Madeleine DeRonde (November 7, 1927-February 3, 2013)

Chinese New YearGram2Madeleine DeRonde passed peacefully surrounded by loved ones on February 3rd 2013. Madeleine was born at home in Montpelier during the Great Flood of 1927 to Emile and Augustine Gagne. She spent the entirety of her life in Montpelier, attending St. Michael’s Catholic School and St. Augustine’s Church. She was also a member of the Catholic Daughters of America, the Montpelier Emblem Club #369, and the Ladies Home Dem.

At sixteen, she took her first job at the Woolworth’s five-and-dime. By twenty-five, she was a single mother of five, a waitress at The Lobster Pot, and a lab technician at the US Department of Agriculture, helping to make Vermont a brucellosis-free state. She later married Philip DeRonde, owner of DeRonde Plastics. After his passing, Madeleine became a land developer; the road bordering their property in East Montpelier still bears the DeRonde name.

Madeleine was an avid gardener and needlepoint enthusiast. She enjoyed the many pleasures of life: food, dancing, and music of all kinds. Above all, she loved spending time with her extensive family.

Madeleine is predeceased by her husband, Philip DeRonde; two sisters, Marie Law and Trudy Miccolo; and two brothers, Merrill Gagne and Gerard Gagne. She is survived by three sisters: Jeannine Wood, Lucille Collins, and guardian angel Pauline Goodrich. She is lovingly remembered by her five children: John Feddersen Jr., Tom Feddersen and his wife Linda, Marcy Kontis and her husband George, Richard Feddersen and his wife Patti, and Fred Feddersen…as well as fourteen grandchildren, seventeen great-grandchildren, four great-great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and extended family.

She will be dearly missed by all who knew her, for to know her was to love her.

Visiting hours will be from 9:00-10:30 am on February 6th at Guare & Sons Funeral Home, 30 School Street, Montpelier. The funeral will take place at 11:00 am.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions may be made to The Sister of the Lamb of God: 2063 Wyandotte Ave, Owensboro, KY 42310.

Alethea & Memere

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The Spirograph Obsession

My fellow Coedxian, author Elaine Isaak, sent me a tweet yesterday asking about my “recent obsession with Spirograph.” I thought perhaps this deserved a better-than-140-character explanation.

It was Memere who had the Spirograph at her house — we might have owned one, but I don’t ever remember playing with it at home. Only ever at Memere’s house.

There were a few activites particular to Memere’s: Strawberry picking and making fresh daiquiris from the fruits of our labor (virgin daiquiris, of course–it wasn’t en vogue to call them “smoothies” back then). Eating Bugles with ranch dip and watching the Miss America Pageant. Sneaking into the blue room and thieving candies out of the pretty dishes there and not getting caught. Sledding down the mountainside backyard. And walking to the Morse Farm Sugar Shack, of course.

Memere (or “Gram,” as we often call her) eventually had a pool installed in the back yard, but by then we were too old to summer in Vermont anymore. No, what Soteria and I loved as girls was the large bureau in the guest bedroom whose drawers were full of games and toys and pens and paper. One of those “games” was Spirograph.

Soteria and I, both artisically-minded young girls (as most young girls are, though ours never wore off) would spend HOURS bent over circles and cams with pens of all colors, desperately attempting to recreate the gorgeous designs in the booklet. As with most art projects, Spirograph took a steady and careful hand, and huge amounts of patience. Eventually that patience would wear thin, or it would be time for dinner, and the projects would be packed up in the box and filed away in th drawer to be met again on another vacation.

I wonder what happened to all those games and things when Memere sold her house and moved to the condo. I hope whatever child got it treasured the magic in those ovoid bits of plastic (if not out myriad attempts at achieving perfection).

Every so often, a conversationĀ  about the Spirograph pops up between Soteria and me–especially now that Memere is in hospice with Alzheimers and we try to remember older, better, more lucid times. Inevitably, Soteria’s in the shop and I’m at work, and the idea never gets scribbled down on paper as a quirky Christmas gift item. And so it goes, for months and years.

So yesterday, when I saw someone post a picture of the Spirograph on Fecebook, it was a simple enough thing to repost. And then, as happens with social networking, it exploded. Everyone shared links and memories. My friend Mandi even shared some Spirographing she’d done with her niece!

I thought it would be a fun game to give swag away to anyone who comes to me at a signing orĀ  convention appearance and gives me a spirograph cam or circle. I’d love to have a huge collection I can bring back to the Afterschool program next year!

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To You, From Me

Mom saw my birthday tribute to her this morning (how fitting that Concrete Blonde played “Happy Birthday” last night as part of their set for the 20th Anniversary of Bloodletting tour). Needless to say, I brought a tear to her eye — an ability I’ve become quite proud of over the years, as my mother’s tears are a mark of excellence. She posted a comment regarding the “Ode to Motherhood” poem I wrote about her when I was ten. “Where did you find that?” she asked.

Bit of a silly question, really, but only because Mom lived in the same family I did where books and journals were exchanged at birthdays and holidays more frequently than hugs and kisses. And not only were they given and received with equal joy, but they were always inscribed.

I’ve let this custom go by the wayside over the years — working in publishing for almost 15 years has afforded me the luxury of giving BOXES of books to my family at every occasion…and every time I needed to clean out my office. Some of them were ARCs, some of them were mass markets, some of them were signed by their authors. But none of them (unless I was the author) were signed by me.

It’s silly, really. These inscriptions have meant so much to me over the years. One of my most prized possessions is an unexpurgated Treasury of Grimm and Andersen my maternal grandmother (Memere) gave to me when I was eight. Off the top of my head I can also recall the inscribed Goop Tales from my Aunt Theda (“Don’t be a Goop!”) and They Call me Boober Fraggle from my paternal grandmother (Nana). I like to look at these signatures and remember the person, the moment in time, and the reason I’m so sentimental about certain things. Plus, I like to be able to brag about exactly how long I’ve owned something…proof that I was a champion reader by age five.

That poem my mother asked about? Collected in one of my own myriad blank journals, of course. But a special journal — one given to me by Nana at age ten (inscription at top). I knew with that book came the silent instruction to continue to write, and to collect those writings on those gilded pages. Only less special than the inscription is the big, round handwriting of my ten-year-old self as I carefully wrote out in cursive my “Ode to Motherhood” and “Ode to the Avon Lady” and told everyone about “Halloween Night.” All of us writers came from somewhere. I came from fairy tales, fraggles, goops, and that little blank book.

The part we all certainly don’t think about is, many years down the road, how much those inscriptions will mean to someone else. Let’s not forget the story behind the copy of Live Alone and Like It that Andre Norton gave me among four boxes of books I carted away from her library, inscribed to her by Anne McCaffrey. When Miss Anne gave that book to Miss Andre all those years ago, I’m sure she never knew what it would mean when discovered by another Miss A while simultaneously picking up her house and the pieces of her broken heart.

I urge you all this year — that’s only six more months, including the winter holiday of your choice — to give a book to someone you love. Make it thoughtful, make it important. And make it special by inscribing it.

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