Interviewed July 1991
Line Soucy is a thirty six year old French Canadian woman currently working as a medical assistant at the family practice clinic of the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine. Line comes from a family of twelve children and spent the first eight years of her life on a rural farm in the providence of Quebec, Canada. Line is 5’2″ tall of average weight with colored blonde hair. One of the highlights of Line’s life was her move from Canada to the United States when she was eight years old with nearly her entire family. Her eyes sparkle when she talks about the transition from a rural, primitive country lifestyle to modern city life. Another one of her highlights were the births of her two children. Line enjoyed watching her two children grow up and considers this period the happiest of her life. The low point of her life was in the year 1986. Line was going through a divorce and in the same year her beloved father deceased.
I was born in Notre Dame, Canada, providence of Quebec. I am one twelve children. I am 38 years old moved to the United States when I was eight years old in 1962. I started going to school learning English, we were in the third grade for French, I was in the first grade for English. When I moved to the United States and my parents, we lived in the rent with ten children when we moved. And it was quite exciting at first when we moved. I was brought up on a farm. My dad was a farmer. My mom was a homemaker and I was born in a hospital but some of my family members were born at home. When we moved to the United States it was exciting for all family members because we did not know what city living was. It was difficult to adjust from country to city and the space was not available for us at the time to play or to do what we wanted to do because it was limited. And three years after we moved to the United States we bouight a home and there was more space for all family members to have their own room and do their own thing. And I started working when I was sixteen in the shoe factory. I quit school and got married at eighteen. Got married in 1971. My first child was born in 1972, my second in 1973. Five or six years later down the road, I went back for my high school degree doing night classes and I got my CNA certification in the early eighties then I went to college for two years for medical assistant. And now I am working at family practice in Portland.
Until I was eight years old I attended school in Canada. When I moved I attended school in Biddeford. It was mostly catholic school Until I was fourteen years then I had to adjust to the other school. My family was all catholic, I was taught by nuns and in the summertime when I was younger, I worked in the convent for nuns, cleaning and doing things for them.
I went to Andover College for two years in 1985 and 1986. My father deceased in 1986 of lung cancer when he was seventy one years old. He worked in the mill when we moved to the United States for almost ten years. Then he worked in maintenance at the University of New England.
I had a happy childhood with eleven other children, very poor, limited. Christmas gifts was not like we receive today. It was more candy and fruit during the holiday. And of course we had food year around because it was a big farm and we used to pick our own raspberries and strawberries and apples. And gardening was a life time thing for my parents then. All family pitched in and we all did chores and what we needed to do. And I had a happy childhood.
I am one of the last ones of the children. I am fourth down the line with six brothers and six sisters. My mother had four miscarriages. So she had sixteen in all. And during the time she was pregnant she had a mastectomy, she was diagnosed as cancer but everything was okay. My mom was a very sickly woman, who up to this day is still living. She resides in Biddeford. She got very ill when she moved to the United States and had a bypass a number of years ago. Doing well since then but got ill again this winter. But is starting to get back on her feet again. She is doing much better. She had a hard life.
We were always a close family there was a lot of love there. Even though we were very poor we were very close. Now we are more distant then we have ever been since my dad deceased. My brothers and sisters live mostly in the State of Maine except for three in Florida and in Shedbrooke, Canada. Really only my two oldest sisters who were married and stayed in Canada. The others were unmarried when my dad moved down here. That is why they are still living here. My brothers married mostly American girls and are pretty set with their lifestyle. Biggest family of all my brothers and sisters is my oldest sister who has six children and the others had mostly two or three.
When we lived in Notre Dame, Canada, it was a small town, small village, one church, one store and that was about it. We had one neighbor next to us and the rest were miles and miles away. Our farm had over fifty acres of land. We were busy picking potatoes and weeding the garden. Going to pick apples, fruits, or whatever else was on the farm. Mostly my brothers milked the cows, helped with the horses, and the farming itself. We had friends from the village. It was a small village, really. All kids and families knew each other then. All families woulld help each other. Fires or illness or whatever. The whole village was all together then. So there was not one friend it was a whole village.
Since we were poor we were mostly always on the farm. We used to go to carnivals and festivals in different areas when we were living in Canada and after. When it was time to move here we all needed our immigration, which is called a visa. We all had to go for physicals. We had to pass the physicals. At that time it was very easy to get immigration cards. We went to Quebec for immigration. It was quite exciting to go to a big city because my dad couldn’t afford to bring us to big cities. When I went to Quebec when I was eight years old that was the first time I was in a big city.
My dad would leave for four to five months of the year. He would leave to go cut wood. He was a wood cutter for the longest time. He cut wood for the big paper companies in Caribou, Maine. They used to live in big camps where they worked. My oldest brothers took care of the farm when my father left. We were with our mom most of the time when he was gone. Then when he moved to the United States it was different because he worked eighty to ninety hours a week at first to feed the family. it was also more expensive here because we had no more farming. He worked in the Biddeford textile place weaving and batteries and stuff like that.
Since money was limited we used to make our own things. Like if we wanted to go skiing in winter we had the land to go ski but we made our own skis or had people donate things. Because it was a big family. We used to go sliding, we had the space, the area was there. Also a lot of ice skating and my brothers played a lot of hockey. Hockey is a major sport in Canada. In the summer we were able to go to the lake occasionally. We had no phone then and also had no inside facilities. In english it’s called a woodshed. So when we moved to the United States it was exciting to have a toilet you know because we didn’t have them.
We ate very healthy food in Canada. It was all homemade and from the garden. My mother made homemade bread and pies. All the food was homemade. So we had difficulties adjusting to canned vegetables and those kind of things here. On the farm, we had cows, a dog, chickens, horses, and goats. Horses were mostly for work. We used to sometime play around with them. Then every year in the middle of June we used to go bailing and get our own hay from where we lived. The hay was for the animals in the winter. The hay was gathered from the fields. Everyone helped out. It was nice back then because all the neighbors were really friendly then and everyone pitched in and helped. Their were also big picnics around this time.
It was a small church, where we lived it was all catholic people. The churches weren’t that big then. There were fifteen families at the most in the church. Buggy rides, and a lot of walking to get around. Everyone has different values. I was brought up as catholic but I don’t always follow my religion the way I was brought up to. But I mean I still have a strong belief in religion. For me personally my religious faith has helped me to get through. I am not a fanatic but the belief is still there. My children do not practice the religion like I want them to but they know right from wrong, and I figure they are of age and it is their choice. They are the ones that answer to what they do not me.
Easter was a major holiday. A very catholic tradition thing. Every year you had new outfits at the time. It was a church gathering thing and picnic. My dad was never a drinker either was my mom. I wasn’t brought up in the liquor. When I got married my ex was a drinker. I didn’t know what it was like to have someone that drinks, because I wasn’t brought up in the liquor that way by my parents. It was only on occasion my parents drank. Only on the holidays, Christmas or New Years. New Years was a big celebration in my area. It was a big family, relative gathering. The carnival in February was a big thing. They call it Mardi Gras here. Everybody would share in cooking and cleaning up. Christmas was quite special in Canada. We had a lot of snow then in Canada. It was all buggy rides and all sleigh rides and definitely midnight mass and the whole family. We were weeks sometimes snowed in from school. In a small village there wasn’t the equipment. You had to wait for someone to plow you out. It was a catholic school. It was nuns and very strict then even more then now.
You had to know catechism and and everything. It was very strict. They taught you how to do confirmation. And had to know somewhat the bible. They would start slow and explain things to you.
The most significant event of my early years was the excitement of moving to the United States. We were starting a new life as a whole family not only one or two members but as a whole family. We managed as a whole family. We still up to this day are close, more distant, but still close. We don’t see as much as we used to. Once a family member deceases, things change, life changes. I had a hard time adjusting to when my dad died. You adjust with time. We were quite close with my dad, so we knew he was part ill and going to die. My mom adjusted better then the children. She is a very strong woman. She adjusted better then I did personally. I felt cheated. You see people that want to die and others that want to live and don’t want to die.
So I felt cheated for quite awhile. My dad had a property up in Canada and we had been going there every year since I can remember It was a family gathering and outing every year on my dad’s property until he deceased. After that the property was sold and the gathering takes place here in Maine. I miss that very much.
In 1962, Biddeford then wasn’t as much as a high population. They have grown in population since then. There were more friendly people, we met new friends, you did things with friends. We found the parents were not as strict as ours because that is the way they were brought up. They were brought up in that lifestyle. We were not so our parents were more strict then the regular parents living here. We didn’t understand at first. We couldn’t question it. School friends were important to me. But in Notre Dame the neighbor we lived next to, we were very, very close friends. His family and ours. That’s what we missed the most. We missed the country living, and the freedom to do and go where you wanted to in the country setting. That’s what we missed the most.
The biggest changes we had to adjust to when we moved to the United States was living in the rent and sharing a bedroom with three or four other girls that was quite hard to adjust to. Adjusting to city living itself. In Biddeford back then you could walk down the street. At first we were not allowed to walk down the street then because we were quite young. We didn’t have the experience of the city. Once we were a little bit older you could actually walk on the side walks that was quite exciting and visiting stores. We used to like to get clothes in the stores, always been clothes, because we were limited to the clothing in Canada. We had never done that where we lived. it was nice, quite different, you adjust quickly as a child doing that.
The church starting helping more and giving baskets to us on the big holidays. That was a big help to us. Sometimes it was during the holiday. Christmas especially was toys. You’re grateful for that, because you don’t see much of that today. We were quite grateful just having toys.
As I said we used to love going to stores when we moved to the United States. And definitely the number one was going to movies. We didn’t know what movies were like. We didn’t have television until we moved. When we saw a picture tube that was quite exciting. Going to the movies was the number one thing to do. And pizza of course, we learned to like pizzas. We learned to eat American foods which was a little bit difficult at first because we were used to just fruits and vegetables. We weren’t use to junk food. We weren’t allowed to have junk food. And skating was a big thing back then. We had skating rinks in Biddeford at the time. So that was quite exciting for us because we were good skaters coming from where we were. That is what was quite exciting. We also liked the Beatles quite a bit in 1962, because that’s what you heard the most in the United States. We didn’t know what rock and roll was at the time. Then we kind of liked rock and roll at the time. The fascinating thing was the beach for the family. It was the first time to see the beach, and play things and amusement parks. And of course we did it as a family.
From my upbringing and from where I came from and the family I came from as a teenager, I feel like sometimes I was deprived. I wasn’t able to do things regular teenagers in high school were allowed to. I would have liked to go to dances and have more freedom to do what they were doing. Going to parties and football games and beaches and doing what they were doing at that age. Growing up as a teenager, my family was strict so I wasn’t allowed what other teenagers were allowed to do. Going to dances was not the thing to do to them. Sometimes I would participate in school activities once in a great while. When I was in high school I would go to school everyday and work for four hours. Three to seven at night at the mill. I was fifteen then. You were allowed to work at fifteen at the mill then. So as to help out with the big family.
I attended Biddeford schools, catholic eighth grade then public. I liked school very much. I always liked to learn. You had more opportunity to learn here then where we came from. Better things to learn from the books. Everything, more teachers, it was more modern then we were accustomed to. So I always enjoyed learning. I had good teachers, experiences about life really. I learned a lot about myself through reading through psychology I had through the years that we moved here. I started dating when I was seventeen. At seventeen I was more allowed to date because I worked part time and I quit school. So I had more freedom then. My father was against me quitting school. My father always wanted me to go to college because I learned well then. I had met this man that I was married to. I had met him when I was working it was at a dance. That’s when I quite school and got married at eighteen. Later on I went back. I consider myself a self starter, a survivor, call it what you will, I don’t know. Strong will maybe, I am kind of stubborn.
I always dreamed I wanted to be a nurse really. Since I was fifteen I worked as a volunteer at a hospital. They called them candy stripers then. I learned I wanted to be a nurse when I held this job. Going back to my childhood when we were very young we didn’t have any dolls then. We used to make our own clothes for dolls back then. My older sister helped us. My older sisters used to work in Montreal and Quebec to help us with the money problem. When they came back they brought paper dolls for us. When I worked as a candy striper in the hospital that’s when I decided I liked medical. I like helping people and I like to do things with people. Sometimes too much. With time after years of being married and having the kids I went back to school. I always dreamed of having a happy marriage like my parents had and to have children. I always loved children and so did my parents. My dreams as I was growing up was to be able to finish school and accomplish a dream I always had to be a nurse. That was about it.
From what I remember being told my grandfather was a very stubborn strong willed man. And my dads mom died when he was eight years old. So he never knew his mom. He was brought up by his oldest sister. They were a close family also. He came from a family of eight. My mom from a family of three. He always worked, he always kept busy, he was ill but never said a word. He was a very strict man like my dad. He was very stubborn. When he was sick at the time no one knew he was ill.
My dad was a very gentle man when it came to us. But my mom was the one that complained the most. When my dad said you better do this you replied then not later on or tomorrow. You did what you were told. You did not question it at the time. I was very close to my dad a very gentle and patient man. My mom was the opposite. She is a very hard woman to this day. She does not show emotions like my dad did. He was more easy going then my mom. He never complained much. He never said anything bad about someone else. He was happy for some reason. Never let too much get him down. I can understand now today why my mom was so hard or doesn’t show much emotion. She was always sick all the time. She had a rough life bringing up all those children. I couldn’t do what she did today. The farming and everything. My hats off to her and my dad because we couldn’t do it today. They were content with what they had. Poor or not they were very content people. I guess because of the love and understanding and caring that was there as a whole family. That’s the only way I can describe it.
Mostly money was the big struggle. My parents never disputed about it because they never had any. We kind of adjusted to that. We were thankful for what we had because we didn’t know what it was like to own a new bike, to own a pair of skates that was your own. We didn’t experience that as we were growing up not even as a teenager. The gifts we were having for Christmas time were mostly from my older sisters. My older brothers were working then and we got some from them. As a big family money was very difficult. We always managed somehow, I do not know how. We all started working when we got older. We ate three big meals a day. We were not allowed to skip any of the three meals. Eating in between meals was not allowed by my family. Once in a great while we could have fruits and stuff in between meals. When we moved to the United States, we learned chips were good to and tonic things like that. But my dad only bought what we needed to have.
I think after my second child was born was when I first realized I was an adult. I got married very young and I was mature, but really being an adult and knowing what I was doing I don’t think I did. I got married too young. To me I did because I was more mature then my ex was. Bringing up kids and all that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Until it happened. When I got married at eighteen I had more freedom so I noticed I was more of an adult then too.
At that time you were brought up as a family oriented person. To me getting married I thought was going to be the same thing as my parents or everybody I knew. And I learned different. I learned very different. He was the first man I met and also this is the one I got married to. And he is also a Canadian. So I married into my fate or whatever. You shouldn’t get married young that is what I learned the hard way. You shouldn’t have children because you want to have children. I think in today’s day and age children should be wanted and should be planned. No big families today. It does not work. I am proud of my children. I am proud of what I did. Of course they’re legal age eighteen and nineteen. My daughter goes to Westbrook College and my son is in high school. Bringing them up myself I am kind of proud for what I have accomplished. I am grateful that they are straight kids. I am grateful for that, so far so good.
My marriage I thotight at first was a good marriage. I got pregnant three months after I got married. I got a kid within a year after. My second child was born eleven months after the first. My ex was a dry wall hanger. He was a subcontractor. Pretty much on his own. At that time he drank very much so. In taverns and bars at the time I didn’t know what it was. I wasn’t brought up that way. It was very difficult for me to adjust. I didn’t see it, I didn’t acknowledge it. I didn’t really pay attention to it at first. And he never really matured in the marriage. I progressed, I continued growing, he didn’t, he stayed the same with his friends and bars. And that was pretty much his lifestyle. He was a good provider. He was good with the kids. I was provided materially with with what I needed. I was married sixteen years before he asked for a divorce because to him he always lived dangerously and I didn’t. I figured there was more to life then coming home drunk all the time. I deserved better. He had his qualities also, but he had that weakness. It’s up to him to deal with. My parents got along very well with him. My dad thought he was kind of rough on me because I brought up the kids alone and I didn’t go out anywhere because he would come home drunk. It wasn’t fun. You’re married but alone that’s not a happy life.
I am proud of my children because of the adjustment they had to do after the divorce. It was quite hard and difficult for them. Leaving their own room and everything they were accustomed to. It was quite difficult for them to adjust to a small two bedroom trailer. It took them time. They were very bitter with the divorce. I was to blame at first. But as they grew up they started to understand. With time they adjusted to it. He was not a big help with child support. He never paid child support. He refused that. He used to move from state to state so he wouldn’t have to pay child support. My kids rarely see him now. He was not a good provider or helper after the divorce. Now I kind of feel sorry for the man. There will always be care and a bond because he is the father of my children. But the love is not there. I wouldn’t want to see him hurt or in a tragic accident or paralyzed but there will always be a bond. But there is no love there anymore. Too much hurt and now the hurt is also gone. It took a good two to three years.
I learned to not let people control my life. I learned that financially I can stand on my two feet. And I can say I did it myself. I learned now I do not need a man to support me or do things for myself. For me this is a big reward in itself. I became independent and I knew I had those two kids as a responsibility. That was my responsibility to make sure they had food and shelter. It has always been a struggle. I am sure it will always be. I go without for my kids. It is much better now then four years ago. I worked two jobs after I got divorced because I tried to give them what they were accustomed to and I kind of burned out. I could not be two parents. I strongly believe that all teenagers or any age need two parents. But today I would rather live with myself with my two kids than put up with living the way I was when I was married. I do not think kids need to grow up in that kind of fashion. It disturbs them in school it disturbs them in their environment as a child. Now I have a happy life. I still get very angry what happened. You go back a couple of steps and you think back but as long as you go forward to me that is what counts.
Five years down the road I am not thinking of marriage. I am thinking of a healthy relationship with someone because it’s not really healthy to stay by yourself really. I think someone needs someone in their life to care for and for companionship. I feel quite alone sometimes because the kids are growing up and I don’t feel wanted or needed because they are on their own. So there is loneliness there. They have their own ways now. They still need me in different ways but it’s not like before. They do their own thing.
My daughter since kindergarten until now was an A student. First year in high school she slid back a bit because of the divorce. My son needed some counseling and had a lot of difficulty adjusting to his Dad being gone. My son was thirteen. He had problems in school. He craved for his dad at first. Even I went to counseling for my dad’s death and the divorce all at once for close to a year. It was very helpful. I started seeing things. That is when I started discovering me. The person I am. I still have a long way to go because I don’t think a person knows themselves. It takes their whole life to figure that out.
Getting married was the biggest mistake of my life. I have a strong belief in marriage that two people can be as one. Mine was not that way. Another mistake is that my dad wanted me to go to college so bad at the time and I didn’t take the chance and I got married instead. That right there was a big mistake. I wish I could go back and redo it. Because I had the chance to go then.
Values that you don’t hurt your neighbor, you don’t try to be someone you’re not, and religious belief and catholic belief is what is strong in my life. My dad was a very special person. My children shaped my life the most. I tried to be two parents after my divorce but you can only be one. With time they gave me strength to go on. Because at the time they needed me and I felt that this is not a time to fall apart. Somebody has to be strong for them. Somebody has to take care of them and understand them. And I learned a lot from talking to the kids and doing things with the kids. I learned from them really.
It was hard when my daughter went to college this year because I wasn’t used to being away from her. She was with her friends so it really did not bother her. It bothered me more her being away. She kind of cut the string. She became an adult. And I had to accept that she wasn’t a little girl anymore. She was really an adult and she has to do adult stuff and deal with her own problems and responsibilities. I found that hard last year. Now I am getting better.
I learned to live with my difficulties. If you can’t live with it you have got to change it. If you can’t change a problem you have to accept the way the problem is. That is how I see it. I have tried to manage my life in a positive way.
When the kids were very younger before five years old that to me‑ was the happiest and productive time because that is when I enjoyed the kids the most. To see‑‑ them grow, walk, birth to five years old to me it was productive. I worked in between but I enjoyed it at the particular time. My kids were my life. Going to college in the latce eighties were also productive years for me.
Since I had a small family, I could give my kids more, could do more. And of course I had only two children so I can enjoy them more. I can give them equal shares. I can share my self with both of them. More than what my parents ever did with us.
When my marriage was breaking up that was the worse time of my life. Going on trips or vacations with my husband during this time was the least enjoyable. It was pretty much his relatives and all the time I was there I was stuck at his mom’s place or at his families place. I wasn’t seeing him at the time, he was off going to bars and doing this and that. He was straying with his friends and I was left alone at his parents house. That was the least enjoyable. It wasn’t fun.
I have accomplished quite a bit. I accomplished to live on my own. I accomplished to be independent and to learn that you don’t need anybody to control your life. That you can take control of your own life. I learned to manage pretty well financially and emotionally. That took me a long time. Now I am pretty stable with my emotions, the inside of myself, then I was four years ago. My inner self is where I get my inner strength and my religion helps to. You can only take one day at a time. No matter how much you complain about something it won’t change it. Why make yourself sick about something you can’t change or may not happen. It’s as simple as that.
I learned from my experiences in life and my religion to accept yourself the way you are and to be the person you want to be and if you do not like something about yourself learn to change it or do something about it. That is what I have learned. I do not know what would happen to my kids if I was to fail. I think more positive. I take one day and deal with it at a time.
We all have dreams and fantasies, it doesn’t mean it comes true. It just helps to deal with everyday life. My fantasy is to have a nice place of living and that you’re kind of wealthy enough that you don’t have to worry about anything. Everything goes comfortably and smoothly. You do not have to worry about finances. You fantasize like this is a dream world, I have this beautiful home that sets your way. You do not have to worry about anything breaking down because it’s new. You don’t have to worry about money because you have it. Everyday, I wish I could do this or only work part time. My dream is to work only part time, someday. I would love it.
I hope my life will be better in five years than this year. I hope I can be more financially secure than I am now. I hope the kids will manage well after their schools, so they can have and maintain a good job and they can live comfortably. That would secure me knowing they are secure. Having a relationship and living with someone would be nice. Twenty years from now I hope I will be retired, going on trips and having a good time. Hawaii is my first dream. And somewhere around Europe that’s my cup of tea.
The economy will get worse before it gets better. Big time. People are suffering now, five years down the road they will suffer more. Less jobs and less everything. This is the time take the chance to get a good education and a stable job so they don’t have to worry every week to where the money will come from to eat or to pay the bills. Young people should be straight and stay healthy and do things in moderation.
I feel good about my life so far. I strongly believe a medical assistant should not be a receptionist or a secretary. I like the laboratory and assisting with the physicians. I don’t care for working with the nurses. A medical assistant with a good degree can do as well if not better in this situation at family practice. The nurses are needed in the hospitals not here I probably have too much confidence in myself really. I do not like the front office or the receptionist part. After going to college for two years I feel it’s a waste of money because they can get regular secretaries and have medical assistants do what they are trained to do. I get paid every week, I do my job and go home.
My advice I would give to the younger people is to try to be happy and live happy everyday. Life is short. Be happy when you can, and grab it when you can.