Monday, February 6, 2017

Les Baux-de-Provence: A Memoir

Les Baux-de-Provence, the childhood home of my mother-in-law, Mireille Davis Texier.
When my mother-in-law died in November 2016, she left behind a hand-written account of her childhood in Les Baux, the village that was her home from 1924 until the early 1940s. For the past two weeks, I have been transcribing her account, which is set down in a series of notebooks numbered 1 through 6.
   Les Baux occupies a rock outcrop above a plain that stretches to the sea. It is a superb setting, and the village is officially designated one of the most beautiful in France. Today, the upper village has only 22 residents—and an estimated 1.5 million visitors per year.
   My mother-in-law also left us a collection of diaries. On December 30, 2009, she wrote:
   “I have reread my memoirs, which are pretty sketchy. Valerie D. is going to help me organize them and make them easier to read. I hesitate to give them to Patrick, who won't be interested, nor Sara. They are too personal and too far removed for American readers.”
    I read this diary entry with a sinking feeling. I felt unbearably sad that I had let my mother-in-law down. Of course, she was incorrect in thinking her life story would be of little interest to others. Besides her children and grandchildren—not to mention myself—there are no doubt many people who would be interested in one of the few first-hand accounts of Les Baux written by someone who lived there before and during World War II.
    I think that when we lose a loved one, it is inevitable to feel regret, and to wish we had expressed our love more often. I wish I had transcribed Mireille's diaries while she was still alive. I wish I had been able to ask her a thousand questions about what she wrote. I wish I had transformed her notebooks into a beautiful printed book, with pictures, one that she would have been proud of. This is the task I have set for myself now.
    I have gotten really good at typing French accents—ç, à, î, é, and so on—on an English-language keyboard. I’ve learned some new vocabulary—the person Mireille refers to as “le Pillard” turns out to have been the village thief. I am learning more about Les Baux, which I have visited only once. It is a fascinating place, and my mother-in-law’s memories of her girlhood there are vivid and specific, a real treasure.
 

2 comments:

  1. Transcribing journals is a huge commitment. I have the commitment to transcribe my journals while I am recovering for the next few months.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Transcribing journals is a huge commitment. I have the commitment to transcribe my journals while I am recovering for the next few months.

    ReplyDelete