Michael de Montlaur
Le 12 avril 2011 à 16 h 23 min   

Le Courage - 1977

Contrairement à la plupart d’entre vous, la majorité de mes souvenirs de Grandmamma parviennent d’un temps récent.

Mais les problèmes de mémoire dont Grandmamma a souffert ces dernières années ne m’ont pas empêché de bien la connaître.

Plutôt, ils m’ont peut-être permis de mieux la connaître que je ne l’aurais pu, car j’ai pu témoigner de son incroyable courage face à sa maladie.

En dépit de ses faiblesses ces dernières années, elle n’a jamais perdu sa dignité, sa confiance en elle-même, et, même, son entêtement!

C’est cette combativité dont je vais me souvenir le plus, la force de son caractère et son courage.

C’est de famille après tout!

Michael de Montlaur
Le 12 avril 2011 à 16 h 09 min   

Adelaide - 2004

It’s hard to pick only a few things to say about Grandmamma, of course. When I think of her, I think of all those summers we spent at Franval playing ping pong and pretending to run a restaurant in that chicken coop. I also remember more mundane things, like closing the shutters at night, and helping Grandmamma pick weeds out of the gravel in front of the house, which I always found very satisfying.

One day, Grandmamma, Alexandra and I we were having tea in the kitchen. In my haste to get the toast out of the toaster, I spilled my tea all over the table and on the ground. You all know how strict she was with her grandchildren. Thinking there was no way out of this one, I braced myself for a scolding. But instead of getting angry or frustrated, she just said “Oh, don’t cry over spilled milk,” and cleaned it all up in two minutes. She knew what was important. And she knew when to let mistakes go. Do you also remember when we used to have to go up to Grandmamma’s room before bed and do the prières? We would all have fou rires and try to hide them from her. I wonder if she noticed. Probably.

I know we will all miss Grandmamma so much. It helps me to remember that she will live on in our genes – where do you think our running speed and long legs come from? And perhaps more importantly, she will live on in our hearts and memories.

Michael de Montlaur
Le 12 avril 2011 à 15 h 58 min   

Adelaide - 1990

It is with great regret that I write to commemorate my grandmother’s life so far away from her, and away from the other Sloans, the Gallups, the Martins, and of course, the Montlaurs.  My only comfort is that I am sitting in the Frenchest place in Chicago, a real boulangerie a la Thibervilloise, minus the screeching boulangère, but complete with the smells of my childhood that I trace directly back to Grandmamma.

Of the long list of things that will always be connected to her in my mind, three stand out: really boring and horrifically loud British talk radio; anonymous Valentine’s Day cards; and marmalade.  I don’t know if you know this, but nobody likes marmalade but her.

Of the long list of memories I have of her, two stand out most vividly. The first happened when I was about four.  All the cousins were coming to Franval and I insisted on having a particular pillow case.  My insolence skills not yet well honed, I pushed Grandmamma just beyond the point of no return and got a big old slap on the face.  Since then, I don’t care about pillow cases.  In fact, I would rather sleep on a bare, crusty pillow than ever asking anyone for a pillow case.

The second happened when Diane and I were about eleven or twelve.  Against Grandmamma’s specific instructions, we jumped the barbed wire by the other house because, for some unfathomable reason, we thought there were interesting things on the other side.  Diane got a bad cut and we were worried sick about turning ourselves in.  Ultimately we did, and we were shocked at Grandmamma’s reaction: she didn’t yell at us or even mention our misdeed.  She just smiled and tenderly washed the cut and bandaged it up. It was the clearest instance of forgiveness I had ever experienced.  Grandmamma was not one to hold grudges.  Learning from Grandmamma’s ability to forgive and look beyond someone’s mistakes in judgment is how I plan to keep her alive in the years ahead.

Michael de Montlaur
Le 12 avril 2011 à 15 h 22 min   

Adelaide et Thomas - 2004

Ce n’est pas toujours facile de dire des choses sensées dans ces circonstances difficiles mais, d’une part  c’est un excellent exercice d’autoréflexion, d’autre part c’est toujours mieux de se remémorer de bons moments que de ruminer en silence. Quand je pense à ce que m’a apporté Grandmamma, je ne peux dire qu’un grand Merci :

Merci de nous avoir transmis et fait partager cette histoire que nous avons accross the pond et qui, pour ma part, avait tant aiguisé ma curiosité que, depuis toujours, je savais qu’il faudrait aller vivre là-bas, au loin, et voir si les Indiens sont toujours là à nous observer lorsqu’on oublie de fermer les volets.

Merci d’avoir traversé plusieurs fois mers et océans ; vous avez fait de nous des citoyens du monde.

Merci d’avoir eu une vie si extraordinaire, dans des circonstances pas toujours des plus faciles ; vous êtes une des raisons pour laquelle je sais que je peux arriver à tout ce que je me propose.

Merci de nous avoir supportés pendant de nombreuses vacances à Franval, et on sait tous qu’entre l’eau de la mare qui entrait toute seule dans les bottes de certains, et d’autres qui poussaient leurs cousins dans la mare, ce n’était pas toujours de tout repos.

Merci de m’avoir forcée à mettre une jupe un après-midi où nous étions invités chez des gens ; maintenant je mets même des jupes sans y être obligée :-) Même histoire pour le porridge que je fuyais sans relâche, j’en suis maintenant fan…

Merci de nous avoir dit chaque nuit à Franval good night, sleep well, à notre tour maintenant de vous dire rest in peace.

Michael de Montlaur
Le 12 avril 2011 à 15 h 01 min   

Anna, Laura et Adelaide - 2004

Over the course of the last few weeks, I too have been remembering Grandmama.  And my most precious memories are the ones tied to holidays spent at Franval.

Coming to Normandy always felt like a big adventure. We would leave our London flat and my heart would lift as we turned off the Thiberville road – soon I would be free to roam the grounds and discover the house’s secret corners.

I have such happy memories of playing with my cousins for hours in the poulailler, going slightly too far into the pond to catch the tadpoles,  saying hello to the big white cows in the field opposite and swinging sitting down, standing up or squished next to a cousin, from the branch outside the sitting room window. All the while Grandmama would be around. Pottering.  She was busy with her hollyhocks, listening to Radio 4, a big hat shrouding her from the sun.

In the house I have great memories of discovering paintings, devouring her bookshelves, eavesdropping on her telephone conversations with the little ecouteur on the back of the telephone and most naughty of all – trying on her lipsticks in the bathroom upstairs (which she wised up to after my visits coincided with make-up she could no longer use).

To me, Grandmama is intrinsically linked to my childhood and the time I spent with my extended family. Living as we did on our British Isle meant that we were distanced from our mother’s land. Coming together as we did under her roof meant we pieced the jigsaw together and felt part of this wonderful family.

Grandmama has gone but she leaves behind my Aunts, my Uncles, my cousins and now a fourth generation who in each and everyone will carry a part of her.

Michael de Montlaur
Le 12 avril 2011 à 14 h 10 min   

Adelaide Piper Oates - 1982

Since Grandmama got really ill in the last few weeks I have been thinking back on my precious times with her from over 30 years ago. Being the eldest grandchild came with perks. I was for a while the only child in Franval, and while there were certainly quiet times when I would have been happy for a playmate, there were many moments when I had Grandmama’s undivided attention and helped her with her daily chores.

Together we picked the redcurrants, passed them through a comb and made jam. Together we pruned and deadheaded the roses. Together we collected the “tilleul” to dry. Together we read and I developed my life long passion for lazing on my bed in the afternoon and reading, I read almost every book in the shelves of the children’s room and certainly read the bande dessinnees over and over again.

Grandmama took me with her to do the groceries, together we chose tarte aux pommes, chaussons and other goodies for tea. We went to the market in Thiberville and looked at the animals in the cages and tutted.

It wasn’t all rural, and I remember vividly a trip to Paris when Grandmama took me to the Louvres and the Orangerie and initiated me to the great paintings of Delacroix and Monet.

When Neve was born, Grandmama’s first great-grandchild, I thought it would be so obvious to speak to her in French, surely my mother tongue. What I hadn’t thought through, is that French is neither my tongue, nor my mother’s, nor my mother’s mother’s!

And it is for all these moments of wonder, amusement and learning that I will remember Grandmama as the rosy cheeked, white haired New Yorker that she was.

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