Tribute to a Grandfather

January 21, 2015

My father, my dear father passed on December 30th, 2014. He left us all, family and friends in deep sorrow.   My heart is heavy with grief and at the same time I am so grateful for all his love, tenderness and generosity. The many wonderful memories I have of the moments, the years spent with my Dad  and family give some comfort in these days of separation  and they will accompany me every day. My father – and my mother – were never so happy as when their cherished “clan” was around them. Especially  when their four grandsons were there.

 

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Better than all I could tell you, I imagined you may like to read  a few excerpts of the thoughts and feelings his  four grandsons shared with the family and close friends during our farewell ceremony in the chapel.

“It was such an honor to be your grandson ! You have been an example that I will strive to follow all  my life. Kindness, humility, courage, you were witty and generous, you were all this and much more.  I will always remember how the Epicurean you were loved to share good meals with us, traditional or refined. You left us with dignity, head high, like the Lion you were, proud but wise and never complaining. I love you so ! (JF)

“Our grandfather was a rock, a beacon, a lighthouse where to look at in times of trouble. You showed us what moral rectitude and respect for anyone meant. What I learned through my grandfather’s kindness was his infinite tenderness, the mark of an unconditional love. A united family : this is  the Great Work of our grandfather, a heritage I will continue to cherish with you. (JB)

You are the grandfather everyone would have wished to have and whom I was lucky enough to have. Today we are separated physically, our pain is immense. However I feel that our sorrow will be appeased because I know you are in good hands. If Jesus takes as good care of you as you did of us, then your eternal stay in His company will be beautiful. Dear granddad, I send you millions of kisses. (V)

 

“The last thing you told me  was :

“I so wish I could walk again !”

Well, this wish I will realize for you

You will walk, run, jump, even swim

Because now I will bring you with me

Wherever I go and keep you in my heart always”

(composed, sung and played with his guitar in a rap style  by A.)

 

Papa, dessert gourmand

One of  my father’s favorite desserts : an espresso coffee with almond liqueur and chocolate ice-cream.

Merci papa, for all you were. We love you. Farewell to a place away from our eyes but in our heart you will remain.

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What better example could I give you of a Mother’s Love for her children  than these images of the Tulip family in our garden ? The wind blowing lightly helped me greatly to create this little allegory.tulips 1 See how Mama tulip shows her affection to her youngest ? Bending gently and probably encouraging her to stand tall and strong in spite of the wind. tulips 2 Mama is guiding her sweet white tulip towards the right path. tulips 3 When difficulties arise and doubt makes one’s shoulders more fragile, Mama is still there, moving alongside  her young tulip. Notice the support of the other family members, standing strong around them 😉 Even if a bit disheveled… tulips 4 “Let’s move on, little one, you can make it, I believe in you and love you”, says Mama Tulip. DSCN1435 And when the youngest one is ready  and feeling safe to stand up again and grow, Mama  leaves her going her way, calm and proud. So is Dad, standing on the left and knowing all will be good. Do not ask me about the different shades in their family, please. Race is not an issue with them. The more colors, the merrier ! This little allegory is to tell you of my love and gratitude for my mother, Cécile, living now in her own garden somewhere. My love for all mothers to thank them for all they do and are to us. Because we always remain the children of our mothers, don’t we ?

HAPPY, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY ! tulipes, myosotis With Love

Isabelle

A special birthday gift

December 1, 2012

Last July my family celebrated my only and favourite sister’s birthday. It was special. A birthday with a round number, the type that is more striking than a yearly celebration, you know? We had planned  a beautiful celebration for my sweet little sister. Each of us had a personal and particular idea for a gift. I had mine too but I needed everone’s help. By now, you should know what I had in mind 😉

A quilt of course ! Here it is :  our common project and my personal gift for Françoise’s birthday. Improvisation for the sewing part but not for the preparation ! When I asked family members and friends to give or send me one or two pieces of their used clothing, they did not know what I was up to (at least not all of them) but they joyfully agreed. The most difficult part was to get some used clothing from my sister herself. She was not meant to know anything about our project.

quilt Françoise, 5

Spring and particularly Spring cleaning helped me. Some time in February I told Françoise of the great feeling I was experiencing in sorting out my wardrobe, getting rid of clothes I no longer wore even though I liked them a lot. Which I absolutely meant.

“What a good idea ! I think it’s time for me to do the same.” said my nice  sister.

Taking a deep breath I told her : “Great ! why don’t you send some of your used clothes to me ? I know what to do with  them”.

And this is how it all started. After a few weeks my sewing room looked like a “souk” or African market. I was a bit panicked before sorting out the clothes I could use or not (too beautiful to bring my scissors close to them). The leftover garments I gave to an “Emmaus” charity shop.

The overall blue material in the quilt comes from a pair of linen trousers my sister wore and the grey stripes used be a shirt  belonging to her companion.This silk blouse and black velvet pullover, for instance, were amongst the favourite clothes worn by Françoise. I hesitated a long time before cutting through them but I knew she would love to find pieces of them again on her quilt. Underneath the block, Ninio-the-Beagle is “stuck” in total admiration 😉

A precious block made of one of my mother’s aprons bordered by a piece of her embroidered handkerchiefs. The hook belonged to my grandfather and the heart is sewed in one of my grandmother’s dish cloths. The three of them were very present in our hearts all along the birthday celebration.

Some family men’s  silk ties that have shrunk quite a bit.

T-shirts from family and friends.

quilt F. VeniceRomantic and beautiful, one of Françoise’s  T-shirts and Summer skirt.

quilt F. mom & dadScarf and pyjama as a flower.

Sons, nephews, cousins, friends: their T-shirts and shirts tags

A weaved T-shirt and the cuff of a cotton blouse.

quilt F. Dom & F 2

Precious  : one of my sister’s best friend clothing, her checked black and white trousers and rose t-shirt. My sister immediately remembered those clothes.

“We all love you, Françoise” (title of the quilt)

quilt Francoise, détail, coeursWith all our heart !

Françoise was So surprised ! and delighted. Such  excitement as she tried to recognize what belonged to whom, including her. A lot of fun. And a happy quilting that brought back memories, places, events. Sewing together all kinds of materials was not exactly easy but I enjoyed the slightly wonky look of this quilt. Different.

Autumn and harvest

October 22, 2012

Grape harvest is over in most areas of my canton (Valais). Some grapes will have to wait for a mid November harvest though. The wine produced then will have more flavour, sweetness and this particular flavour “terroir”, from the local soil.John O’Donohue, Irish writer and philosopher, writes about “Autumn and the Inner Harvest” (Anam Cara). He tells of the four Seasons of the heart, Autumn being associated with old age.

“In the autumntime of your life, your experience is harvested. Within the harvest circle, you are able to gather lost moments and experiences, bring them together, and hold them as one”.

As in the Celtic Wisdom, O’Donohue sees Autumn as the harvest of one’s soul that gives a deeper sense of strenght, belonging and poise. A quiet delight when this time arrives in your life.

I  like O’Donohue’s deep thoughts and, as I walked through those wineyards last Sunday afternoon, I remembered my mother’s words and memories of her younger years when she was helping her father taking care of their few vineyards over the same hills. It was a hard work for anyone involved. No machines were used. The work started in February/March and ended in October/November. A lot was to be learned over months and years. A harvest of knowledge and traditions were transmitted to sons and daughters, families’ links were valued and strenghtened. Most mountain villagers grew vineyards  on the foothills. Their earnings were  meagre and  when the grapes were brought to the communal wine cellars, the gain was much appreciated.  It used to be a joyful and singing crowd which walked down to the valley early in the morning (5-6am) during the season of grape harvest. Sometimes, on lucky days, a postal bus would drive the villagers and winegrowers down to the vineyards.  After a long day’s work under a hot sun the return home up to the little villages was much  quieter. Bodies hurt and voices kept silent.  Of course there was a big celebration at the end of the harvest. It coincided with this other tradition that is still present nowadays : roasted chestnuts (brisolée).  A feast when served with various kinds of cheese, cold meats, rye bread/butter, grapes and apple pie; we also drink must (grape juice not fermented yet). A simple and delicious meal-of-the-season.

All those thoughts and more went through my mind during my afternoon walk. I wished my mother would have been there with me, holding my arm, smiling, commenting, remembering and gleaning the few grapes that were forgotten or left for visitors or birds or beagles 😉 Yes, Nino was with me and I had some trouble keeping him close to me, especially when we walked near this beautiful  vineyard (below) that had not been harvested yet.

In a  photo album, I found this old picture of grape harvest in our area, Valais. My mother could have been there making a pause and chatting with friends. Those days are long gone….

At a slow pace

January 6, 2011

Walking  in the garden a few days after Christmas.  I was enjoying a fresh and early morning sun as  I spotted a branch of blackberry, shaped like a heart. A wild and  stubborn bush,  not ready to give in to  Winter.  The persistent branch made me think of this past Summer bounty and of the delicious marmelade waiting on the kitchen table for the family breakfast.

Fleeting images of particular moments during the Holiday Season.  I realize that the grandfather who once was as tall as his grandsons looked now small and frail. Emotion. A moment of love shared between generations, smiles and looks of complicity that belong to the three of them only. A wonderful bond.

My activities will not resume until mid-January.  These days after Christmas are “in slow-motion”. Remembering  family celebrations, animated talk around the table, gifts being offered, a surprise for everyone. Each family member had decided to offer a gift to one person only chosen by drawing lots.   Each one  kept  the secret until Christmas Day. What an excitement as the time for sharing gifts came ! I was so happy that mine was meant for my Dad! I offered him a soft warm fleece jacket in his favourite colour, grey/blue. He loved it and is wearing it almost every day since  Christmas 🙂

Taking time to sit for more reading and leaving aside other activities that can wait a little.

Sidney Poitier’s spiritual autobiography is one the best I have read in a long time. “The Measure of a Man” is the story of his life from his birth on Cat Island in the Bahamas until his recognition as a great actor in  Hollywood. When he was about 12,  S. Poitier told his sister : “When I grow up, I want to go to Hollywood and become a cowboy “. He had just seen his first movie in Nassau, a cowboy one of course. In 1963, S. Poitier was the first black actor to win the Academy Award for best actor for his great performance in Lilies of the Field. He also received the Life Achievement Award for an outstanding career and humanitarian accomplishment.

Reading his memoirs is like having a worthwhile conversation with an older family member, his words are powerful, reflective, generous, humane and so moving. It makes you look closer at the foundations of your own life.

Looking forward to even more reading. Family and friends know me… and I  received several books:

The Amish Quilts,  1870-1930, showing many reproductions of quilts from private collections in Switzerland; there are also some  very interesting chapters about the origin and history of the Amish.

Matthieu Ricard, “Spiritual Paths”, a small anthology of some of the most beautiful Tibetan writings. To be read slowly too.

“Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time. I have already started reading it and can hardly stop…

“The Rothko Chapel” by Domique de Menil. With her husband, John, Dominique founded the inter-religious Chapel in Houston/Texas in 1971. The de Menil’s dream was for the Chapel to promote interfaith dialogue, human rights and the arts. I am so grateful for this gift,  a beautiful souvenir of a memorable visit of this Chapel some years ago.

From Barbara, my English quilting friend, I received the loveliest Desk Diary you can imagine !

More gratefulness. To Marie,  http://ancientcloth.wordpress.com/ my inspiring and creative friend; she  sews and expresses herself  beautifully in  her quilts. Marie sent me those colourful parcels.

See all I found when I opened the pretty wrapping papers!

Wonderful handmade gifts and special fabrics I look forward to sewing  in my quilts. Precious  presents from here and there. Thank you so very much, Marie ! All is  truly appreciated.  My thoughts are with you.

January will be a slow month  for me. As my friend Marah wrote on a beautiful card :  “Never let the urgent crowd out the important”.

This is the first of her 12 calendar cards. Each month I will share a different one with you. I wish you  a lovely start of this New Year. May it bring  Peace in your heart and mind.

My mother’s Christmas stars

December 18, 2009

December 17 would have been my mother’s birthday. This is one of the first quilts I sewed for her. A Christmas gift that she always kept close to her. She loved it. She left this world on December 22nd, six years ago and I like to think of her as the most brilliant star in the sky. Soft, luminous, always present.

This quilt is also  one of my first attempts at patchwork.  It is definitely not perfect but it carries a special meaning for me, especially during the Holiday Season. It is on one of my walls at home now and I see the sparkling smile of my mother.

A few more stars for your Christmas sky…

forgotten strips

February 16, 2009

forgotten-stripsThere was this old wooden trunk that had sat in the garret for ages.  I knew it belonged to a family member who had travelled to North America in the late 19th century. He and his family settled somewhere in the state of Wisconsin, and lived  there for quite  a few years. For unknown reasons to me, part of the family came back to Europe (France). Again the sea trunk was part of the journey  home. It was transported here and there along the  years and the various movings until I received it from my own grandfather before he left for his own journey. And since then the trunk has been waiting patiently, up in the garret of the house until someone curious would open it !

I did so a few years ago  and was very surprised to find several sorts of thin and colourful materials (lining). Some of them were already cut and sewn together in narrow strips, others lay untouched on the flowery paper that covered the inside of the trunk. I have no idea who could have sewn these pieces of fabrics together, nor what their use would have been. On a cool and grey weekend I  decided to start sewing them together. Just the way the strips of materials  were assembled, sometimes adding a piece here and there to get more or less  the same lenght. Here is the beginning of a wall hanging (maybe but maybe not?) I sewed with some of these forgotten strips. More are waiting to be added.bouts-de-bouts

I am not sure yet how this pannel will look like when all the fabrics will be sewn together.  But I am  so enjoying the journey though !  The crossing over the Atlantic in a ship of  La Compagnie Transatlantique where many other hopeful passengers had embarked for a new life in America. Then travelling further from New York to Wisconsin,  finding work, settling down, raising a family, learning a new language and way of life. All so different from the mountainous forest area they had left back home.  Years later the family separated, the children stayed in America, the parents came back to Europe. If the trunk could speak… what stories would it tell ?

Ulysse’s books

January 14, 2009

ulysses-books4Ulysse was my grandfather, one whom I suppose everyone would wish to call “grand-papa”. His origin was Swiss-Italian. His father, a sculptor, came to the French-speaking part of Switzerland in search of work, which he found in a small town where my own grand-father was born. As far as I remember, my souvenirs of Ulysse were those of a kind, patient, humorous and  sociable person. He used to sit for hours in his “grand-father’s armchair”, reading through his very thick glasses, oblivious of everything happening around him. Lost in his own world. He read whole bookcases. Mainly  history books. They were about the history of the canton  he was born in (Valais), and of its people. He collected ancient books too and, when money permitted it, he  had  some of them bound by Léon, a good friend of his, a  bookbinder who loved books and treated them with the same respect and admiration  as Ulysse did.  This soft,  scented leather  enchanted me whenever Ulysse showed me his recent discoveries.

Before he passed my grandfather gave me something  precious : many of his history books and the wish to learn more about  it.  He also gave me   the love of books, of reading and writing. I was lucky to receive his old armchair too. When I sit there, a book in my hands, not a day passes without thinking of my grandfather. With such gratitude and happiness that our paths crossed.