We’ve already talked a little bit about Charlie Wong, Helen’s father, and there will be more about him later. But now, before we move on, here is just a few words about Clarinda, Helen’s mother. Yes, she was already mentioned as a Ducharme and her whole story will be found in Book 17, but I think a little taste here is worthwhile ground laying.
I have very few photos of her, in the old photo pile. I’ve shown you one already that has just a small slice of her profile, as she crouches to hand a ball to baby Helen. Here is another. A portrait from the olden days when photographers thought they were also re-touch artists. Its not very good and I doubt that she looked much like this in real life. She looks quite soft and passive here and it seems to me like she would have been a much tougher looking young woman.
I try to imagine what the early encounters would have been like between her and Charlie. She would have been primarily French speaking, while I’m certain Charlie spoke not one word of French. She would have been quite capable in the kitchen and other areas of domestic labor and she was probably gregarious and though not outspoken, would probably not have been shy around people. Her brother and sister, whom I knew, were not the timid sort.
I can imagine that she came to town, boarded with a relative, a Lapointe or Émond, and struck out to find work. She would have been hired on as a cook or dishwasher, perhaps even as a waitress and soon enough became friendly with the ambitious young restaurateur, Charlie Wong. She likely called him Monsieur Wong right up until she caught his fancy enough that they became a couple.
The fact that they didn’t marry until two days before the birth of their child could well have been due to the resistance of the strongly Catholic Ducharme clan. Even though they had Metis genes in their bloodline, to bring a foreigner into the family may have been a very hard thing to swallow. Or, it could have been the other way around. Many Chinese (and other cultures) are not easily persuaded to marry outside of their race. None the less, they married and I am pleased to claim heritage from both lines.
Although Clarinda’s younger sister, Marie Anna was a wonderful Gramma Ducharme, I would have very much liked to have known Clarinda in person. After all, without her, I would not be here, nor would my children and grandchildren. And neither would the Evil Sister and Angel Monster.
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