Postcard from France
My then-husband had been drafted into the US Army, stationed 75 miles southwest of Paris in Orleans on the Loire River. And of course I decided to pack up belongings and our 5-month-old baby Dena and book passage to Le Havre.
Now, after a year in residence, we also had 6-week-old Tad and as a family often took refuge in the whimsical carousel as the only antidote for music deprivation.
In reflection, what a life it had been, truly ranging between exquisite ecstasy and utter anguish! However, you’d never know it from the letter to my family in Portland that I recently stumbled upon. Definitely penned in cheery hand-printing and with the blithe attitude of myself as a not-yet-21-year-old …
“Bon jour, all!” I wrote. “Believe me, we’ve gone really primitive this week:
#1. The weather’s so cold that Mlle. Butin across the hall turned the water off in the kitchen, so we only have water in the bedroom. And that is only cold, of course.
#2. Our gas for the kitchen hotplate went off. I guess the pipes froze and the city hasn’t gotten around to fixing ’em yet.
#3. We’ve been out of wood for a week and our woodman is so busy I don’t know when he can deliver it. So no wood fires to keep the apartment warm.
“Ah but the little kerosene heaters we have can be used for cooking on, so we have some heat and can at least eat soup and sandwiches and things like that. But do I ever feel like a pioneer woman!
“Oh! Also there’s no water in the toilet (WC) outside either, so we use a ‘slop-jar’ all the time now. I know, euw!!
“We just found out we have an extra $120 coming from a matured insurance policy. Of course we’re going to use it on our Riviera trip. And we’ve got a tentative itinerary figured out. We leave here March 25, a Sunday, at 7 am, drive all day, stay at a hotel in Lyon that night, drive the 26th and get to Cannes that afternoon.
“We’re renting part of a villa — kitchen, bath, WC (indoor!) and 2 bedrooms. With hot water, central heat, electric range, etc. etc. For $7 a day! And we’ll do our own cooking while we’re there.
“Then we’ll drive up to Geneva for 2 nights before heading back around to Orleans. But are we ever going to be crowded — with suitcases, boxes of groceries, the huge French buggy, bottles of sterile water, Dena’s car seat, potty chair, inflatable plastic horse, dolls, blocks, sandpails, etc. Plus 5 boxes of the newly invented disposable diapers to squeeze in! Whew, all of this in our teeny tiny Hillman!
“All My Love to Everyone!