Several things about this letter make me emotional. First of all, it’s shocking to realize how much happened to mom in those teen years – at 11 being in the hospital (well really she was still 10 but a month or so from being 11), all of those years spent wondering if she would survive the effects of polio, praying for her to sit up or be able to walk again. Then off to boarding school in Florida before attending Stanford – and then off to France. There are also little details in her letter that fascinate me. When mom says they were up at 4am to explore for the day, I wonder how she got ready. Even when I was a child and mom was stronger and more agile, getting dressed took her a couple of hours. She had to put on a back brace that had various layers and many snaps and straps, then she had her leg brace to navigate as well. Mom didn’t complain about it, but getting ready every day was almost a full day event for her as she got older. Then there’s the accessibility issue. As a child I remember going places with mom and there were no such things as automatic doors, and many places had steps to get in – all of this took mom extra work to navigate. Some of those heavy doors she couldn’t get through without someone there to hold the door for her. I had to do a short stint on crutches when I was younger and I was shocked at how frigging tiring it is to haul yourself around on them. I’m struck by her courage, and also the kindness of her friends travelling with her.
This letter was written October 6th, 1960 (Margie’s birthday)
I just got back from a marvellous birthday party which my friends have sprung as a surprise – and it really was!! They called me down to Ruth and Patti’s room and when I walked in there was the most fantastic cake I have ever seen plus a big sign on the wall saying “Bon Anniversaire.” Then they all sang “Happy Birthday” in French. The cake was an enormous French pastry with “Bon Anniversaire Margi” written on it. This involved a problem as far as cutting was concerned but it all disappeared within a few minutes. French pastry is really just out of this world. Gail gave me the most darling French poodle for my bed which was looking very bare with nothing on it. Pat and Ruth gave me a big potted plant for our balcony. Margi and Rosemary gave me some candles and Penny and Kathy gave me some more French pastry and some lipstick (the colour all the French girls have been wearing).
I left off my first letter when we decided to go to Paris last weekend. Friday morning we had lectures until noon about how to adjust to French life, get along with the people etc. At noon we were free to go and catch the first train to Paris – something I’ve waited for so many years to do that I couldn’t believe it was happening. We stayed on the left Bank which is the student section. We were too tired Friday nite to do anything but walk around a bit, see the Louvre illuminated and go to bed. We got up at 4am Saturday morning to go to Les Halles which is the great vegetable market of Paris. We walked around all the Halls while the people taught us the name of the food in French and gave us some grapes. We then went and had the most delicious onion soup I have ever stated at a little restaurant. The soups they have here are out of this world. After this we went back and slept until 10am when we went to take in such things as the Toulaires, La Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower etc etc. We sat down at a sidewalk cafe and had a cup of tea on the Champs Élysées. Gail and Ruth and I bought a piece of French bread, some cheese and an apple and sat down on the banks of the Siene in front of Le Louvre to eat our lunch. It was so much fun just sitting and watching the people and boats that we spent an hour and a half there. After this we wandered through the gardens around the Louvre and back to our rooms to go to bed early. Sunday we caught the Metro to the Ile de la Cite to attend Mass at Notre Dame. None of us were Catholic so we decided this wouldn’t be polite so we went in a little bit but spent most of the time walking around outside. We then caught a bus to the Louvre – it would take a lifetime to go through it but I saw the Mona LIsa and several other masterpieces. I would like to spend the weekend there – I hope it isn’t too long before we go again. Paris is absolutely charming. What I enjoyed most was not the tourist spots but the more out of the way places like the quasi of the Siene and the parts of the Left Bank. I miss my car needless to say, because there are so many parts of this fabulous country I want to see. Not only is Paris full of fascinating things, but just going through the countryside is an experience. I’m starting to get some friends among the French students now which is fun because they don’t talk English. I never realized how poor my French was before!! This is certainly an incentive to work on it. We have really had a lot of work piled on us for the past two days I’ve been locked in the library back in the old routine.
Stanford in France
Place Anatole France
Tours, Indre et Louvre