This name has always sounded like a sweet omen to my ears.
Bel-Être is already a memory.
Sweet memories of those late summer days, when the declining sun softened the atmosphere. We knew then it was time for us to scamper away from the daily shower taken under the staircase of “the box”. Six or ten of us in a row, in the hands of our efficient mothers, we would dry off, shivering on the lawn while our parents would clink glasses. “The box” was a small house next to the main one, where we could escape our parents’ vigilance, but when dusk came, the noises that rose from the trees of the Petit Parc turned it into a haunted house.
Memories of those bicycle pursuits in the Petit Parc when we played at « policemen and thieves » on our proud vehicles that made a convincing tacatacatac for the engine with the ingenious help of a piece of cardboard. Memories of those swims in the river below the fields, nibbling blueberries along the way. We would jump from the dam and quickly come out, scared of the water rats, which made our swims a brave and exhilarating dip. Memories of the forbidden games of hide-and-seek in the hay stacks piled all the way up to the roof of the barn, and the bicycle rides to the village in the hot summer sun rewarded with the promised candies bought from the grocer’s.
Memories of the games on the ancient wooden table football played at 4 or 5 of us, standing on chairs, our hands fastened to the rusting bars, our eyes tied to the ball. Memories of those pillow fights between the girls’ and the boys’ rooms ; of this unending corridor from when we where young, and through which we would glide with our sandals to make a remarkable entry into the dining room, only to meet our parents’ disapproving stares.
Memories of the dressing up frenzies and the joy to run around naked, a towel between our legs, some red on our cheeks and, on our heads, a feather stolen from the poultry yard. Memories of being asked to leave the table, regretting the wonderful prune pie, and running to the plum or cherry tree, always there to make it up to us. Memories of secrets shared on the curved branch of the chestnut tree, hidden in its leaves, and from where we could see the world, a lollipop in our mouths.
Bel-Hêtre, family proprety. What has always been is not anymore; life goes on ; our parents age and our children grow. Anouych, little grasshopper, you make the world your home and your dance delights us. 5 years is not much and yet you seem already so grown. We discover ourselves as parents and our children keep on surprising us.
Bonne-Maman, my grandmother, tells me she is ready. 28 years in one’s life.
This house was passed on by her grand-father to her father, who was disinherited for falling in love and marrying a commoner. She already had a little boy who carried his difference, as if it were carved on his forehead. An extraordinary woman, Bonne-Maman tells me.
My great-grandfather never saw his family after his wedding. They lived a few hundred metres down the path. He spent the rest of his life shaping the farm into a proprety worthy of his name.
The house suffered a few transformations along the years: the corridor was made shorter; the green lounge, or « smoking-room » where we did not dare set foot, is no longer. The « box », where we organized dressed up parties in the winter months and engaged in mad turn table tennis games, became a house for Marie-Françoise and her husband. She helps Bonne-Maman look after the house, when she has time, less and less. The farm I knew in my young years gone also ; no more cows, pigs, hens, chicks, feathers and dung ; no more Ginette ; they have been gone for long now. The chestnut tree has also lost its fabled branch.
I look at Bonne-Maman and I see she is serene and decided. Then, I think of the luck of all those moments shared with my cousins, which have become memories now kept in my heart. And I look at Anouych who carries on her wonderful dance.