One of My First Blog Post from 2005

Our street was narrow, unpaved, and fenced by two large stone walls.  This was before the jolies maisons sprang up like mushrooms surrounding us, eating up the vineyards and olive trees. This was before our town became a bedroom community for Marseille. This was before we had to say goodbye to those who had lived on Rue du Moulin their entire lives giving us a passage that took us back in time.

Since the construction trucks couldn't pass on our narrow street, those stone walls that had been there longer than anyone living in the village had to come down; bulldozing the stone walls took less than thirty minutes. The tumbling of those walls brought an end to the life that used to trespass on either side.

Often upon a time, I strolled down the unpaved rue with my two children. I encountered the local color of our village Photo property of Corey Amaro.  All rights reserved.every step of the way. How I loved those afternoon walks where it felt like I slipped back a century, seeing France that is romanticised and held up by dreamers like me.

"Monsieur Gaston!" I waved to our neighbor who, in his bleus walking alongside the vines. In his strong Provençal accent, he said, "Come see!" In the vineyard, at the foot of the mountain, he was gathering wild asperges, like he had done every year since he was a child.

Gaston's weathered hands offered us some, "Taste them; you can eat them raw, you know." He beamed proudly. We sat amongst the vines in the vineyard, eating from his loved, worn basket lined with a disheveled red and white dishtowel. Sacha, then a toddler, pulled on the vines, barely budding, which made Monsieur Gaston laugh.

"These asperges are my secret. Nobody knows they are here but me," he glanced around as if to be sure, "You see, I am alone." 

"Aren't they delicious?" Mr. Gaston winked, adding a few more wrinkles to his aged face.

After our impromptu picnic, we continued on our way to where we met Odette, who rode a bicyclette. That day a large cardboard box was attached to her bicyclette. As we grew closer, we could see the purpose of that box. Odette was collecting twigs. She shyly smiled, "I can never be too early. Little by little, I need to collect firewood for the winter. I can only carry so much at a time, you see."

My children scurried about making a game out of collecting a few dry twigs and eventually handed them to her. When her box was full, she waved goodbye; we waved back and continued down the Rue du Moulin.

Michel has had a limp from a childhood illness and hid his left hand in his pocket because it didn't behave either. Though that never stopped him from gathering fennel, marjolaine, lavender, and whatever else he could forage in the fields to sell at the local marché

Michel beckoned me towards the middle of the field, earmarked for construction, "Do you think we should dig up the wild tulips bulbs? The new houses will stand right on top of them." He was right; I hadn't thought about that. I glanced out into the open field, sadly realizing that I would see paved driveways next year instead of wild red tulips with yellow stripes.

Not very long after, we saw Annie, who was tenderly picking sage. After kissing the children 'Bonjour', she said, "Il vaut mieux avoir la sauge dans son jardin, qu'un frère médecin." (It is better to grow sage in your garden than have a brother as a doctor.) This is my garden!" As she closed her eyes and spread open her arms. Annie invited us to her home, where she prepared fresh sage tea that we ate with dry bread and black olives that she cured from the olives she picked in the fields along Rue du Moulin. 

Photo property of Corey Amaro.  All rights reserved.
Flanking both sides of the river were ancient plantain trees. Crossing the river was always a highlight of our promenade. First, we had to find our footing; if too deep, piggyback rides were in order. Next to the river was a laveriele nettoyage à l'ancienne ~ long ago, the community gathered to wash clothes at such a place. Sure enough, Marie washed her clothes, scrubbing them on the washboard made of stone as the river ran through.

"Bonjour Madame et les enfants." Marie nervously added, "I know! I know! I'm crazy. But the clothes smell so good afterward, and at my age, I have time. I can do what I want... Non?" Looking at this 85-year-old lady, I had to agree, but I doubted I could be on my knees that long.

This daily walk down our street was real and happened just like I said, but when the walls came down, and the houses sprang up like mushrooms, this way of life was lost under the pavement, new homes.

And as the days flowed by, those who shared France with me from another generation, which I thankfully knew and enjoyed, have left this world filled with natural beauty and well-lived history that they shared so lovingly with me, the American.

Chelsea and Sacha were five and three years old then. They will barely remember those early days of our life on Rue du Moulin in our small French village. So I am penning them on my blog.

(When I first wrote this, I changed my neighbors' names. I have added their real names in honor of them and the gift they gave me.)

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French La Vie started in 2005. I have the "Brocante Bug," which means antiquing is my cure; France can do me no wrong when it comes to treatment ° 35 years living in France with my French Husband, whom I met while dancing in San Francisco ° Two children, now in their early thirties, amour et joie ° Come join our journey either vicariously through my blog or on a French La Vie Week Retreat in Provence °