As a child, I was bombarded with advertising claiming that ‘diamonds are forever’ and that one’s true love was measured in carats. Me being a nonconformist, I of course never subscribed to this view. So then, what is a good measure of one’s love?
Well, at the start of the 21st century (seems so long ago!), I had a glimpse behind the scenes of the longest running marriage I had ever known–my grandmother’s aunt and uncle, F. and J.. As a child, I remembered the impromptu get-togethers that Aunt F. would organize at the drop of a hat (if you mentioned that you would be in town, she broke out the address book (remember those relics from the 20th century?) and would call around, rounding up local family members over for brunch. (Yes, she would call from a phone that still had a cord, haven’t seen one of those for ages!) I have fond memories of the round the world slide shows–I always delighted in seeing photos from the other side of the globe and am certain this fueled my wanderlust!
But I digress. My favorite (great-grand) aunt and uncle had a marriage that survived the test of time–and, as many couples from their time period, World War II. Yes, my grandmother’s uncle served our country as a flight surgeon for the Air Force during WWII. His lovely wife and family were left behind in the US during the war while he was serving in Northern Africa and Europe. I never knew much about this period in their life (for one, I wasn’t even born yet, nor was I even a speck in my parents’ eyes) and never had the opportunity to about it.
Fast forward to the year 2000: my aunt and uncle moved out of their house into a semi-assisted living facility. When helping them consolidate their lifelong belongings, their daughter-in-law stumbled upon a book written in French. She wanted to make sure it fell into good hands–hands that would fully appreciate and care for the book. Well, as the family’s resident self-professed francophile, naturally this artifact from my aunt and uncle’s life was handed down to me.
And what you might ask did I receive? It was a small book–a small sentimental treasure–French poet Charles Baudelaire’s “Les fleurs du mal” — not translated but in the original French. Even more special, inside the front cover, I could see that my uncle had dedicated the book and written a note to his wife waiting back home stateside. The note indicates that he bought the book of poetry in Paris and simply stated “To F.–All of my love, J.”
The simplicity of my (grand-grand) uncle’s message, coupled with the thoughtfulness in time of war to offer one’s love the gift of French poetry, is moving.
My favorite poem in the book is “La mort des amants,” or “The Death of Lovers.” Sounds morbid, but it’s actually quite beautiful. (Reproduced in the accompanying graphic)
As far as diamonds are concerned, they are definitely not forever, but my aunt and uncle’s love was and is eternal….!