A post of a different color…it gives you a another viewpoint.
My friends know I have long been enchanted with all things French...the history, the language, the lifestyle, the elegance and simplicity, the furnishings, the decor, the passion and reverence for time worn pieces passed from one generation to the next, along with the rustic allure and charm of the countryside. Very few know why…
This great love and deep appreciation took root as a bookish 12 year old after reading The Diary of Anne Frank… I began my quest to find out all I could about World War II and especially the role of the Resistance in France, which, of course, led me to read many other books about the sacrifices made by other countries and their heroic people who fought and died during the Nazi Occupation of much of Europe! There were so many intriguing stories…Historical fact and fiction of Europe along with books about American history became my companions as I traveled the world through their words.
Traveling for the first time to Paris & Provence in 1999, I was thrilled to be walking the ancient and historic streets I had imagined and read so much about. On the Il de Cite’, Jeanine and I were standing in line outside a small ice cream/sorbet shop when I noticed a stone plaque on the building across the walkway. I walked over while Jeanine ordered for us and found a passage engraved on the stone…loosely remembered…”In this place Jewish children were hidden during the occupation of Paris.” So there I stood, thinking of all the historical events, this very thing I had read about, tears streaming, I thanked God for the people brave enough to fight the Nazis.
While living in the mountains of Colorado in my late twenties…I met a lovely, gracefully aging lady from France who happened one day to walk into my design shop. We talked and talked, she sharing about her home in Provence and why she was living in Colorado, me sharing how much I loved listening to her. She actually lived near me in the Evergreen Meadows east of the village. Enthralled with her accent, her soft, silvery gray hair styled into a bun at the nape of her neck, her blue eyes moist as she spoke of Provence, she asked if I would help with a party at her home. A few days later, excited by her invitation to visit, I followed the directions up the mountain canyon to what she called her rustic home…well, she personified grace and elegance and her home was very much a reflection of just those qualities. It was a home filled with timeless treasures, flea market finds beside the patina of well-loved furniture, enchanting vignettes of china pieces, copper and crystal, and a host of charming antique curiosities…peeling, cracked, and chipped! Her garden…a tangle of relaxed and carefree sunny blossoms. I was there to plan a Bastille Day Celebration for her which turned out to be a rather spectacular yearly event. We remained friends, sharing our love of France and gardening for several years until…Well, and then I moved away…
Living in California...This antique silver box was a thank you gift from a great French lady who became a client while I lived and worked in California. She hired me to design and completely furnish a large condo unit she had purchased in Century City….all while she was still in Paris. We spoke on the phone, weekly, through her daughter who spoke English.
Working for Madame, as I called her, was such a great experience…every selection and design element was presented and sent by courier to Paris…she would look over the details and then exclaim as we spoke on the phone, often as late as 9:00PM…’how very French this will look and how did you know so easily what I would like…’ That was the easy part, putting the “LOOK” and “STYLE” together. Getting the fabrics and wallpapers and work and built-ins done and furniture installed in time for her first visit was the challenge. Another French friend, an antique dealer from Pasadena, in the last few weeks of the process, found many pieces from Paris markets that I used to furnish and accessorize the space that became a warm and gracious home filled with color, pattern, art and great spots for relaxing. I still remember her first words as she walked into her home away from home…’Oh, c’est magnifique!’
And, it happened again…Many years later later I met, by chance, my transplanted French sister, Jeanine, shown above on the right. Once more, I fell into the French of all things…talking, laughing, sharing so much. We began with our love of gardening, then we began cooking together and teaching others about cooking the French way, and then on to our trip to France where we evolved into sisterhood. We enjoy a rich history filled with wildly sumptuous meals, captivating & playful adventures, and an enduring deep friendship. I think back, that hard lump in my throat, of all the memories spent together, the four of us…her husband, Luat, and my late husband, Carl… and all the others who came to enjoy time spent eating and drinking wine while gathered around the pool. We still visit, text every few days and travel when we have time..that will never change.
Quoi de neuf? Our get-togethers over good wines and cheese and a baguette fresh from the oven were often the perfect ending for our day spent in the garden, our time to talk, to laugh, to relax and to sometimes cry…
So now you know and understand a bit more of how my life has been deeply influenced by …all things French.
Over many decades, I have collected vintage pieces from France, and a few from Italy and England, that filled my homes around the country, reflecting the gracious marks of time and use, along with an occasional whimsy that inspired conversation. My heart fills with love for these everyday objects that were made to last, with the charm of the French way…to care for, to use and to lovingly pass down to the next generation…who will hopefully appreciate their passage through time.
Cerise loves her time spent in the lavender fields…one day I’ll see them again with her and Jeanine.
“Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship.” Elsa Schiaparelli