Jean Baptiste Speyrer was my great grandfather. His daughter Brigette, was my grandmother on my mother's (Rena Dalfrey Hebert) side. Not only was Bridgette personally unknown to me, but my own mother's remembrances of her mother were extremely dim because Bridgette died when my mother was not quite six years old. Mom, therefore, never had an opportunity to know her mother or to collect from her any recountings of her own childhood with her parents and siblings.
Of her death, Mom could only remember an early Spring evening when they were seated at table for their meal when Brigette complained of feeling ill and excused herself to go to her bedroom to lay down and rest. Her husband, Pepere Frank (Dalfrey) instructed the children to finish their meals quietly and to remain so until they retired for the night. Their mother was feeling poorly, he explained, and for her to improve she would need undisturbed rest. Being obedient, my mother, her brother, Douglas and sister, Frances, though all very young, did their best to heed their father's instructions.
After allowing some solitude for his wife, Pepere Frank entered the room where she lay. His intention centered on the meeting of any needs she may have had. To his sorrow he discovered that Brigette had died during the time she was alone in the bedroom. He assumed that she had died in her sleep. Though most of the older family members may already know this story, what they and others may not know is that at the time of her death, my grandmother, Brigette was well into her fourth pregnancy. So besides having to bear the grief of losing his wife, so early in their marriage, and not having been at her side in the moment of her departure, Pepere also had to accept the loss of their unborn child. After this event in their lives, and through the years following, the only resource of information Mom had of her mother was through her father and aunts and uncles in the Speyrer family.
The only other story that she related to me that has remained distinct in my mind, is one of which she heard her father recount when she began to `come of age' and when he decided to instruct her on the acceptable way to entertain her suitor (if and when one would happen along) in their home. This gave him the chance to give her an account of an experience he had in the days when he himself was courting his own `soon to be bride,' Bridgette, in the home of her parents, Jean-Baptiste Speyrer.
The home, which still stands today in the location in Pointe Claire, was some distance from his own and he was accustomed to bathing and grooming himself on Saturday evenings and then setting out on horseback to reach his destination of spending time with his betrothed. Upon arrival, the first order of business, was to make his presence known to his future in-laws and state the purpose of the visit even though they were expecting him and knew beforehand the reason he was there. P‚pŠre mentioned that Jean Baptise and his wife Leticia were gracious hosts and seemed genuinely concerned in making him feel welcomed during his visit, as long as he observed and followed the unspoken rules of courtship in their home.
It was on one of these occasions that `Pepere Frank' came to realize the fidelity that Jean Baptiste felt for him. Sometimes after his arrival that late afternoon while wooing his true love under the ever present watchful eyes of her parents, there approached in the sky over the area, a thunderstorm of violent proportions. Jean-Baptiste, having concern for the animals that were outside, saw to it that P‚pŠre Frank's horse and that of his own livestock, which needed shelter, were taken care of in advance.
Now, even though everyone of the household had retreated indoors and out of danger, `Pepere' began to feel quite uneasy, for I must confide in you that throughout his entire life, Pepere Frank always experienced what appeared to be an inborn fear of threatening weather conditions, particularly lightening!
As the night progressed and the worse part of the storm seemed to be lingering overhead, with no immediate indication of letting up soon, he began to concern himself with another worry. ``How would he be able to return home in these conditions?'' he thought. He figured that a man who would take a chance of riding horseback through this inclement weather, in the darkness, was taking too great a risk. Yet the hour, that in those days was considered an appropriate time for any suitor to be on his way, was fast coming around. ``What course of action should he take?''
Faced with that serious dilemma, `Pepere' had decided that he must humbly request of Jean-Baptiste his permission to take cover in his corn-crib until the weather became favorable enough to allow a quick getaway. However, before he could speak a word, Jean-Baptiste, who perhaps had been observing his apparent anxiety, addressed him with not so much an offer, but more an insistence that `Pepere' spend the entire night with his own sons up in the `garconiere' (the attics of the homes in those days were commonly used as sleeping quarters for male children in the family).
Feeling somewhat comforted by this kind offer, `Pe‚pere' thanked him sincerely and proceeded' up the steps leading to the boys' sleeping quarters. But a good night's sleep was not to be had, for aside from the still active storm, he laid restless from the thoughts of being in a position that made him feel that he was being intrusive. Furthermore, in his mind, it was inappropriate for a young man to spend the night under the same roof as the woman he had yet to marry, even if the two were on different floor levels as they were and even if he was where he was under the consent of her father.
At some time during the wee hours of the morning the skies started clearing. He wasted no time in exiting the house well before dawn, being careful not to awaken anyone. Once outside, Pepere Frank made haste to mount his trusty steed, for to be on his way to home well before first light was crucial. He figured that if anyone should have witnessed him leaving at sunrise and recognized him, rumors of suspicion would have been ignited as a result and thus might bring about undue embarrassment not only upon himself, but upon the entire household of his bride-to-be.
After this uncomfortable experience, he confessed that it became a habit of his, before leaving his home to visit Bridgette Speyrer, of casting a scanning glance towards the horizon for any sign of what may have been a warning of pending bad weather conditions which would later perhaps hamper his planned time of return.
But, P‚pŠre always remembered the kindness and concern for his comfort and safety that was extended to him on that stormy night long ago by a man who would later become his father-in-law; a man whom he admired and respected, Mr. Jean-Baptiste Speyrer.