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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF:

LORRAINE HELEN (TAYLOR) GIROUARD
(from Nov. 5, 1937...on-going.)

EXODUS 13:14 "And it shall be when thy son asketh thee
in time to come, saying What is this?
that thou shalt say unto him,
By strength of hand the Lord brought us
out of Egypt, from the house of bondage:"

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PART-ONE

CHAPTER ONE

The Early Years

I was born at home, in my Grampa and Gramma Taylor's tiny house on Wilder Road, in Leominster, Massachusetts. (Nov. 5, 1937 - ten weeks early). I weighed under 5 pounds; had no hair, no eyelashes, and no fingernails; this is how they determined how old I was. My birth wasn't recorded until I was six weeks old - they didn't expect me to live. Needless to say, I was unexpected, at this time. My bed was made up of a dresser drawer, lined with blankets and a hot water bottle to keep me warm. I was fed whisky by eye dropper, to stimulate my heart...to keep it going. It wasn't customary to take such infants to the hospital - so, I did my growing at home.

My Mom said I was a "miracle baby", and supposed to be especially "lucky" because I was born with a veil (which was the afterbirth sack was still on me and had to be broken, so I could breathe). I guess there was a real reason why I should live.

When I was still very young, I was put outside in my carriage every day, for fresh air. There was a very large crow that would come to my carriage, land on the handlebar, perch there and watch out for anyone who would come near my carriage; scaring them away with his loud squawks. Nature was very special to me, even from my earliest days.

I learned later, that the large crow was a pet that my Dad had raised from a fledgling. My Dad told me that he had noticed a nest, high in the trees; baby birds were chirping away…up there. One day he climbed up the tree, when he noticed the mother crow had left the nest. He scooped-up one of the baby crows – putting it into his shirt. Then, he began climbing back down the tree. About this time, the mother crow put in an appearance and kept swooping down on my Dad. But, he was determined to have this baby crow as his very own pet.

When he got to the ground, he ran towards his home – with the mother crow pecking away at him. Once inside the back door, my Gramma told him to turn the baby crow loose; but Dad was determined to keep the crow that he had named “Petey”.

Dad was diligent and dug worms to feed to “Petey”; he brought bread from the house and kept “Petey’s” water trough filled. He was intent on teaching “Petey” how to talk: somewhere, Dad had heard that crows have a forked-tongue and can be taught to talk.

“Petey” went everywhere with my Dad; stood bravely on his shoulder. In time, “Petey” became more independent…he would fly around the yard; and then off…into the neighborhood. He loved to pull the wooden clothespins off Gramma (and the neighbors) clotheslines…watching the newly washed clothes fall onto the ground. Some of the neighbors began shooting at “Petey”; and one day, he didn’t return home. (The End.)

My Taylor grandparents had 2 sons, 2 daughters: my Dad William Archibald (called Archie), Emma, Buddy, and Louise (Lulu). I think Aunt Lulu was the only child still at home, when I was born. During my first 5 years of life, my Grandma Taylor was the greatest influence; it was those years and times with her that would sustain me through the hard time...for the rest of my life. It was a tremendous loss for me - being separated from her when my parents divorced, never to see her again, in this life. But, the time she spent with me was of such a high quality - so much love that we shared - something so real, that neither time nor distance could ever tarnish.

My other Grandma Tara Erickson Gingras, was very different. She had a lot of children: Edith, Albert (Junior), my Mom Helen, Francis, Bernadine, Margaret, Robert (Bobby), and a bed-ridden husband dying of cancer and TB. They lived in the city, in Cleghorn (which was a section of Fitchburg, Massachusetts). Just a few miles from Whalom and Leominster, where I grew up.

Grandpa Albert Gingras had his own grocery store on the lot just behind the 2 story house where they lived (rented out the bottom floor apartment). I remember when Grandpa Gingras was well, behind the counter of his store; he would give us candy when we came in to see him. Mostly, I remember him too weak to talk, in bed. They had a front parlor (which was the fashion in those days); it was full of very fancy furniture, rugs, drapes, china, crystal; the glass doors were opened only on very special occasions - consequently, I had only looked in there a very few times. The kitchen stove had a bottle of kerosene behind it - tipped upside down, so it would drip out slowly, giving fuel to the burner in the stove.

I think my Aunt Edith was the oldest in the family. She married a man by the name of Edward Hamel. They had two sons. Uncle Edward did painting and papering for a living - Aunt Edith sewed in a factory, nearby. They owned a tenement house in Gardner, MA. We went to visit them more than the other relatives. Aunt Edith always amazed me; she would set the dining room table and we would always have coffee, milk and these really fancy pastries that she baked. She was very hospitable. In later years, when we were married and living on the west coast - Mom had bought some terry cloth material and Aunt Edith sewed a bathrobe for our daughter Lisa. Aunt Edith got breast cancer and wasn't well; it was quick - my Mom took care of her toward the end. Uncle Eddie didn't know what to do and couldn't handle it all. Their two boys had married, unhappily and Uncle Eddie began to drift from girlfriend to girlfriend. My sister Irene (who lives in Gardner, now), sees him sometimes.

My Uncle Junior was the first boy in the family. He wasn't at home much - he had a job. Many years later, he married a woman who had been married before (which wasn't the thing to do, if you were a Catholic); she had a daughter about 7 years old; both of them were overweight - Uncle Junior was tall and slim, with a good tan all the time. They had a son, and I remember there was some problem with him, at first - because they had cut the umbilical cord too short. Uncle Junior kept pretty much to himself, with his family.

My Mom was born next - and I write more about her, later on.

Then, there was Uncle Francis; he was a bachelor who drank too much; he had a small apartment in downtown Fitchburg; he was kind of heavy-set. Mom invited him for a big spaghetti feed, once and awhile - sometimes he didn't show up and she had a lot of extra food on hand, because he was a big eater and she always made plenty. He was found dead in his apartment, one day - I guess, as a result of the heavy drinking. He was one of Mom's favorite siblings and she named by half-brother Robert Francis, after him.

Aunt Bernadine was about in the middle of the family. Mom didn't seem to get along with her - I think we saw her one time; she lived in the Cleghorn section of Fitchburg. One time, I met Aunt Bernadine - she had a son with her; he had blond hair and my Mom hinted around that his father was also my father) although I never knew for sure).

Aunt Margaret was very pretty, very thin. She had a boyfriend, who lived just up the street from her apartment; her apartment was almost across the street from the tenement house where she grew up. (People in Massachusetts usually were born and died in about the same neighborhood.) She had a good job, a lot of clothes (one of which was a "skunk" coat - we thought that was really "rich"). She had a plaster-of-paris (like ceramic) dog, that was a bank; we liked to lift it up, every time we went to visit her; she was the only person we knew who had extra money just sitting around, in a doggy-bank. She liked children, for a short amount of time (visit); but, basically, she didn't know how to handle them and was very afraid of having any of her own - she was afraid of childbirth. (I remember Mom talked with her about it, once.) She went out with Lionel Duval for about 30 years, and when she was past childbearing age, they were married in the Catholic Church. Both of them were strict Catholics - actually, they were my god-parents, when I was baptized (sprinkled) in the Catholic Church. Uncle Lionel was very handsome, very well-groomed; he lived in the house he was born in and took care of his Mom for many years, until she passed away; this was many years after they were finally married.

My Uncle Bobby was youngest in their family; he did prankish things to entertain us (his 2 nieces). One time he put my pet fuzzy caterpillar on the stove burner. Amidst our squeals, we watched our fuzzy pet scurry very fast, not so fast, and then slowly burn up. Uncle Bobby also had the greatest invention - it was a box that turned paper and loose tobacco into neatly rolled cigarettes - this really was something back in the 40's. Uncle Bobby was very thin and was sick a lot; he worked in Margolin's Factory, down the street. They made purses out of all different kinds of leather. He went to live with Aunt Margaret, when she married - she took good care of Bobby and also her Mother-in-law. About two miles, up that same street, there was a cemetery - of course, that's where everybody in the neighborhood were buried; you could have walked to "anything" you needed, in your whole lifetime; it was just 20 minutes away. Grandpa Gingras was buried there, and I'm sure Francis and Bobby were, also.

Looking back on it all, as an adult, I can remember that Grandpa Gingras must have died - because, Mom had a funeral to go to. Her second husband, Horace, thought that my sister and I should go to the funeral (we were about 6 and 4 years old), Mom thought us too young. We were scooted off to a distant relative's house, to be watched by her. I remember we took the city bus, got off, and then walked across the railroad tracks to their house. We stayed overnight at this lady's house. I remember the adults were playing a game on their coffee table; ouegi (sp?) board, that was supposed to answer questions that you asked it - by the table moving. The lady gave my sister a bath, and we had our under pants on...she was very modest.

Grandma Gingras was pretty lonely, after her husband died and then all the children were grown and left home. She met a man named Louis Fontaine - he was a widower, I think, and Catholic - so, they got married...much against both of their children's wishes. I know, the Gingras side of the family never acknowledged their relationship; when Grandma Gingras Fontaine finally died, she was buried beside her first husband (Gingras). Years later, Louis died and he was buried in the same cemetery, but next to his first wife. Every Memorial Day, Aunt Margaret would get a large planter for the grave - Mom would split the expense with her. Because Aunt Margaret lived near the cemetery - she got the planter, put it on the grave, watered it for many months, and then took it home and planted it around her yard: Mom wasn't too thrilled about it all, and they stopped sharing the cost.

My Mom always went by the name of Helen Josephine Gingras, when she was growing up. She heard that her name was supposed to be Helen Elizabeth - so, one day when she was about 45 years old, she looked it up in the records, which were hard to get to, and sure enough, Elizabeth was the true name. She sure was happy about that because I think it was her Dad who named her that, officially, and it was a link to him - as her relationship with her Mom wasn't very good. Her Mom had told her she was Josephine to spite him.

Mom went to only 3 grades of school. She had to do housework and take care of a lot of children in another family, to help out with her parents' big family. I think she said she was paid $1.50 a week and her Mom gave her 25 cents of it.

Mom married young, had 2 girls, divorced, and found herself with 2 small girls to support. She was afraid she would lose our love if she had to share it with my Dad and his family. She would never let us see them - so, Dad refused to pay support: it was a lose-lose situation...with my sister and I, being the biggest losers.

When Mom remarried, she still continued to work (feeling the responsibility of supporting us), always trying to make it up to us for the divorce and also her poor choice of a second husband (Horace Lester Graves) - in that he was abusive to us. After many years, a baby that died, twins (one of which had died in the womb), the other being my half brother Robert Francis Graves, Mom separated and then divorced because her husband was continually unfaithful. By this time both us girls were married and raising large families.

Mom always worked - always giving of herself. Years ago the giving was in a selfish way - hoping to keep my Dad away; and, maybe to make us feel indebted to her. After my sister and I were married a few years, we decided to get in touch with Dad. Mom found that we could love both of them and she need not have feared losing us to him. (They never spoke to each other after the divorce, always had bad feelings.)

Through her second divorce, Mom found the need for a Savior - she could no longer do everything herself. She admitted she was a sinner and in need of Jesus as her Savior, she was sorry for her sins; she asked Jesus to come into her life. We were still Roman Catholics and thought she had gone off the deep end...become fanatic. Her zeal turned us right off and we asked her to stay away; this lasted a year. We all suffered from the separation and finally reconciled.

She continued to give, to help us - this time we noticed a difference. This time there were no strings attached; she gave love and we later learned it was because she now knew how much God loved her - so, she could love back, unconditionally. Eventually, she gave it all...donating her body to Boston Medical School. (In the hopes they would someday be able to help my sister and myself - we have developed thyroid disease, as she had. She also had a diseased pituitary gland). Now, I'm getting ahead of myself...


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Baby Lorraine in Taylor Grandparents' backyard.


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