Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Recollection: Mother's Birthday - L'anniversaire de Maman

My mother would have been 99 years old today as she was born on 12 May 1910. She was born in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. Paris has 20 "arrondissements" which are municipal districts, as re-defined on 1 January 1860 under Napoleon III. The 14th district is called The Observatory district, and where I grew up, in the 9th district, it is called The Opera district as it includes the Opera area downtown all the way to the bottom of the Sacré-Coeur basilica in the area of Paris known as Montmartre.

It had been a hard year in Paris, in 1910 when she was born, as the town had sustained much flooding.

Mother, just before she passed away in a nursing home before Christmas 2002, at 92, wrote a short memoir, which was given to me afterwards by the nursing staff. It contained many new details of her life that were unknown to me. For example, when she was born, my grandparents sent her to a wet nurse in Normandy until she was 15 months old. I believe this type of child care was used by many families in those days. Until about 4 or 5 years of age she lived with her paternal grandparents, who were originally from Alsace.  They had left the province of Alsace for Paris. Here is a picture of my great-grandparents, my mum's grandparents.

They then were retired and lived on a large estate in the country, the Crèvecœur estate. My mother's grandfather worked as manager of the estate and castle, and his brother-in-law (my mother's great uncle) worked next door, as the manager of a large farm called "Beauregard" next to a castle with the same name.  Her aunt Blanche (her father's younger sister) also lived on the estate and spent a great deal of time with my mum until Blanche's marriage in 1914 with Antonin. Here is a picture of my mum and a picture of her Aunt Blanche's wedding day. Mother had bright red hair and pale blue green eyes, turquoise really, and they do not show well in photographs.

An old castle used to be on the estate but was partially destroyed during the Hundred Years War and was in ruins by the 16th century.  The castle my mother knew at Crevecoeur was built in 1897 on the site of the old one - see postcard below.

Her parents would visit on the week-ends. In the picture below, my grand-mother is the second from the right (with an "X" above her head) and mother is in front of her.

Mother was an only child and only grand-child, and was much cherished. She had full access to the large garden and woods on the estate and had a great time.

My grandmother owned a dry cleaning store in Paris, in the 14th arrondissement, and was very busy as my grandfather was working for the war effort and was away most of the time until 1919. Here is my mother in a cart built by her uncle, her mother's younger brother Louis. Her mother, my grandmother who I called Mémère, is standing behind him.

In 1916 after the battle of Verdun my grandmother moved to an apartment and brought my mother back to live with her in Paris where mother started primary school.

Finally the war ("to end all wars...") was over and her father worked closer to home. I have much more to tell about Mother, but that will be in future posts.  It is hard to see in the picture above, but mother was already very conscious of fashion - her outfit was just right for the occasion.


Elaine said...

What a nice tribute to your mother! How fortunate for you that she wrote that memoir for you. So many details of a person's life are lost when they die, and she gave you a great gift. I enjoyed your post very much. What a different world it was that your mother lived in.

Darlene said...

What a fascinating story of your family's history. You are fortunate that these pictures were preserved.

I enjoyed this post tremendously.

livininlb said...

These pictures are all so good. I can't believe how well the scanned post cards and old pictures turned out! I have a picture of your Mother that I scanned (but it didn't turn out nearly as well as your scans!) on my most recent blog post...

BJM said...

Wonderful! I look forward to seeing more on your interesting family history!

Friko said...

thanks you for your visit, we seem to have much in common, even if we grew up on opposite sides. I had family in Alsace who chose to stay German. I still love Alsace very much and have been there many times.
I shall put you in my bookmarks; or shall we follow each other?
I await further stories with interest.I agree, it is very interesting to come across people on the web with whom one can share ideas and reflections.

Ratty said...

I really love reading about family histories like this. My grandmother had bright red hair like your mother. They would have been close to the same age. She always wanted a granddaughter with that red hair. It's a great coincidence that I've been writing a story about my family, so I've been thinking about these same things in the past few days. Your story was very, very interesting. I liked it a very much.

Montanagirl said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. I'd thought I'd pop over and check out yours! Your post was extremely interesting. I agree with Elaine: Your Mother lived in a much different world than we know today. It's truly wonderful she left you a "Memoir".

Jenn Jilks said...

Very loving, and informative tribute.
I wrote a poem for my mother.
Great blog you have! We visited Paris a few years ago, when we were both employed, and had a marvellous time.

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