Because it is the holidays and the season to be jolly, I am posting a happy picture I took ages ago during a trip to France with our two oldest grandchildren. I have terrific memories of that vacation, especially of these American kids (neither of them a teenager yet) cheerfully eating everything in sight from escargots to saucisson to rillettes without once asking for mac & cheese or pizza.
We drove to the tiny village in southwestern France where my paternal family originates from. We met the person in charge. She opened a humongous century-old register and allowed us to peruse it for our ancestors. It took a while but we found most of them, going back to Napoleonic times. The register didn’t go any further. Probably because earlier records were kept at the church. I can’t remember for sure but I believe she said they had been destroyed during the French Revolution.
Later as we were walking along the only street looking for my great-grandfather’s workshop (he was a ironmonger specializing in horseshoes and in cart repairs and I knew from a previous trip that the faint trace of a cartwheel could still be seen on the wooden door), we were hailed from a first-floor window by a very old man who asked us who we were and what we were doing there. We told him and he invited us in.
As it turned out, he had actually been in school with my dad during the year he spent there with his grandparents while his mother (my grandma) recovered from tuberculosis. He remembered my uncle (who sadly died at 19 from the disease). He told me the whole village had followed my dad’s career with pride and joy. He recalled my great-grandmother and her daughter walking up the hill everyday with a wheelbarrow to tend their vegetable garden. My great-grandfather had died and they relied on that garden for most of their food. They were known in the village as very hard workers. This was new to me. I was awed.
We met his son who brought us tiny cups of coffee and showed us his collection of ancient postcards including one where we could glimpse the old family home. The past coming back to life.
So many people criss-cross our lives. Our past, our present and, hopefully, our future. They contribute to who we are. They are precious.
May your holiday be the stuff of memories…
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