Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Favorite Things

This pot sits on the counter between the sink and the stove.  It serves two purposes: to hold my treasured cooking utensils and to remind me of my roots.  You see, the pot comes from the attic of my French family's home in Champagne-Ardenne, France.

Our paternal grandfather was born in France but left before WW I to break new ground and establish himself as a gentleman farmer in the vast Canadian west.  Farm he did, but his life was cut short at the age of 36 when he developed a condition which is now treatable with dialysis.  In 1922, in the wilds of northern Alberta, there wasn't any medicine let alone treatment for this very painful illness.

My father was 1 1/2 years old when he lost his father and naturally, we grew up with scant stories and a few letters and documents that he left behind.  My grandmother remarried and second husband was not a fan of first husband so that all ties with France ended rather abruptly when my father's eldest sister died of tuberculosis in her twenties.  She had continued to correspond with my great-grandmother after the death of her son, my grandfather.

So grandpère Georges has always been a mystery man to us and we held on to whatever we could to forge that part of us that was him.  The few photos we have have been reproduced and show a rather gallant, intellectual sort of adventurer.

In 1982, I traveled to the Champagne region with the name of the village where his mother came from, and found what was left of the family in that area.  Namely my father's second cousin Jean, his wife and their children.

I have visited them several times since, and with the help of French online archives, have located my great-grandfathers and a good number of great aunts and uncles.  I have in my possession copies of birth, marriage and death records of many family members but nothing speaks like a relic of days gone by.

That is why this pot is one of my favorite things.  It comes from where I come from, was touched and used by my ancestors and now is in my service, in my kitchen, so many thousands of kilometers and so many dozens of years later.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Just Checking in

It's Reading Week right now at the university so I get a week off teaching.  Not that I mind teaching when it's just a couple of mornings a week.  I would say that that is just the right amount of work to keep me interested without too much stress.

We have had a full house since Christmas when Tristan finished his M.D. and returned home after a four-year absence. Now he is studying for his license exam before he starts work on July 1st... Damien is working and doing a Bio chem course at U of A.  He has sent out applications for an after degree and is awaiting results.

Vlad is getting ready for his hip replacement scheduled to take place on February 29th. 

You could say that we are a 'waiting for' family, but we are having fun and doing lots of talking while waiting.  I cook dinner most nights and so we eat at the island and gab.

The winter has been absolutely MILD except for about two weeks of below 20 temperatures.  Now it's in the single digits above zero and all the sidewalks and roads are drying up.  Went for a walk with Tristan today and it was delightful.  The sun is out like it's supposed to be in Sunny Alberta.

I've been amusing myself with origami and have starting reading again.  I can tell you that my favorite read so far was Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale.  It tells the story of two very different French sisters during the second world war and how each one chooses to survive.   The story is compelling, an easy read and has just the right amount of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged.

I am presently reading the much-lauded The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and am not enjoying the reading as it is translated and makes the author look like she thinks that anyone who is not super-organized must be "lazy or a slob".  However, I agree with her thesis that in the 'developed world',  we generally own to much stuff and that cleaning out our stuff is an exercise that is good not only for the chi but for the spirit.  My word for 2016 is streamline, hence the choice of the Kondo book. 

À la prochaine,