesn't have what we need, we can find it in France or Switzerland.

I will sketch out how it should be done and take it the fabulous retouch guy that has done so many repairs and projects for us.

Sherlock was yelled at as he has never been yelled at before. Today, he has resorted to his normal good behavior and we are correcting his slight transgressions in the normal way.

I tell myself it is only a quilt. I tell myself, once again my husband has proved what a loving friend he is (although I wish it wasn't necessary). With all the terrible things in this world, I am safe even if my quilt wasn't.

I still love my dog.







Friday, July 06, 2018

The lighthouse


I am reading on the couch. My husband is a few feet away at his desk. It is hot outside, almost 30° with a breeze, but the house is comfortable.

“Fascinating,” he says, and tells me about his impromptu research into my family history. We'd already checked out La Rochelle from where Michel Bodrot sailed to Canada somewhere  around 1740 and proceeded to popular the area with Boudrots (late Boudreaus).

Originally, we were going to Arichat, Nova Scotia in October, but not only are we travelled out, we need to spend time at home in Geneva. The trip was postponed until next summer.

My husband has found the lighthouse where my grandfather Edouard Boudreau worked from 1912 to 1923 at http://greenislandlighthouse.com/ My father must have been born there in 1913 or in nearby Arichat.

I would love to know what life was like on the island. Family history has it that my Aunt Alma was sent to relatives in nearby Arichat when my grandmother found her half way up the outside of the light house. She was four at the time more than my grandmother could handle with her other children.

I wish I’d asked my aunts and uncles more about life then. They were always talking about their early days after they immigrated to Massachusetts: my Aunt Lil’s job and the beautiful blouses she made, my Aunt Bert’s falsies that never stayed in place. I heard about dances and arguments over dresses.

Instead I will have to do some research. And we will be going there.