Tag Archives: Inspiration

A Warm Welcome

Our trip to Europe was incredible for many reasons but our visit to Montbéliard, France stood out for deeply personal reasons. As noted in previous blogs it is the hometown of my great-grandmother, a woman who seemd to disappear with the passage of time. My mother and her five siblings always wanted to know where their grandmother came from, even though they never met her. All they ever knew was she came from France.

The church of Saint-Martin de Montbéliard.

For years I casually played with looking up my geneology. I tried to find where Suzanne, our great-grandmother came from but met with dead ends, as though she never existed. My interest in geneology flared anew when Tim told me about his connection to the Mayflower. Then last year on our cruise we pulled into LeHavre, France, the port Suzanne sailed from. LeHavre suddenly became a real place to me and I had to find her.

Showing the mayor my family tree

When I found she was from Montbéliard, France I contacted the Roots Tourism bureau there. In June, we traveled to France before our cruise around the British Isles. A lovely young lady, Anaïs gave us a tour of the city when we arrived. Montbéliard, “The City of Princes” has a very rich history dating back to the Holy Roman Empire. She let us know that on Monday we would be meeting with the archival folks and the mayor. The mayor? That was a head scratcher.

´Etienne Vienot’s records

On Monday we arrived at the Municipal Archives with the folks from the tourism bureau. Aline and René greeted us and proceeded to roll out a piece of paper in front of me. It was five feet long and listed my ancestors dating back to 1560. Étienne Vienot was a mason, born in 1560. I suggested that he helped build “the temple,” the church of Saint Martin built between 1601 and 1607. While they were quick to point out there was no evidence of that, I liked my version of the story. Saint Martin’s is the oldest Protestant church in France.

Lined up on the far side of the table were the books from which they did their research. Some have been digitized but not all. The pages showed their age, but seeing the handwriting from the 16th century was remakable. In one of the books the writing was very small because of the expense of paper. In the oldest book there was a list of Étienne Vienot’s belongings.

The wonderful group of people that made this possible

More people began filing into the room, including the mayor, her staff, and a reporter for the local newspaper. Tim counted seventeen in all. The mayor gave a speech and spoke of the history of the city and referred to Montbéliard as my ancestral homeland, which touched my heart. They asked me to say a few words and I thanked them for all the work they had done. Then I teared up when I wished that my mother were still alive so she could finally learn about her grandmother. When I asked why I was being given such a reception, I learned that while they had researched other families for the program, my family was only from Montbéliard where others were from other towns as well.

The mayor explained all the local meats and cheeses to me at the reception.

Afterward we went outside for refreshments of local meats, and cheeses, along with wine and soda. Also on the table was a bowl of Bugles Corn Snacks, I had to smile. My mother always loved those and I hadn’t seen them in years.

My next order of business, send René information about Suzanne. Beneath her on the tree there was nothing, not her two daughters, nine grandchildren, nor her twenty great-grandchildren. I have more research to do before I start writing about Suzanne but this visit gave me a great deal more to think about.

I can’t thank this group of people enough for their work, their warmth, and their kindness. If anyone is interested in finding out more about the city and or their Roots Tourism program I’m including some links below.

The City of Montbéliard https://www.montbeliard.fr/fr/no.html

Roots Tourism https://www.paysdemontbeliard-tourisme.com/node/33

A Very Simple Secret

The Little Prince

Every time I read The Little Prince I get more out of it. If you’ve never read it, or it’s been thirty to forty years since you did, I recommend you find a copy and spend a couple of hours with it.

I first read it in high school, I think, and then when I was looking for a name for the boat. Once again I read it when writing the chapter on buying and naming Little Prince and this latest time on editing that chapter. This time I learned something I should have paid attention to a long time ago.

Some lessons take a lifetime to learn. No matter how many times we are told a thing, sometimes it takes an experience to finally understand. The school of hard knocks provides a fine education. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. That hackneyed phrase “I’m going to write the great American novel” has been with me as long as I can remember. Besides the fact of having little time to myself when I wore many hats, mom, wife, graphic designer, school board representative, cook, and keeper of a half a dozen animals, the word novel was firmly implanted in my brain.

Once upon a time I worked as a correspondent for The Peterborough Transcript, which is no longer. The two newspapers in Peterborough merged. That was longer ago than I care to admit. I stayed in publishing for many years but moved over to the design side. That in turn led me to visual arts– photography and painting. Still that idea of writing a novel lingered.

The Great Reveal

Now, deep into writing my memoir, I love working on it. I get up early, sometimes 5:30 a.m. That is a shocking revelation to anyone who endured seeing me early in the morning, in my past life. Along this path I realized writing a novel is not in the cards for me, or at least a complete fiction. I enjoy reading historical fiction. Add that to my writing pleasure and you get Creative Non-Fiction. It’s the non-fiction part that grabs me.

Years ago, I sat on the beach reading alongside my sister-in-law Debbie.

“Do you ever read anything fun?” she asked.

Huh, I thought what I read was fun. That conversation should have yanked that novel idea right out of my head. I am more interested in non-fiction, that’s what I need to write, when my memoir is finished.

Now back to The Little Prince. He traveled from planet to planet learning all he could without losing himself in the process. When he completed his journey he understood the importance of the creatures he cared for and their uniqueness. My favorite quote from the book goes like this:

“And now, here is my secret,

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

On another note

I’m up to Chapter 24 and counting….getting close. Soon I’ll need Beta readers.

Cruzin Down the NJ Coast

We finally feel like we are making some progress. Along the way we’ve been hit with some pretty rough water. Buzzards Bay, on the other side of the Cape Cod Canal on the way from Sandwich, Massachusetts was fine for a while but as we went further along the waves started getting larger. Our plan was to go to Mystic, Connecticut. We didn’t make it. Instead we headed up the Sakonnet River in Rhode Island to escape what was becoming a very uncomfortable ride. Entering the river, the waves were pushing us along. It’s not quite as fun in a boat as it is on a boogie board.

We spent three days in Tiverton, RI. It was a rather rustic marina but the owner was very nice. We were docked near the fuel dock so there was a steady flow of activity. Most interesting was when the owner fell into the water when handling the lines for an incoming boat. Tim happened to be nearby and managed to push the boat off the dock so Ken could get up the ladder. Even though it was a very chilly day, Ken continued with his work fueling the boat, soaking wet. Just another one of those hearty New Englanders.

When we finally got a day that didn’t have gale force wind warnings, we set off for Mystic. Again, it was just a window of decent weather. We hugged the shore to ward off the larger waves but it was a bumpy ride. More bad weather was predicted. Mystic was a good place to be stuck so we were determined to get there. Also some dear friends live near there and it would be great fun to see them. Other friends were passing through the area at the time and we got top visit with them as well. Mystic was a great stay.

When the weather cleared we started making our way. Once again we were walloped by waves. The NOAA forecast had called for 1-2 foot waves. No such luck. It was more like 4-5 foot waves and not a lot of fun. We didn’t make it to our destination. We had thought once we entered Long Island Sound things would calm down a bit. We were wrong, at least on this leg. Regardless, we had a pleasant stay in Branford, CT.

Hurray! Good weather with calm seas, finally! We crossed over Long Island Sound and stayed close to shore until we arrived in Manhasset Bay, Port Washington, NY. It was such a treat to have a nice boat ride and not clinging on to grab bars for hours on end. We were now well positioned to hit Hell Gate in the morning. The wind started kicking up in the morning so we decided to wait another day before moving on. We were no longer in New England, that was a milestone. Hell Gate, where Long Island Sound meets the East River, was to be our next challenge.

When we left the marina it was about 11:00. A good time as far as the tides were concerned. It was going to be a little breezy, but not bad enough to cause another delay. Our first landmark was the Throgs Neck bridge. There weren’t a lot of boats going through when we did which helped. Wakes from other boats along with the currents makes for a bumpy ride. Going passed Rikers Island was interesting. It looked to be it’s own little city. We passed the United Nations building and then headed towards the battery. We went under several bridges along the way. The best part of the trip was passing by the Statue of Liberty.

Going back out into the ocean and down the New Jersey coast could be difficult. We wanted to be going in the morning when we were fresh so we needed to find a place to stay. Atlantic Highlands has a town marina and it’s close to where we wanted to leave from. The other wonderful side benefit was seeing two old friends. One friend was from grammar school and one from college. Renewing old friendships is such a heartwarming event. The perfect ending to a great day.

Today, we made it down to Point Pleasant, NJ, and into the Manasquan River. We have all our lines securely tied. Sometime around midnight a nor’easter is going to hit us. Never a dull moment on this adventure.