It’s was a pretty nondescript house about an hour south of Paris. It sits in the suburbs of a small town, nothing around for miles except for other nondescript homes. The house itself sits at the top of a pretty big lot, surrounded by trees.
It was my grandmother’s house, though she didn’t live there. My aunts and my mother took turns using it as a weekend getaway. It’s still sitting there. My mother an her sisters all inherited it. The plan is to sell it, but it’s hard to sever the connection that we all have to it.
For my aunts and my mother it was a place to escape every day life. To us it was paradise.
From the attic – packed to the gills with a zillion odds and ends that my grandmother had accumulated over the years, to the ends of the overgrown garden, my sisters, cousins, and I spent countless hours playing, exploring, discovering treasures.
I know exactly where I lost a molar under the pine trees. I can tell you exactly where the beautiful crystal champagne glasses can be found in the attic. I can recall countless games played on the dining room table. And endless books read curled up in the mismatched armchairs in front of the fire.
I remember chopping wood for the fire, and the creaky swing set in the back yard. I’m willing to bet some of our toys are still buried in the sand pit, long since covered with wild grass. I can picture myself sitting in the windowsill, basking in the sun, watching the cat play in the tall grass.
Every inch of that place holds a memory from my childhood clear through to the weekend before I left France to come live in the US.
My children have never been there, nor will they probably ever go. Their weekend get away is in a different country, a different world.
Where my home was all clutter, dust, knickknacks, and collective memories, off in the French countryside, their weekend home is on the beach, spotless, neat, organized, and completely different.
I watched them there this morning, sitting at a round table, coloring and giggling, the sun glinting off the water in the background. These will be their childhood memories. Playing on the beach instead of hide and seek in the pines. Coloring at a marble table instead of playing with mosaics on a tile floor. Bunk beds instead of ancient double beds.
A part of me wishes that I could take them back and share with them what made me love that place so much, and another part of me realizes that I’d never be able to bring it to life quite well enough. We don’t live near enough for them to learn to get to know its nooks and cranys the way I do. It’s not something that could happen during a one week stay.
I’ll have to be content with letting them discover this place through my stories, and they’ll just have to spin their own childhood memories.