It is nearing the end of a most incredible trip in the country of love, wine, and passion for everything.
I am sitting in a cafe across the street from the opulent Versailles palace for a late lunch, thinking of my mother, family, and this amazing trip. We toured chateaus and stayed in several of them. One was very elaborate. The husband and wife welcomed us every morning in their magnificent dining room. A chandelier strewn with candles was lit, and the most exquisite classical music played in the background. A table filled with croissants, ham, cheeses, French bread, yogurt, eggs, fruits, jams, fresh squeezed orange juice, and coffee was elaborately displayed for us.
They talked with us and made time for us, to explain things and to communicate in their limited English. We did likewise in our limited French. We also stayed in a French provincial country home, where again the owner, a tiny French man with cherubic cheeks, and his porcelain cheeked wife with white frosty hair, made us feel at home. They explained that their delicious orange marmalade and apricot jams were homemade, as we chewed flaky French bread, and felt a part of their family.
In front of the palace of Versailles, a native Martinique woman saw me rubbing my legs and explained to me how to relieve my swollen ankles. She gave us a small history lesson on the street vendors of Versailles, who were from Senegal, and how they would sell their wares to send money home to their villages. Time and time again, people stopped to help us and give us suggestions. We thanked them for their time and for their patience with our basic "merci beaucoup," and American ways of gratitude. The lesson from my mother, that has echoed for me through my 12 glorious and beautiful days in France, is a conversation with her months before she died from stage 4 cancer.
This conversation took hours, for they always took hours with my mother; it annoyed me at times, but I would try to be patient with her advice, and at times, her reprimands. She ended this conversation with a "thank you" and something different. She told me, “The greatest gift you can give another human being, is your time.” It surprised me and scared me. I think I had a premonition of what was to come, but I nudged it away. “Thank you," she told me, and "I love you.”
When she was dying and I bathed her, she said the same thing. I was glad I got to tell her that it was a blessing to be of love and service to her. I get it mama. I really get it now.
I wish I had spent more time with her in the end, and for the rest of my life I will make it up by giving my loved ones and strangers I meet that wonderful, exquisite gift of precious time. I am grateful to have spent 12 glorious days in France with my love, exploring this wonderful country and giving ourselves the best present of all--time.