It’s a lovely day, and a ray of sunshine comes in through the big kitchen window framing the wide valley: “There’s no place I would rather be”. A tiny lady, with her eyes wandering through the memories of her heart-warming period in France, shares her experience.
An old proverb says: “You eat bread twice in a lifetime: once the white bread and once the black bread.” I savoured my white bread in France: I left Monchio delle Corti accompanied by my father, a distant 13th of December.
Throughout the first year, we moved five times. I remember perfectly when, during one of our transfer, my husband and I travelled 400 kilometers inside the cargo bed of a truck, intertwined and embraced under a quilt in the hollow of an upside-down table: that was our bed. A house in the wood was waiting for us. When they saw me peep out from behind the blanket, everyone was worried: they would have never imagined that a woman could have accompanied her husband, choosing to live in such conditions. In that hut there was no electricity and not even a key to lock the door, just a rope.
The first night was very hard and although we had assembled and turned on the wood stove, the cold went right through us. We shivered and cried together, holding each other tight, scared and discouraged. During the night-time hours, in the silence of the wood, my husband used to claim he would have sent me back home as soon as possible, just to appease me: he was afraid that all that was too heavy for me. I have never considered that possibility: I’ve always been confident that together we would have faced anything. That forest turned out to be a wonderful place: I was present at the chasse à courre (horseback hunting), I saw many, many beautiful things and, above all, I learnt that in life you must remember only the good things, because the bad ones only make you sad. But our conditions were deplorable and soon after we moved again.
I’ve been living in France for 30 years with my husband. I started off by working as a seamstress, but I had to quit the job due to eye problems and I chose to help him out with the daily work in the wood. I loved spending hours with him and I tried to ease the strain for him in every way possible. My husband always respected and esteemed me. We haven’t had any children and I must confess that it hasn’t been easy: but every decision, every choice and every experience we had, we were together, and this made us even more united. The village and the people never made us feel as strangers.
I worked in the houses of wealthy families, I built relationships with extraordinary people who welcomed us in their lives and in their houses. We lived in extremely poor conditions but when you welcome people with open arms and open heart, minor things such as not having a luxurious house are overshadowed. All the things I experienced in France taught me that it is possible to live in simplicity and to rejoice in every little thing.