You never know when someone will reveal their heart. Their true feelings.
We were invited to dinner last weekend. All three couples in attendance have known each other for many years now. Yet, stories remain to be told. This one touched me so much, I had to share it.
I don’t have pictures of the dinner, which was delicious. The hosts, great lovers of animals who take in every stray, became vegetarian about a year ago. Yes, there are French vegetarians. It was SO good, from the vast array of appetizers, consumed outside on the gravel courtyard, surrounded by lush vegetation and flowers–like an outdoor room with living floral wallpaper–to the main course of a spicy (!!! unusual for the French!) stew with tofu/soy that mimicked chicken surprisingly well, served with an interesting couscous, followed of course by a large cheese plate, then floating island for dessert.
Instead I offer some shots from a recent walk/run. Just random nature that caught my eye.
Back to the story. How we got into it, I don’t recall. But it led to the tale of how one couple met. I had heard their story over the years, but the abridged version. The full version was better.
A moved to the region from Paris when she was 16. As new arrivals do, her family visited the sights in the region. On one such outing, they passed an old tower in the process of being consumed by an overgrown garden.
“Someday I’d like to live there,” A recalled her teenage self dreaming.
Years later, she was separated from her then-husband. Likewise, B had just been divorced and was living in an apartment in town.
A used to stop at a bureau de tabac operated by a friend. Le bureau de tabac is a kind of cigarette shop, but much more. It was an institution, a pillar of daily life where one bought stamps when the post office was (as usual) closed; bus or metro tickets; lottery tickets; vignettes, a kind of stamp proving you’ve paid a tax for various official functions; cards for using pay phones (I had quite a collection of these from around Europe, pre-mobile phone); as well as candy bars, sodas and magazines (all of which reeked of smoke). As you can imagine, le bureau de tabac is disappearing. Fewer French smoke (33%, down from 45% in the 1960s and even higher before that); the post office has automated machines for buying stamps; nobody buys magazines anymore (total paid tirage–press run–has dropped to 6 million last year from the high-water mark of 15 million in 1946, even though the population of France has risen to 67 million from 40 million in the same time). And good luck finding a pay phone.Anyway, you went to a bureau de tabac of a friend, or where it was convenient and the owner would become your friend by virtue of frequent encounters. Especially a few decades ago, shopping was social; it’s what we lose with convenient clicks.
B went prospecting for houses and fell for the crazy little tower with château pretensions.
One day, A was driving in the countryside with her friend from the bureau de tabac. They passed the tower-house. “I always dreamed of living there,” A confessed. Her friend said, “Oh, I know the guy who bought it!” She wanted to play cupid with A and B, but no effort was needed. In a small town like Carcassonne, A and B were soon at le bureau de tabac at the same time, and the owner introduced them. They would run into each other there regularly, and conversations would ensue, not only because that’s how life was but also because A and B are fun to chat with. Even now, A looks an awful lot like a younger Catherine Deneuve and has what can only be described as an effervescent personality. We used to take a yoga class together, and even when she would arrive in a foul mood, she would be bubbly, and she never stayed upset long. B, meanwhile, is quiet, cultured and well-traveled. When he says something, it isn’t some uninformed opinion grabbed out of thin air. He’s eminently calm and reasonable.
In fact, he so impressed A during their impromptu chats that she thought, “That’s the kind of man I’d like in my life.”
Isn’t that the best?
They did progress from le bureau de tabac to dating and have been married for 30 years. They also turned the tower/ruin into a bijoux of a home.
Happily ever after.