10 years on, here is what I never want to forget about her:
- her cooking. Hearty, simple, epitomised in her ‘salmis de palombe’ (a stew of wild doves my granddad would have hunted) and her pasta with cheese gratin (so crusty on the top, so cheesy in the middle. I have never managed to replicate it)
- the blue/purple/flowery colour of the blouses/aprons she would always wear over her clothes. Always useful for cooking, gardening etc
- her habit of wearing lots of layers of clothes and cranking up the heating. Gosh we were always so hot in her house in winter!
- the self-deprecating way she always said she just knew nothing: ‘enfin tu sais moi je n’y connais rien!’
- her evening TV ritual: 6.30pm = quiz show ‘Questions pour un Champion’. That show is still running and everytime I hear the jingle, I am transported back into my grandparents’ front room again.
- her little 2-seater car, one of those you could drive without a licence. So small yet so noisy. Every Wednesday afternoon she would drive it down to the OAP club to play cards and catch up with people. She got a stroke there and I was called to drive the voiturette back.
- her bright eyes
- that little sandwich with duck confit she made me one summer evening. I had been riding my bike and dropped by on my way home. Her and my grandfather were having dinner and of course they were happy to see me and we chatted a little with the sound of the TV and garden sprinklers in the background. As I left, she cut a bit of bread, a bit of confit and shoved it in my hand. I ate it on the way home, feeling happy. One was always welcomed there.
- her vegetable gardens (she moved a few times). Always well tended and ideal for outdoor games.
- her habit to dip salty biscuits (Tuc for example) into port wine, if both were served for aperitif.
- her sadness realising that her daughter, who had cancer, would die before her: ‘We would have only wanted for her to bury us first’. I remember being very shocked hearing that and freezing in my chair, unable to do anything, even extend my hand.
- a letter she wrote to me during my first year in the UK. I could hardly decipher her handwriting but I was so touched to get one.
- of course many memories of playing with my cousins around her houses and visiting her every Monday after school for the gouter (usually some chocos BN, sometimes a crepe-cake), even at 15, because once we’d leave secondary school she knew we wouldn’t drop by as often so there was no getting out of it.
- that she was very possibly the only adult in my childhood who asked me ‘Alors, qu’est ce que tu as a me raconter?’ (so, what have you got to tell me?). She was always so interested in what her grandchildren were up to. I found it strange at the time (we nicknamed her ‘FBI granny’ after he curiosity), I was never sure of what to reply.
Now of course I would have a lot more to tell her.