THE VANASSE FAMILY
Andre Vanasse, age 32
Monique Vanasse, 30
Philippe Vanasse, 8
Jean-François climbs down from the bunk bed that he shares with his brother.and marches out to the dining room to inspect the clothes his mother has laid out for him on the table. He is very particular about.his appearance.and the latest fashions and checks to make sure his mother has properly matched the colors of the clean socks, sweater, and pants. Meanwhile his older brother,.Philippe, already dressed, makes a beeline to the basement. François follows quickly; the two boys can’t.miss their morning dose of children’s.cartoons.
Their father, Andre, has refinished the whole basement, creating a laundry, pantry, playroom, shower, and guest bedroom, all painted in warm, bright colors. The.playroom, where.the boys sit squashed.together.in an armchair With a blanket over their knees, is equipped.with a full home entertainment system: color television with cable, VCR, and piles of videocassettes.
7:15. Veronique has had enough of sleeping and expresses at full volume her desire to get up. Monique slips on her robe and enters her daughter’s room, where.her.prompt.response.is rewarded with a broad smile.
From her high chair in the kitchen, Vero supervises her mother’s breakfast preparations. Monique calms her impatience.with a slice of buttered.bread as she concentrates.on the boys’ hot chocolate and toast.
Two years ago, Monique faced an important decision: either.to go back to her secretarial.job or to have a third child and stay home. Fewer and fewer women in North America have that option. Most women choose to work to supplement their families’ incomes. Monique’s husband, whose family owns two automotive garages, earns enough to provide a good living. Andre.supported.Monique’s decision. He likes doing things with children.and, like her, would like eventually to have four.. Monique. has.nine.brothers. and.sisters. Though they are a modem couple, the Vanasses’ idea of a family is a traditional.large one..Next year, they hope, Vero will have a baby sister.
8:00. Jean-François will not stop grumbling. The zipper on his pants pocket doesn’t close and he refuses to go out like that. There is no end to the complaints from Monique’s sons this morning. They’ve had enough of winter and want to wear parkas instead of snowsuits for the short walk to school. Their.mother.remains firm. It is March and it’s 3° F. In addition, a flu epidemic is raging. “Do.you want to be sick like your father?”.she asks. Andre is in bed with a high fever. The boys grumble but obey. Just one more month until spring..Monique quickly closes the door behind them to keep the cold air out. Their brick bungalow, on the outskirts of the small city of Trois Rivieres, lies on the flat plain that stretches from Montreal.to Quebec..The landscape.offers little refuge from the strong winter winds.
Vero is busy emptying.her toy box and Andre is still asleep, so Monique sips her scalding coffee while reading the newspaper that one of the neighborhood children.has delivered. From time to time she glances up from the end of the table toward the bay window. The world outside is white. Monique is glad to be inside her cozy warm house. She spends a lot of time redecorating,.and every so often, in an urgent desire to transform her surroundings,.she slaps on a new coat of paint.
Vero has gotten into the kitchen cupboard, but even turning over pots and pans a thousand times does not amuse.her..She begins to fret. “When you don’t.know what.to do with yourself, little one,.it’s time for a nap.”.Mother.is right. Vero falls asleep immediately, and Monique seizes the opportunity.to take a shower and fill the washing machine.
10:00. The milkman rings the doorbell. Monique buys nine liters, which should be enough for the week. Then the butcher arrives and fills her order from the back of his truck: a small roast beef, four thick steaks, and some.pork chops. The.rest of her shopping-groceries, vegetables, and fruits Monique.buys on her weekly trip to the.super market..The.kitchen.has large.food cupboards, and in the basement.there.is a huge freezer.for the meat and frozen food. Snowstorms can block the roads for several days, but there is no danger of starvation at the Vanasses’.
11:30..The vegetable soup is simmering.on the electric stove. The family always eats a light lunch and the main meal in the evening. The boys enter with a blast of cold air, peeling off their boots at the door and throwing their snowsuits over a chair. Their.shouts and laughter.wake Vero and.rouse Andre from his drowsiness. Father and sons take their.positions on one side of the counter,.with Vero and her mother on the other. Monique serves the hot soup with buttered.crackers.
1:15. After tidying the house and stacking the dishes in the dishwasher, Monique bundles Vero up to her eyes, straps her into her car seat, and drives off to the mall, the only outing possible in these Siberian temperatures. The well-heated shopping center.contains a wide variety of stores and boutiques, but Monique goes there mostly to get out and meet her neighborhood girlfriends. Vero is comfortably installed in her stroller and is not too impatient.when.her.mother.stops for her daily cup of coffee.
Despite his illness, Andre has some business to. take care of. The furnace has broken at the garage where he works and the entire system must be replaced..As the youngest of the owners, Andre cannot approve the work without consulting his father and brother..Like many retired people, his parents spend their winters in Miami and his brother is there on vacation. He will try to phone in the evening when the rates go down.
3:15. Monique welcomes her sons back from school but insists they do their.homework.before.they go out to play. The boys finish in a hurry and are about to race out the door when their mother notices that their boots are wet and makes them change to dry pairs. She orders.them to stay in the backyard so she can keep an eye on them. Monique has read too many articles about child abduction.
The boys prepare.for battle with their friends. War seems to be their preferred game. The combatants.have snowballs and wooden swords and defend.themselves.by building snow barricades and climbing trees. When darkness falls, the boys return wet and hungry, their cheeks reddened.by the cold. They warm their feet in slippers knitted by their grandmother and sit down at the table.
6:30. Andre does not feel well enough to join in his boys’ antics. Usually away all day, Andre normally takes advantage of suppertime.to talk and joke with his sons. This evening, the absence.of Andre’s usual cheerfulness.is contagious, and the family doesn’t.linger at the table. Philippe has a bath with Vero, then wraps her warmly in her pyjamas before Monique puts her to sleep. Now the boys have to play quietly. In the living room, Andre sits with his eyes closed; on the sofa, Jean François and Philippe.turn.the pages of a book of fairy tales while they listen to the story read aloud on a cassette. There is little resistance when their parents send them to bed an hour later, but Philippe can still summon.up enough strength.to protest.that.it is his tum.to sleep in the.upper bunk.
9:00. After sleeping almost all day, Andre is now wide awake. Monique lights the wood stove in the basement.to reduce the humidity and sits beside her husband, pulling a blanket up over them. Just as they did when they were teenagers in love, they snuggle together.and watch a late movie.