Autumn Memoirs at Cheramie Plantation
Jeanette sat gazing through the upstairs window watching and remembering the many times she observed the fall harvest of sugarcane at Cheramie Plantation…as a young girl from her papere’s bayouside bench and now as mistress of this splendid plantation. The crackling fire warmed autumn’s chill as she savored breakfast of warm crusty French bread fresh from the backyard oven with the season’s first batch of thick dark cane syrup, a special treat of the season in southern Louisiana.
Sipping a hot cup of cafe’ au lait, she smiled, drifting back to another autumn morning about 25 years ago in 1885 when “le bon Dieu” first spoke to her heart about Gaston. That morning she awoke and quickly dressed, grabbing a shawl on the way to “le banc” to enjoy the morning unfurl, beginning with sunrise , as she whispered her morning prayers .
“ Sha bon Dieu, I am now 15 and of marrying age. Mamere and Papere worry and want to make a match for me with one of the Terrebonne family’s sons. But I know you have chosen my husband, so please show me who it is to be. Amen.”
As Jeanette gazed at the languishing bayou waters, she heard a voice…“Today”.
Looking up, across the bayou waters she could now see plantation workers in the cane fields going about the autumn harvest and as always the “big house” in the horizon. It would take at least ten little cabins like ours to make up the expanse of Cheramie Plantation. Smoke drifted from the chimneytops. Leaves of scarlet and gold had a perfect landing in the waters. No time for dreaming, it was time for chores.
In recent months since she turned 15, days end always found Jeanette back at “le banc”, for now it was her time. Several years back, she was puzzled by her older sister, Marie, perching herself every evening on Papere’s bayouside bench! Now Marie and Pierre have their own “maison blanche” and “le banc” about one mile up the bayou and are awaiting their first “bebe” any day now. “Le bon Dieu” has His way of taking care of things in His own time. And now I was waiting.
My eyes caught sight of a young plantation worker nearing the pier across the bayou. Somehow I knew, even at a distance. As he paddled his pirogue out to the middle of the bayou, he suddenly stood up and waving toward me, he gave a manly bow,ending in a splash as the small boat turned over! He hurried back into his pirogue and with a sheepish grin, navigated down the bayou. Must be a new worker…I had never seen this handsome face before.
Three fiddles and an accordion provided Saturday night entertainment at the community “Fais Do Do”. Everyone arrived at the pavilion in their finest dress and excitement was in the air. Jeanette was just learning some of the French waltzes and two-steps after many years of watching adults. Tonight she was asked to be the sitter for the “parc aux petites”, but before the childrens bedtime, papere insisted on one dance with his Jeanette.
Twirling about, Jeanette was suddenly face to face with the boy in the pirogue! He smiled and kindly requested a dance, so papere placed my hand in his. I shared one glorious waltz with the young man who now introduced himself as Gaston.
I would never have imagined that one day I would call Cheramie Plantation home. Nor could I ever imagine the blessings of life with my Gaston. We were married two years after the first of many dances at the Saturday Fais do do’s. By that time, Gaston had lost his family during a hurricane and was adopted by Joseph Cheramie, master of the plantation, who was childless.
We had passed many autumns at the plantation, watching our children Michelle and Jean’ play hide-n-seek in the sugarcane fields, building bonfires to celebrate harvest time, and giving thanks to “Le Bon Dieu” at our Thanksgiving feasts.
I felt a soft touch on my shoulder, and reached for Gaston’s hand.
“May I have this dance young lady?”
“Certainly Monsieur Cheramie!”
Twilight peered in to our upstairs parlor as we waltzed arm in arm. Music flowed from our hearts as we welcomed another autumn morn.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
I Corinthians 2:9 (New Living Translation)
*Author’s Notes: 1) le banc: the bank of the bayou; a young Cajun girls sudden routine presence on le banc was an informal social “debut” indicating she was now of marrying age. 2) bon Dieu: good God 3) sha bon Dieu: dear good God 4) Mamere: mother 5) papere: father 6) maison blanche: white house 7) bebe: baby 8) pirogue: small canoe-like boat usually made of cypress wood
9) monsieur: Mr. 10) Fais do do: community tradition of Saturday night dances where whole families attend together and the young children are put down to sleep in a separate room and tended by sitters (this custom called “parc aux petites”)
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be right now. CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.