Three years ago today, I was in the middle of planning a little sidetrip from my flat in Pedernec, to visit friends in several different countries. It was to be a reunion of sorts: my favourite pair of B&B people Anywhere, George and Els Muskens (Lepelstraat, the Netherlands); my favourite Belgian chess player, Johan Verduyckt (formerly of Leuven, now Aarschot); and my new favourite Luxembourgher, Johny Diderich (Differdange).
While I was doing the planning, Madame Bernadette Pariscoat, my next-door neighbour in Pedernec, would occasionally wander into my flat to deposit fresh zucchini (courgettes) in the kitchen, or simply to ask what I was working on, what my plans were for the next day or two. She was an amazingly vibrant woman for 80+ years of age. Her garden was a delight, filled mostly with roses and other perennials.
Rare was the day when I would leave to wander the region that she wasn't at her front door asking where I was headed. When I returned, it was rare not to hear her asking what I'd seen.
Not quite a year after my return to the states, Madame died. 2007 July 09. I was told by my English friends who owned the flat. They had just completed a visit, and sent me a quick email upon their return.
My reply: "it is so wonderful to hear from you, even as the news is bittersweet... i read your message this morning, and it has been on my mind since... Madame was such a wonderful force of nature, and I will certainly miss her garden, her smile, her love of chocolate, and most of all her attempts to force me into more french conversation (what i was doing, where i was going, etc)... i had honestly hoped i would see her and simone again sometime soon, but unless i win a lottery (or some unknown leaves me a small fortune), it may not be long before there are very few who would remember the naive american photographer from 2006..."
Yep. That wonderful Smile.