From Bill Bonner in Paris…
Our dear mother is getting ready to leave us again. At 85, she is frail…and fears falling ill far from her friends and family. We urged her to stay for Christmas.
“Do you really have any friends who are still alive?” we asked yesterday.
“Well, not many,” was the reply. “But I feel safer in the United States. That’s where my doctor is…and I want to see all the grandchildren for Christmas.”
On Sunday, we all went out to lunch, after church. We went to a restaurant in Auteuil, on the west side of Paris – partly to give mother a good send-off…and partly because we don’t have a kitchen that works.
It was raining…but the lights from headlights, streetlights, and restaurants reflecting on the wet pavement made the city seem more festive than usual. Maria, walking down the street, pretended to be Gene Kelly, using her umbrella and doing an improvised version of “Singing in the Rain.”
“Things are so much different. I never thought I’d live like this,” mother began. “It was a different world that I grew up in. When I was Maria’s age [Maria will be 21 next month], we were at war. And we weren’t sure we were going to win. And I had never been away from home. But then, with the war, everyone wanted to play a part in it.
“Very different. I mean, we’re at war today, I guess…but it doesn’t seem like it. You wouldn’t think of going out to a fancy restaurant back then. Partly because no one had any money, and partly because we had rationing…there wasn’t any fancy food. We all realized that we had to tighten our belts and make sacrifices to win the war. Today, I don’t think anyone makes any sacrifices…at least, I don’t see any.”
“But then I enlisted in the WACs – the women’s army corps. They sent me to San Antonio, Texas. That’s where I met so many of the friends I have now…well, those that are still alive. Not many, I’m afraid. They were all so different from me. And they were all so nice. Even those girls that seemed a little tough and worldly; they were actually very nice.
“That’s where I met your father…on New Year’s Eve. We got married the next April. He hadn’t even met my parents. But it was in the middle of the war…and you didn’t know what could happen. He had just come back from the Pacific…and we thought he’d be sent to invade Japan.
“Yes, it was nothing like it is now.”
Edward, 13, ordered foie gras as his starter dish. “I like foie gras,” he explained.
“Isn’t it a little extravagant, letting him eat foie gras?” asked father.
“It’s about the same price as everything else,” Elizabeth replied. “Besides we’re having a little something special because your mother is leaving.”
“Honestly, I never ate foie gras until I was over 60,” mother continued. “I wonder what will happen to this next generation. When you eat foie gras in a marvelous restaurant in Paris, what do you do next? It must be all downhill from here.”