I know mom was really annoyed at Grandma for sending these letters in to the paper to be published (can you imagine how annoyed she’d be with me posting these again 60 years later hahahaha) but I am so glad Grandma did – this was a Mom who I never knew and I’m so honoured that I get this little peek into her life post polio but before Melissa.
I had to chuckle when mom was describing how she wanted to learn to cook while in France. If she got French cooking lessons, we never benefited from them. But not only was cooking not really mom’s thing, it was physically difficult for her and became more so the older she got. A bonus of this – that I didn’t realize until I was older – was that it meant that my sister and I got a dad who did a lot of things for and with us that many dads in the ‘70s didn’t do. I grew up thinking it was normal to have a dad who helped around the house and who spent time playing with his kids. It wasn’t until I became a bit older that I understood what an anomaly he was – especially for the time.
November 13th, 1960
You’ve all been neglected in my writing lately! I thought I would have lots of time this weekend because Gail went to Belgium and I stayed here, but I didn’t even get any studying done. Thursday afternoon we went to have tea with a French family in one of the suburbs of Tours. It is not one of the wealthy sections of town but it was a very clean and happy home. The tea was very simple but good and the family just sat there and fired one question after another. I’ve never been in a home here yet without having to get out the map and show them where I live. I wish I’d collected more snaps to bring. They made me feel just as home because we sat around the kitchen table to talk and drink tea.
Friday was Armistice Day (Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!!) so Tours had an Armistice celebration. There were both French and American troops with a band and flags all over the place. Some men were decorated with the Legion of Honour also. At noon that day I was invited to lunch with a doctor and his wife who are from the more wealthy class. The meal was served by a maid in uniform and there was a vast array of knives and forks from which I invariably chose the wrong utensil. I was in the awkward position of having everything passed to me first so I had to decide how to manage it. In spite of all this the afternoon was just fascinating because they were such excellent conversationalists. There was a German student there also and they were discussing the last war (he could really speak French, I just listened) among other things. I was very interested to see how they felt about those things and about the present world situation. The French have an opinion on everything and every opinion is different. I wish so much that I could speak the language better to try and understand some of their positions. I still haven’t reached the point where I can carry on a good conversation or even understand everything that is said to me. After speaking French for six solid hours as I was on Friday, I’m just exhausted. This is really an experience though, because they tell us it is very difficult to be invited into the French home – and I’ve reached the point that if I’m invited to another I’ll never be able to waddle off the boat.
Gail and I met two girls from the Lyiee, Suzanne and Danielle, who came to visit us a few times and took us to see the movie. We had them over for dinner here on Wednesday night to show them some of the building. They are really just darling girls and have been so helpful because they take time to speak slowly and to correct our mistakes. We’d forgotten that Wednesday was the night we got the election results so everyone here was quite boisterous (the democrats that is). But they understand when we told them Americans didn’t sing at the table all the time. After dinner some students from the French med. school came over in an impromptu demonstration for Kennedy. They were dressed up in red, white, and blue costumes and made all sorts of comic speeches – half French, half English for us. They also sang some students songs (which we didn’t understand but I was told it was better) so we sang some back to them. I believe med-students are the same no matter what country they’re in.
On Saturday, Suzanne came by in the afternoon and we walked over to her place and then to Danielle’s house which is on the other side of town. Here we listened to some records (I tried to translate an Elvis Presley song into French for them but even I can’t understand it). They both have penpals in New York and have saved up all sorts of post cards so of course I had to describe our one rushed day there. They are just as fascinated by the idea of seeing America as I was of seeing Europe. On the way back, Suzanne took me to a patisserie to have some more yummy cakes and some tea. She also invited me to Sunday dinner at noon. I had mentioned how I would like to learn how to cook some French dishes so she asked me if I would like to come early and watch her make the meal. Her family have a boucherie (butcher’s shop) in a narrow winding street in the old part of town. It’s near a building where the man who made Joan of Arc’s armour lived. They live in behind the store. I was just overwhelmed to see all the work that goes into these meals we have been having with a family and what an occasion it is to have even just one insignificant guest like me. I’m sure they weren’t very wealthy but they just put out the very best of everything they had. This has been the case in every place we’ve gone to. Each plate was a masterpiece and Suzanne worked lovingly over it. The frustrating thing was I couldn’t express myself well enough just to let them know how much I appreciated it. I felt so guilty having all that done for me and know how much it was probably costing them. During the meal I go the usual questions about America and the atlas was brought out again. I’m beginning to feel like a walking encyclopedia- but I hope I’m giving the right answers to all these questions!! I had to sample their best wine and tried almost every cheese they had- I couldn’t even go to supper tonight I was so full. Her mother invited me back again to do some cooking. I told her that it took all my ingenuity just to work a can-opener! They don’t know what they are letting themselves in for.
Did i tell you we are going to Rome for 10 days on November 24th? It’s one of the trips conducted by the university. We have to pay $25.00 and for one meal a day but all the rest is paid for. I’m really excited about it.
I’m not sure where I’m going for Christmas. I may go to Vienna if the roads are good and if the weather’s fine. If not I may go to Spain or inland. I would rather wait until spring to see England as i don’t think the weather is too pleasant there now.
Tell somebody to write, yours are about the only letters I get.