Thursday, June 5, 2014

Chere Francine, About that wine I gave you.....

"If it hadn't been for them we
wouldn't be here today," - a toast
to D-Day veterans.
Chere Francine,

I'm thinking about you this week, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, le six juin, le debarquement. You are grateful pour les americains and tell the stories of the parachuting over St. Mere Eglise and Murphy hanging by the church steeple from his parachute and Father Wood with his cricket and scenes featured in the movie Le Jour le Plus Long. You heard the stories first hand from the heroes who were there and you and your sister both met and fell in love with GI's, married and moved to the United States and your two sons served in Viet Nam. What a story! And your local newspaper knows your histoire and interviewed you yesterday for an article and a river cruise ship line stopping stopping near your house in Vernon has invited you to speak to the passengers about your memories and they soak up your personal stories more thoroughly than the bread I used to sop up la sauce a la moutarde you served me with a lapin.

"Do you see it on the news over there?" you asked. I reassure you President Obama will be there for the ceremony. You're disappointed many people especially the young do not know of these important events. For that matter, do we remember each year the Battle of Yorktown and your countrymen from France who made General Washington's victory over the British possible?

After you moved to America as a war bride you became friends with my parents - Dad worked at the same company as your Bob - and when we meet people today you say about me "I used to change his diapers,"  while Nina your daughter says "I used to beat him up." Time passed and you and your Bob purchased a country house in Normandy not far from Monet's old home and it was a dream come true until the dream shattered when your Bob died of a heart attack on the streets of Paris and you didn't know how you would live another day. That was almost 40 years ago, and here you are, entertaining the river cruise ships.

After graduating from college, I visited your house in Normandy the first week of June and you generously loaned me your Peugeot and told me the places to visit and what to do and I made my pilgrimage to the landing beaches and to the sea of grave sites with crosses and stars of David planted more symmetrically than my rows of vines. You suggested I stop and see the tapestry at Bayeux which I did and learned about Viking invaders. What I most remember about my D-day tour was when Father Wood himself returned to France to baptize your grandson and you also invited me to visit and we took Father to Giverney to see Monet's restored house and water lilies and le Pont Japanois and I basked in the presence of history.

I think of France and America as good friends - largely because of you. When I think about Japan and China aren't Americans and French true allies and very much alike? When you tell people about me visiting you you say "he used to bring me his dirty laundry and I told him what he could do with it." I guess that's just because I thought of you as mom. The families were such good friends when my parents went on vacation you volunteered to take care of their Lasaopso - Maltese chien named Mugsy whoknocked-up your Yorkie Nanette and we remained friends through health and through sickness, good times and bad, and even a scandalous dog.

Before every dinner we had an aperitif, usually white wine infused with creme de casis or mure and on special occasions there were kir royale with Champagne and there was always red wine with dinner. You are a legendary cook and you taught me how to make lapin au moutard and afterwards we watched on French TV an American movie The Flying Dutchman. You took me to see Jacques Chirac - then Mayor of Paris - speaking in your village. You and your neighbor taught me how to tie a bottle to a tree and grow the pear inside - and of course, you introduced me to the elixir Noyeau de Vernon - distilled from Apricot pits - and the local Calvados, stiff brandy distilled from apple mash.

Eight years ago you visited San Francisco and I flew up to see you and I knew enough about wine so that when we went to an Italian restaurant I ordered a Nebbiolo.  I brought you a barrel sample of our first Syrah and you told me you like a Syrah and I poured you a glass from my plastic water bottle I had bootlegged into a fine San Francisco restaurant.

The Queen of the Vineyard always appreciates the way you treat me like a kid and put me in my place like a domineering mother - she wished she could control me like that. Whenever I spoke French in your presence I was always justly criticized for butchering your beautiful language so I just gave up speaking it with you. Besides, your English is too good.

About that wine I gave you .....It was a year ago we flew to France to see you. We invited you to lunch at La Coupole and I presented you with a bottle of 2011 Petite-Sirah, the darkest most delicious wine we had made up to that time and it was a pleasure to carry it all the way to you. The Bootleggers Express always delivers. This is not like the wines we used to drink in your home - at least how I remember them - it is more in the American style and the fruit seems to taste sweet - although there is no sugar in the wine which is fermented to dryness. I once had a 2009 Gailliac wine from France that was similar in its syrupy texture and taste.

It was June the 1st a year ago and you proposed a toast with a tear in your eye: "This Thursday is June 6th and I want everyone to remember that 69 years ago the GIs and my husband Bob landed in Normandy. If it hadn't been for them we wouldn't be here today."

I know you miss your Bob and his comrades and today and your heart is aching as you remember their sacrifice to liberate France .... and I thank you for still being with us.

With love and gratitude always, je t'embrasse,

Your petit Craig