Thursday, March 25, 2010

First Anniversary and Recollection of a Special Kiss

"Happy Birthday" Vintage postcard

This is the anniversary week of my blog. Last year for my birthday, which is also this week on 26-March, my husband and I visited our daughter Céline in California. My daughter who is very knowledgeable with computers, programs and all the new technologies set up the blog for me. It took us a few days to decide how it would look and what it would be called. The photograph of the clouds in the heading was cut from a photo I had taken while flying over Newfoundland, Canada. Then on 30th March 2009 the Introduction was published. It was followed by my first post,quite short, which included a collage from a program my daughter had installed for me on my computer. A year has passed very quickly and this is my 63rd post. Some of my blogging friends published many more posts than I but mine are a bit long so I decided to post them about once a week or so. In French the word “anniversaire” serves double duty. It means “anniversary” of course but also birthday, as this is the anniversary date of one’s birth.

A year ago, when starting this blog, I had no expectations, or any idea about what it might lead to. It has lead to my knowing some wonderful people, from a variety of cities and countries, with different interests and knowledge. I never dreamed that so many of you would read my posts and leave comments. I have truly enjoyed the expression of friendship, feedback, questions and remarks. I am happy to welcome so many new and lovely friends in my home, virtually. It encourages me to research for more posts in the coming year. Thank you all again. Every year for my birthday my mother would give me a potted hyacinth. I bought one this week for you and display it below in a collage.

Click on photos to enlarge them

Rather than continuing with my trip in Florida I thought that for this anniversary I would tell a little story of an early recollection from my childhood in Paris. We lived in a 5th floor “walk-up” apartment (6th floor in the US.) This apartment was in the 9th arrondissement of Paris (there are 20 arrondissements or quarters in Paris.) The 9th is situated to the north, below the basilica of the Sacré-Coeur of Montmartre, and to the south, the Opéra Garnier.

Our building was in a “cité” which is an enclosed courtyard usually with no outlet. The entrance gate was never closed.

I used to play in the courtyard with my best friend, Nadia, and another 3 or 4 children.

Once out of the cité and crossing the street we could walk up the street to the Sacré-Coeur in 10 minutes (about 1/3 mile or so) as you can see it at the top of the street below.

On rue Turgot above (the name of this street) on the left-hand side, used to be a hair-dresser. My grandmother thought that Shirley Temple was an exquisite little girl and wished that I looked like her. For my birthday she sent me to the hairdresser with a postcard of Shirley Temple. The hairdresser’s instructions were to have my hair look as closely as possible to Shirley’s.

Vintage postcard of Shirley Temple

Recollection of a Special Kiss

When I turned 7 years old, every morning before going to school I would become sick. The first doctor we saw said that I was trying to get out of going to school. But I liked school. The second doctor sent me directly to hospital where I was operated for an appendectomy and also a hernia. After spending a week in hospital the doctor’s orders were that I was to stay in bed for at least three weeks (that’s the way it was then.) Mother brought some exercises books from school and I also had many picture books, but I was restless. Mother placed my bed in front of the window so I could see the sky. I could also see the windows of the building across ours. [Last November I went back to the cité in Paris and took some photographs. The walls have been painted and the shudders taken off my window, but the building looks the same. My bedroom window is the 2nd from the left on the top floor below the gabled window.]

In the picture below my window is the first to the left, below the gabled window on the roof. The window slightly ajar next to my window is the kitchen window.

After a few days I saw the window across mine open and a little boy looked outside. He saw me. He stood there staring. I moved away from the window. The next day he came again, longer. This went on for a few days then he took his slate board and with a chalk he wrote “bonjour” (hello.) I waved. The next day I had my slate board and had written “comment tu t’appèles?” (what is your name?) He answered “Gilbert” and asked for mine, but I did not give it to him. Another day he brought a big balloon to the window. I showed him my old teddy bear. We could not speak as we were too far and screaming was out of the question. From a distance I would show him my picture books and he would show me his. This went out for about 3 weeks and I returned to school. I did not see him again because his building entrance was on the street, not in the cité, and he did not attend my school.

Then a week-end a bit later my parents decided that we would drive to the country where my cousins lived, a small village near Melun (about 1 hour south of Paris.) My parents owned a house there and my father who liked to deal in real estate had bought a small hotel and grocery store there also. The hotel was called Hotel de France – a big name for a tiny inn. [Last November when we visited my cousin we drove back to this small town and I was amazed that the hotel looked almost the same, so many decades later. My cousin said that it was not a hotel anymore, but had been divided into apartments. The exterior had not been repainted though.]

So going back to my story - after we arrived at our county house I asked my parents if I could walk up to my cousin’s house, using the alley. [You can see the front of the house below, with the brown shudders. The alley is on the left going away from the garage door. ]

I still remember that morning. It was a bit cold. I was rushing to go to the end of the alley. Then I would have to make a left toward my cousin’s house. I liked to use this alley instead of the main road because there were many gardens on both sides with beautiful flowers.

Jardin de Monet à Vetheuil, Claude Monet, French 1840-1926

Arriving towards the end of the alley I heard someone running coming from the right. I stopped. A boy was running. He stopped. I was thunderstruck. It was Gilbert! I thought how did he get in this alley in this little village? I still don’t know. I said “Gilbert?" he answered “oui, c’est moi” (yes, it’s me) then he added “comment ça va?” (how are you) I replied “bien” (well.) We stood there. Neither one of us could comprehend that we were so close after those weeks peering out of our windows. I did not know what to say, so I asked him “What are you doing here?” He said that he came with his parents and they stopped for the night at the Hotel de France on their way to visit the Castle of Fontainebleau.

Old Print of Fontainebleau castle

I could hardly speak but I finally asked him what his full name was. He told me. I said that it sounded strange. He said “c’est un nom Juif” (it is a Jewish name.) He asked my name. I told him my first name. He wanted to know my whole name. I told him. He said also that it was a strange name. I said “c’est un nom Arménien” (it’s an Armenian name) and I added that we both had strange last names, so we were alike. He agreed. Then he said that since we were alike he could kiss me. KISS ME?? I said no, my mother would not like that, that it was not proper. I was 7 years old and he was 8. He said that it would be just on the cheek – a special kiss. So I told him that it should be only once on the right cheek. He came close and kissed me on the cheek. I ran. Later on that day when my mother and I were walking by the small square in front of the Hotel de France we saw Gilbert playing with his balloon. My mother had her camera with her and recognized Gilbert. She said we should have a photo taken together. She took the photo. I lost the photo for many years. Two weeks ago my husband found the photo in an old box in the garage. Here it is below. See my Shirley Temple hair cut with a bow in my hair and Gilbert’s balloon. Soon thereafter his family moved and I never saw Gilbert again, but I still remember that special kiss.


Jinksy said...

What an adorable story. Thanks! And Heureux Anniversaire for the 26th, Blogpal.

Paty said...

Hi vagabonde! Congratulations on your blog birthday! I wish you many years for those amazing posts you publish. What a lovely story you shared, and the place for it wouldn´t be better: France! I loved those pictures of Hotel de France, and the hyaciths, i love them, they are so scented!Were uou in a trip aroud Florida? I was too,´I´m wrinting some posts about this trip in my blog

Marguerite said...

Heureux Anniversaire, mon cher amie, Vagabonde! Fabulous post and story! Love the photos, especially the Hycinths and the one of you and Gilbert. Your blog is so beautiful and interesting and I always enjoy my visits. Celebrate your birthday and your blog anniversary, and have one of whatever you're drinking, (champagne maybe?) for me! Cheers!

alaine@éclectique said...

Happy Blogiversaire! It's the 26th here, so Happy Birthday for when you wake up! Have a lovely day!

What a beautiful story; I always love the way you put it all together; so glad you took up blogging!

I wonder where Gilbert is today? You do look like Shirley in the pic - my Mother used to put my hair in rags every Saturday night for Sunday School the next day!

Jessica said...

Happy Birthday, Maman! I loved your story. Please tell more! I hope you are having fun on your trip. See you soon.

Pondside said...

Happy Anniversary to you!
I enjoyed your trip down memory lane. It's lovely that you have been able to go back to see the places that featured so large in your childhood.
I'd say that your grandmother should have been very happy with the success of your Shirley Temple hair do!

claude said...

Bon anniversaire à ton blog et à toi par la même occasion.
Quel beau post encore, vagabonde !
C'est beau les souvenirs d'enfance.
Dommage que t'es jamais plus revu Gilbert. Ta coiffure à la Shirley Temple est top.
Au fait, je te remercie pour ta carte postale. C'est un bien beau bâtiment. Les palmiers sont super chouettes et je pense que la visite de ce musée a été agréable.
Merci encore.

Vicki Lane said...

What a wonderful exploration into the past! I love seeing the pictures of where you lived and I loved the story of you and Gilbert!

(My grandmother put my hair into Shirley Temple curls too. I still remember how the comb pulled as she twirled my hair.)

DJan said...

Oh, VB, thank you so much for the hyacinths. They are beautiful, and I can almost smell them. And happy anniversary, and thank you for the wonderful story about you and Gilbert, and your first kiss. What an amazing coincidence that you met like that. I wonder where he is now.

Deborah said...

Vagabonde, this is a beautiful story, told with simplicity and style. It's quite amazing that the photo turned up again after all those years - something else like that happened not so long ago, I seem to remember from a previous post. (I never knew what a cité was before, although I've often heard the term.)
You have the soul of a diarist but without excessive sentimentality. I very much enjoyed this journey back in time.

Elaine said...

Happy anniversary to you and thank you for the lovely hyacinths. Bulbs like that don't do well here with our long and cold winters, so I appreciate the touch of spring.

I'm very glad you decided to start a blog. I have enjoyed reading your posts, both about your travels and your childhood. Like you, I never expected to make so many new friends through my blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

I find it really amazing that you could go back to France last year and find those buildings from your childhood still there and virtually unchanged. I love the picture of you and Gilbert. It's strange how many people cross our path over our lifetime and then our paths diverge and we never hear from them again.

RennyBA's Terella said...

Happy Anniversary - all the way from Norway and you're Viking friend!

I'm forever thankful to you're daughter who helped you starting and even more for the wonderful fact that we meet in Blogsphere (think of it: How else would we meet?)

I love reading your stories and watch the pics you use to document. So to many, many more - please keep up the good work :-)

Baino said...

Thank you for the 'tease' I don't know how I'm going to manage all those steps at Sacre Coeur with my 'dickie' knee! Our apartment is on the 4th floor of the 2nd arrondissement!

And happy anniversary indeed. It's a wonderful informative and beautiful blog.

This was the sweetest post ever! Not sure about Gilbert's shorts but you're cute as a button! It was indeed a special kiss and meant to be. I'm so glad you found the photo! Have a wonderful weekend

Ashley Ashbee said...

Happy Anniversary! I've enjoyed reading you too. It amazes me that your life has been so thoroughly connected to postcards. The Shirley Temple anecdote made me smile.

Sorry to hear about your illness at age 7. I had two hernias at the same time while I was potty training... A complication of one of my conditions. Hernias just seem like something older people get!

Reader Wil said...

Merci pour raconter cette belle histoire! On ne peut jamais oublier le premier baiser! Vous ressembliez à Shirley Temple!!

Jenn Jilks said...

Mon dieu. What a beautiful story! I love it. Thank you, so much, for sharing it. We visited Paris for our post-honeymoon, and found such a beautiful spot. Merci.
Thank you for visiting My Muskoka !

Anonymous said...

A heartfelt tale and a pretty bunch of flowers and pictures.

dot said...

I'm telling you honestly...I really enjoyed this post, the pictures and the story. You are a good writer. I've almost quit blogging because I can't seem to get the words together. About the would be a good time before it gets really hot or maybe in the fall. There is a swamp festival I think next weekend but it's in Waycross and not the swamp. I don't know if I'll ever go to the swamp for picture taking but you never know. Thanks for the comment.

Kay Dennison said...

Happy Blogoversary!!!!! I simply love this wonderful love this post and your gorgeous photos!!!! I will be adding you to my list and definitely will be back!!!!

Lucy said...

Happy anniversary! And I loved your Florida pictures too! I'm posting our trip a little at a time. As to today's post, it's hard to go back. Sometimes the memories are better than the reality!

Louis la Vache said...

A belated Happy Blogoversary to you and your blog!

Your images of France make «Louis» want to return there so badly!

«Louis» thanks you for your kind comments about his new Sunday Bridge meme.

Here's his Palm Sunday post.

islandgirl4ever2 said...

Joyeux Blogiversaire!!!

What a lovely story... I got a little teary-eyed while reading it, too!! It was so sweet!! I nice remembrance, I'm sure... So great that you found the pic!
And your hair defin. looks very Shirley Templesque!!

PeterParis said...

Bon anniversaire!! ... and what a wonderful romantic story! Makes me remember how much I was in love when I was seven or eight and actually kissed the little girl! ... but I'm not Gilbert and this happened in Sweden!

As you may have understood, I live not too far away from the place you show. See perfectly well where it is!

Unknown said...

Bonjour Vagabonde
Je te souhaite un bon anniversaire et à ton blog aussi
ton reportage sur ton enfance est magnifique: que de souvenirs.
Merci pour tes messages chaleureux

penny said...

Happy Anniversary, I enjoyed your lovely story. All of your photo are wonderful as well.

Zuzana said...

Congratulations on your anniversary! I can not believe you have been only blogging for one year, you strike me as a very experienced blogger.;)
I share your sentiments exactly about the thoughts I had about a blog before I started mine and how the expectations were so much different than the reality.
Lovely story about a kiss as well.;)

lorilaire said...

Quelle charmante histoire !
Dommage que tu n'aie pas continué à voir ce charmant garçon, mais la vie nous réserve parfois bien des surprises comme tu as pu le constater, on ne sait jamais !
Et j'allais oublier je te souhaite un excellent anniversaire pour ce double évènement et moi aussi je suis ravie que ce blog puisse nous rapprocher.

Gros bisous d'anniversaire !

Mage said...

Heureux Anniversaire....and how nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by to visit my post cards. I hope one of these days to be able to cruise on the Queen Mary II and the Princendam....she has a blog.

Val said...

happy anniversary! and what a fabulous story :-) i wonder where Gilbert is now? perhaps he has a blog??
i look forward to another year of your wonderful stories and post cards. thank you for blogging

Kenza said...

Joyeux anniversaire et longue vie à ton très beau blog!!
Une belle et grande satisfaction pour toi, je suppose!!
Gros bisous de France et à très bientôt

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Happy anniversary. It takes a lot of work to write a blog and so many people drop out. Congratulations.

I enjoyed your stories of growing up in Paris.

Ratty said...

Happy anniversary to your blog. I'm glad you found your lost picture of you and Gilbert.

Bhavesh Chhatbar said...

Your recollections are so interesting!

I wish your blog a A Very Happy Anniversary. And I wish you A Very Happy Birthday! even though I'm late.

Diary From Africa said...

Thank you for sharing these wonderful memories and photographs with us - and happy anniversary - may there be many more !

Shammickite said...

I was lucky, my mother was not a Shirley Temple fan, so I did not have to endure having my hair curled! And I had the wrong kind of hair anyway.... thick, straight and bright orange!
I love your story of meeting Gilbert unexpectedly in your cousin's village.... life is full of those strange coincidences, I have experienced some myself, I will have to tell the story on my blog one day.

Ruth said...

Every bit of your story was a delight, beautifully told, and I loved the illustrations. Happy Anniversary/Birthday to your gorgeous blog. You share such great details, I learn a lot. Your photos, postcards and all visuals are gorgeous. Thank you for the hyacinth. I hope you will have a terrific coming year of new blog posts that will charm us all. So glad you came here and can tell us many things about your life in France, your life as an immigrant to the U.S., your Armenian father, etc. More, more!

Unknown said...

Belate congratulations on your anniversary! Great photos and very cool birthday cards, especially the Shirley Temple's! So kitsch! :-)

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis» apprécie votre commentaire au sujet du ciel rouge.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Re: Your comment on JM's blog

I would love to see the pictures of the Cherokee festival when you post them and would greatly appreciate it if you would let me know when you do.


Reader Wil said...

Chère Vagabonde! Votre blog est toujours intéressant! Merci de votre visite. Je vous souhaite de bonnes Pâques. Il fait froid ici aujourd'hui et il y a beaucoup de vent maintenant.

Anonymous said...

Joyeux Anniversaire! What a lovely story. I can just see Paris as you describe it. The last picture is priceless -- and Gilbert has quite nice legs for an 8-yo.

Thanks for visiting my blog, I do hope to read more of your adventures soon.

Ginnie said...

You sure know how to charm the pants off of us, Vagabonde! I declare. What a precious story and such an adorable Shirley Temple look. I'm one of the more recent ones to your blog, but I never knew you were so young in the blogging world. I thought you had been doing it for years. Clearly you've been cut out for this, so I wish you many more years to come! I just celebrated my 5th year at In Soul, so I can tell you it happens before you know it. Birthdays, that is! :) Happy Anniversary.

Dutchbaby said...

Happy anniversary and birthday! This was an enchanting story. I loved the part where you instructed Gilbert only once on the right cheek. The photo of you and Gilbert, each with a ball, and you in your beautiful Shirley Temple hair -- it's a beauty.

Armenian! My very first boyfriend was Armenian. Later, when I was a freshman in Berkeley, I fell into a fantastic group of Armenian friends. I still recall the wonderful celebrations filled with music and lots of great food!

Astrid said...

Cheri Vagabonde,Joyeux Anniversaire! I did read your story about Gilbert....amazing....
I do love Paris, I viited the Cité a few times one day I hope to go there with Ginnie.
The flowers are a delight, where would we be without flowers, when I get a change I always bring some for Ginnie, it brings the spring inside, to see the flowers growing.
You are right, the internet is something special, Ginnie and I met by internet, first on Shutterchance...than in person....
I might not be able to comment all the time, but I will visit you as much as possible.
Have a wonderful Easter Weekend.

Anonymous said...

Heureux anniversaire Vagabonde !
Vous m'avez demandé si j'ai des rosiers dans mon jardin : oui, des rosiers anciens tels que : Honorine de Brabant, Louise Odier, Chapeau de Napoléon, Fantin Latour, Penelope, Blanc Double de Coubert, Ballerina, The Fairy..... et quelques rosiers modernes.
Happy Easter to you and thank you for stopping by my blogs.

Hélène -

Fennie said...

What a beautiful anniversary blog, Vagabonde. And an equally beautiful story. Full of magic and laughter and growing up and the pangs of love.
Then there are your trademark photographs. Truly you are the Queen of bloggers! Félicitations!

Vagabonde said...

to all my blogging friends – Marguerite, Alaine, Pondside, Vicki Lane, DJan, Deborah, Elaine, RennyBA’s, Baino, Loveable_homebody, Jenn Jilks, Abraham, Dot, Louis la Vache, The Lucy and Dick Show, Leesa, Peter, Pam, Protégé, Val, My Carolina Kitchen, Ratty, Bhavesh, Lynda, Shammickite, Ruth, JM, Dedene, Ginnie, Dutchbaby and Fennie - Thank you so much for coming to my blog over the past year. It is always a pleasure to read your comments and reactions to my post; it gives me inspiration to write more posts. I am so very happy and honored that you found the time to stop by – thank you.

Vagabonde said...

Claude, Reader Wil, Yves1947, Lorilaire, Kenza, Helen Glehen – Je vous remercie d’être venus regarder mon blog cette année passée. C’est un plaisir pour moi de vous lire; cela me donne de l’inspiration pour écrire d’autres posts. Je suis très contente que vous avez trouvé le temps de laisser des commentaires, témoignages et réactions sur mes posts – encore un grand merci.

Vagabonde said...

Maggie, Kay Dennison and Astrid - Welcome to my blog and thank you for coming by. I am always happy to welcome new blogging friends and hope that you will come back.

Vagabonde said...

SAPhotographs (Joan) – I appreciate your comments. I am very flexible about my posts and do not follow any particular order. I have written some posts about the Cherokees already – you can find them under “Native Americans” on the right of my blog. But I’ll be pleased to go back to my visit to the Cherokee Reservation last summer and write another couple of posts on it.

Dutchbaby said...

The pleasure is all mine!

Friko said...

A very happy blogging anniversary, dear Vagabonde.

I am happy to see that you found time to post this week, this is a most delightful story. I have really enjoyed reading it. These tiny stories are what give meaning to the past, they bring back memories and feelings of long ago, bittersweet and very moving.

You write very interesting posts about your visits to many places, but in this one the Vagabonde I have imagined you to be has emerged.

Lifecruiser Travel Blog said...

Ah.... a little romance in France... what a lovely memory!!! I loved you telling us here and to see that old photo. Simply adorable.

...and you know what? Me to got a very special kiss - in Paris.... below the basilica of the Sacré-Coeur hubby went down on his knees to propose to me... and I said yes! Following a lovely kiss.... *dreaming back*

Vagabonde said...

Friko – I am pleased that you enjoyed my story. Thank you for stopping by.

Lifecruiser - How nice that the Sacré Coeur brings you good memories too. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

This is my first visit to your blog. It was a delightful first visit! What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.

Lydia said...

O, how I enjoyed this story. I mean fully, truly, from-the-heartenjoyed the whole post. Coming to the end and realizing that your husband had found the picture, so charming it is, was like having an extra night tagged onto what has already been a cherished vacation.

Happy Blogiversary to you and your special blog.

bowsprite said...

what a beautiful story, merci, Vagabonde! ah, the places you take us! in all directions and dimensions. (I do not want to be crass, but you Facebooked Gilbert, oui? well, some memories are perhaps best like this.) Thank you to you husband for finding the photo, to your daughter for starting this blog with you! and thank YoU! hard to believe it is only one year! bonne anniversaire, and many more!!!

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