Friday, April 07, 2006

New Meaning to the Phrase "French Postcards"

Over the past few years Francine has cleared material clutter from her life. She has been relentless and brutal in her quest of simplicity. But since she knows that my idea of simplicity does not match hers at all, I have come into possession of some amazing treasures. Case in point - She was given the most remarkable collection of over 100 postcards by her cousin who lives in France. They all date from early 1910 through May 1911. They are all from one man to one woman - Phaa's grandparents. I was fascinated by the tale of their romance and how little was actually known of it. I find that it is all the empty spaces that, if filled with imaginings, would make a great love story. Since the real story is now forever lost in time, I asked Phaa to write me of what she DID know. Here is the story that surrounds the postcards of Henri to Yvonne.

Dear Annie,

I feel lucky, happy and relieved that you WANTED to acquire the box of my French Grandmother's 1910 postcards from the mysterious "H" whom my cousin Edith managed to deduce meant Henri. My own mother's actual father.

A few notes on Grandmere: Mademoiselle Yvonne Pardon, variously residing on Rue de L'Epe de Bois, Paris; in Cemboing (Jussy, Haute Soane); and in adulthood, in Salon-de-Provence between Arles and Marseille in the south. She was born sometime during the 1890s in Finisterre, Britanny, northernmost France. Yvonne was one of 4-5 sisters, another one of whom was the infamous Aunt Jerry (Tante Germaine) I sometimes mention. Yvonne became pregnant (scandelously) with my mother Gisele prior to marriage with this violin-playing Henri, who then disappeared into WWI. The dates are wrong so he probably was either disinterested or reluctant, a possible "fact" supported by Yvonne's description to me 50-years later: "He was a zero." But! as Edith said, when handing the postcards over to me last year when Gary and I visited the family now residing in the countryside south of Salon: "Ca, c'etais l'amour." Meaning, this box of postcards, sent by Henri, preserved by Yvonne, THAT was real love. Edith also gave me Henri's old violin, which you saw, Annie and Krista. Yvonne later married Emile Ripert and together they produced Josette, Gisele's 10-years younger half-sister and Edith's mother. Josette died about a year ago, after a life of close family ties. Her other two children, both sons, remain close together with Edith and their various spouses and offspring now constitute a group of about 15 relatives, most of whom we got to know during our wonderful visit last year.

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