Thursday, October 28, 2010

Estelle Therrien: Upstairs at the Brookfield Farm

With Halloween a few days away, here's something to put you in the mood: I believe this is the first piece that Estelle brought to the group when she joined us last summer. I've been saving it for the spooky season ever since.

The winter of 1943, when we moved into our farm in Brookfield, was a pretty cold one. My sister-in-law and her husband had an apartment on the second floor. One day when the men were outside cutting wood, she and I decided to check out what was upstairs in the shed and garage on the property. To our surprise we found an embalming area, sheaves of wheat, black suits with no backs to them, white shirts with no back, embalming fluid and a folding table for getting the deceased ready for burial. By the time we found four coffins, we were both pretty excited. When the menfolk returned, they were just as excited as we were. They looked at each other and started laughing; the two of us looked at them. They explained, "We have the heavy handles on the barn doors, the ones for carrying the coffins." We all laughed then. As time went by, we decided to wallpaper the bedrooms because somebody had done their homework on all the bedroom walls. We used the embalming table for preparing the paper.

By the time we found
 four coffins, 
we were both
 pretty excited.

The next summer we had some company from Massachusetts. After dinner that Sunday, my two brothers and two in-laws went to check the treasures upstairs in the shed. My mother and aunts and I were doing dishes in the sink by the window that opened onto the porch. We heard some singing and we stopped to listen. We looked out the window and there came a procession along the porch: my brother was lying in one of the coffins, covered with one of the black suit-fronts and holding an American flag. He waved the flag, keeping time with the funeral march that the four "bearers" hummed as they filed past the window. They decided to take the coffins to Brookfield Pond, to soak them overnight so they would swell and seal. The next morning they drove up to the pond. Lo and behold, the coffins had disappeared! The Old Guard had picked them up and we never saw the coffins again.

In the 1980s, someone compiled a history of Brookfield. The sudden and unwelcome appearance of four coffins in the pond was remembered—put there, no doubt, by "flatlanders." The coffin incidents kept us laughing throughout the years. The Old Guard must have remembered, too, since they included the story in their history. We never found out where the coffins went, but someone of the Old Guard must know, even yet.

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