Well I for one am holding thumbs that you will GO! I think some of the people attending will be delighted to see YOU. My husband is not at all comfortable in swarms of people but since taking up photography again, walks around like he is part of the hired photographers (especially at weddings!) and just enjoys himself snapping away.
I too hope you go Kerouac! I enjoy your photo essays and selfishly I would also like to see pictures from the Lorraine as we will not be able to visit there in September. I would show them to my mother-in-law, it would be ironic if she knew some of the people! She has many memories of the difficulties that her family dealt with due to being occupied during WW2.
She also remembers when they were sent down to Paris how some people called them names because of where they were from, but she prefers to talk about how many kind people there were that helped her mother, brother and herself.
I hope you go and take many many pictures for us and tell us how the family has evolved over the years.
I was talking to a village friend on the phone yesterday. She informs me of all of the recent and upcoming deaths: "Remember Mr. Blinette, the old bachelor who lived downstairs from Mme. Hoffmann? Well, he died a few weeks ago. Nobody came to his funeral; I was the only person at the cemetery. And Jeanette, your grandmother's next door neighbor. Well, she's got lung cancer and she's in the last phase. She has a morphine drip punched through her throat, but she just keeps smoking as much as ever..."
Frankly I am amazed that I still remember these people, but they were all 'village characters' one way or another and talking about village people or peering at them through the curtains was always the main pastime there anyway.
I still have a vivid memory of my grandmother sitting on my parents' sofa and using their binoculars to spy on Jeanette while giving a running commentary. "There goes the old lady with her bucket of peelings for the pig. [The 'old lday' was about 35 years younger than my grandmother.] Is she going to stop and pull the weeds in the tomato patch at last? No, she's just lighting another cigarette. She could at least take the laundry off the line -- it's been there for a week."
My parents were good friends of her husband, but he died of throat cancer back in 1980 or thereabouts. The four children seemed to raise themselves because their mother did not seem to ever take notice of them. The youngest little boy would have been an apt candidate for the role of 'Pigpen' in the Peanuts comic strip. It would be worth it to go to Jeanette's funeral just to see what the kids look like more than 30 years later.
Ah, idle speculation about things that are none of my business...
I was back in the village this week, absorbing all of the latest village gossip. All of the streets were torn up because they're using all of their extra tax money from the factory to redo all of the sidewalks.
Anyway, I scored a litre of homemade mirabelle, a big chunk of pâté lorrain and a bag of coconut crullers.
How is pâté lorrain different from any other pâté? (I mean true pâtés, encased in a crust). The pictures of it look very nice, but also very standard pâté...
Alice Munro, who took the Nobel Prize for literature, wrote very similar stories, set in rural Ontario for the most part. I'm sure those types are found the world over. The "slattern" of an old lady, for one. And obviously, the bored and judgemental neighbour.
It has been changed? I certainly remember Persil washing powder and liquid in France. As for the pâté lorrain, I'm sending this to my downstairs neighbour who studied boulangerie and actually had a bread bakery with a friend, in a neighbourhood far in the east of Montréal - they were just a little bit too early, as another, a few years later, is extremely successful.
The pieces of meat are quite large - very different from the "pâté aux chiens" type of pâté...
The final reason that I have to return to this village is to pay my respects at the cemetery. I still know a few people there, but it would feel very awkward for me to suddenly just show up on their doorstep unannounced, even though I know that all of them are good-hearted enough to appreciate the idea that I still think about them and their lives (which I do). The younger ones are the children of the family friend who died unexpectedly just a year ago. She was the village powerhouse, visiting all of the old people and was even the representative for the Red Cross in the area and spent one or two days a week visiting the residents of nursing homes in the nearby towns. I sent her money twice a year because she also took care of the tombs at the cemetery and put flowers on them twice a year -- Easter and All Saint's Day. But she suddenly died of a heart attack at about age 85, so that's that. Her husband, whom my mother went to school with, is a good old guy but conversations with him tend to revolve around plumbing and masonry, so no thanks, I don't really want to hear about it. I have known all of the children since they were young and they have always seemed to really like me because I would bring the touch of exoticism to their lives. A Parisian visiting the village! And sort of an American, too. Amazing! But they have families and children, so I know that they are doing quite will without a visit.
The only person about whom I feel guilty is Zouah, the widow of my grandfather's best friend. She is a delightful person and I am in complete admiration of the fact that she has stuck it out in the village all of these years, an isolated Algerian mail order bride. I want to see her, but when I think of her small apartment which smells like mothballs and the never empty coffee pot, I can't bear the thought of being trapped there for half an hour, particularly since there is a multitude of small objects that my grandmother gave her when she left the village in 1981 -- needlework cushions, little ceramic statues, decorative dishes... They are all displayed as important artifacts in the room where she sits all day watching television.
So once again, I just stopped off for a few minutes at the cemetery. I still really like the fact that it is a monument to what a melting pot the region is, with graves of every origin mixed in complete harmony.
Muslim tradition is for deceased Muslims to be buried in a Muslim country or at least in a Muslim cemetery. Not so here -- everybody is from Lorraine and that's where they want to be. This is the tomb of Zouah's husband.
I am very happy to see this thread again and to read through it from the beginning. Kerouac, your written introduction to this latest section is beautifully evocative and bittersweet. The cemetery photographs are out of this world and most informative, plus interestingly surprising in the ethnic variety they show.