Tuesday, February 28, 2017


After Mom came, my parents spent a second honeymoon in Paris. Their reunion was joyous. They moved into the 300-year-old house, but ate many of their meals with Madame Salm at the inn with other American army families. They moved a bed and Mike's crib into the kitchen to keep warm because the kitchen had an oil stove. There was no central heat. "Mike slept in his snowsuit between us the first night. It was that cold," Mom told me.

While Dad was at Captieux, Mom took long walks along the promenade and went to the market in the square. Her favorite friend was a vegetable farmer, Monsieur Garliss. He had a turtle that Mike loved. Garliss would take Mike behind his store and call for Fifi and the turtle would come. Mom was in her glory with all the beautiful flowers sold in the market.

I was in this picture!!

Neither of my parents were big wine drinkers, but the water wasn't safe so they drank more wine. When in France....  Mike was given evaporated milk diluted with chlorinated water. They bought bread and meat, fresh every day, at one of the market stalls.

When the Tour de France came through Bazas, as it still does to this day, they went to the highway to stand and watch the cyclists.

Life in Bazas was rich. They never felt that the "lacks" in their life were significant. Bed in the kitchen? So what? No indoor toilet? No problem. They were so content.

When the car arrived from the US, they felt their time there really took on a new level of excitement. They put 23,000 miles on the Chevy by taking trips all over Europe on weekends. They made up their own itinerary and just took off. They saw Spain and Italy and Netherlands. They spent time in many locations in France. They took in England and Germany and Switzerland. In the wintertime, they'd go to the ocean-side city of Biarritz and get a motel "so we could take a hot bath."

Traveling all over Europe with a toddler was easy-breezy in the '50's. No seat belts. "We'd plunk him in the back seat with a pile of books and a few bananas and we never heard a peep out of him." When they stopped for the night, they would have Mike run up and down the motel halls. He was speaking French quite fluently before they left just by playing with other children.

I wrote a book about (from interviews with them) their years in Bazas and I cherish knowing the details about this time they spent exploring another continent. Mom wrote details from every trip to her parents and Dad's and most of those letters still remain.

They stayed in touch with Madame Salm. She sent a dress and bonnet when I was born. I don't know if they stayed close to the Garliss family.

"I'd go back to Bazas tomorrow," Mom told me. "I don't know if there was ever another time in our lives that we were more carefree and we were surrounded by all that awesomeness of Europe."

Were the 2 years in Europe the highlight of their married life?

"Other than the joy of our children, it was. Absolutely," Mom confirmed. Dad echoed, "It was such a wonderful experience. I would do it all over again in a minute."

When I wrote the story of their life in France, I learned the "rest of the story," but I had never read these letters to Mom that Dad wrote to her. It filled in those missing months of Dad's life when they were apart.

I come away from all these letters from Dad knowing that my parents had an incredible love for each other. They lived a love story. I feel so lucky to have been born into that love and raised inside of their nurturing arms. 

Thanks, Dad, for leaving these letters for us. The journey with you through them has been a joy.

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