On Monday I was surprised and delighted to find a message in my inbox with the subject De vos nouvelles .......... from a French friend I'd not heard from for over three years. Christine is an art-dealer who speaks no English and up until recently didn’t have email. We met her when we rented a wing of her chateau in the small village of Soumensac almost fifteen years ago and quickly became friends. Face to face, she and I always manage to communicate with my less than fluent French and her patient willingness to help me along. Her significant other, André, is a marvelous sculptor and over the years we've collected several of his exquisite pieces. I'll never forget the first time they invited us to dinner at André house/studio. She proudly presented a platter to the table--a roasted duck with head and feet intact. She'd bought the duck live as a special treat for us in the village farmers' market that morning. After we got over our shock, Steve and I managed to admire her masterpiece which turned out to be delicious.
The last time we saw her, she and André threw a lovely dinner party in our honor at the chateau. When we got home, I sent her a thank you note, a New Years’ card and a few months later emailed André with a “hello to you both” note. I never got a response, so I assumed an unfortunate exchange with a couple of obnoxious American ex-pat guests at dinner (they were bizarrely hostile!) might have soured the friendship on her end. Apparently from her note the long silence wasn't intentional, she just didn’t have email.
Her message (in French) was warm and she said she hoped we would visit soon. I felt as though I’d been given a gift—the renewal of a friendship I’d cherished and thought I’d lost. It will be a while before we can visit her part of France, but she and André have met us in Paris in the past so they might do that again. The important thing for me is we’re still friends. And I plan to teach her to use Babelfish so I can write to her at least partly in English.
|Postcard of Chateau circa 1900|
|Christine and André|