I Have Been Told

A column by Anne M. Dunn

Grandmother Voices Go To France, Part I

Terry Greenside gathered three travelers into his chariot and off we went to Bemidji where we climbed aboard flight DL7371 for Mpls-St Paul. After many months of planning, Peg, Lulu and I were on our way to France.

We found Patty and Annie-o, located our gate and settled in for a few hours of quiet excitement as we waited for our boarding call. Soon we were back in the sky and the long journey over water would begin at the edge of the continent.

At last we saw Toulouse shining like a pink lady beneath our snowy wings. We bumped down on the tarmac and rolled to a stop. We scurried along like mice until we found ourselves exiting into the welcome area where Angeline and Joel waited with broad smiles and open arms.

Luggage was claimed and loaded into the two waiting cars and we were whisked away to St Pierre where we were nourished with crepes and tea. Then I had a short nap under the rafters and listened to French rain songs on the roof. Here we would be sheltered and fed for the next two weeks.

Lula, the ever-smiling dog, barked and danced in excited wonder at five women who had come to admire her, scratch her belly and rub her ears.

Joel was pleased to show me the 600 year olive tree he’d had transplanted from Spain. It had been a birthday gift for Angeline. I was quite impressed and rubbed my hands over ancient wooden knuckles. Joel said they were healed areas from being pruned. I wondered how many times and how many hands had pruned it back to keep it from becoming a tall tree. I wondered if it would have olives in the spring.

Helene and Thildou arrived and were wined and dined in good French style. Thildou and I exchanged necklaces. She gave me a beautiful shell pendant and I gave her the green glass beads that Florence had given me from her Aunt Edithe’s collection.

Then we went to Verfeil to sit in with the chorale practice. Many of the lovely women remembered me with excited greetings and warm kisses. They sang a song in Occitan and then began practicing “White Christmas” for their upcoming Christmas concert.

Then home we went and I was trundled off to bed. Although I had planned to sleep outside in the camper, the weather was unexpectedly cold so I had the red bedroom in the attic. I slipped into my gold pajamas, bundled myself in the warm blankets and fell into the long deep sleep of an exhausted traveler.

But I was up with the sun and watched it rise in a golden mist until it blazed down warm and sweet on Bordeneuve, the new farm that is now over 200 years old.

We gathered at the hearth to fine-tune our program. Then some of us went out to gather willow twigs for the upcoming dream catcher workshop. It wasn’t the kind of willow we usually use and it was not the season for gathering. But when in France… improvise. I had brought pheasant feathers, sinew and a bracelet that I cut apart for the beads.

After lunch we were on the road to Toulouse for sightseeing. On our way to the Jacobins Dominican Monastery I came upon an old friend! I’d met him four years earlier on that same street. He played an unusual kind of violin and I had danced. At that time he made a joke on me. He’d played faster and faster until I had to stop. But I gave him a few Euros and we had a good laugh. He’d allowed me to play the instrument, too, but I got only one note that sounded like an old saw.

We remembered each other and had a sweet reunion. Then he played as Patty and I danced. We left him with a few Euros and went along to our destination. It is imperative that one arrive at the church at the proper time. When the sun comes through the stained glass it paints the interior with beautiful moving colors and it is a wonder to behold.

The monastery was built in 1229. In 1215, 100 years ago, Dominic of Osma founded the order of Preachers that bears his name. The order played a major role in the creation of the first university of Toulouse, 1229, so they became teachers and educators.

That evening we were invited to dine at the Eglise Cuq Chateau. We had a glorious meal and then joined with other guests to sing a few songs at the player piano. The first selection was, “Are You Lonesome Tonight”! I was stunned that an old Elvis song was chosen!The content you are trying to access is only available to members. Sorry.

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