Jean Marie Welch bubbles with enthusiasm and smiles all the time. She was my high school French teacher and she taught much more than vocabulary and adverbs; she taught us to laugh, especially at ourselves. She could find the humor in just about anything. She taught us that many things really do not matter. Why take the unimportant stuff seriously when there are moments and situations in life of gravitas? The little ones can be the important ones, and the big ones might not matter so much. She has a poet’s eye and a joyful mind and I am so lucky that it was through her delightful vision that I discovered the world of everything French.
A Travel Memory
When my second husband Bill proposed marriage to me, a second marriage for both of us, he was close to retirement, and I had already retired from a twenty year career of teaching high school French. He asked me where I would like to get married. I said Paris, but soon learned that that was not easily done because of rules and regulations. We were soon married in the U.S., and a year later when Bill retired, we headed to Paris for 10 days.
After taking several days to visit some of the famous landmarks, The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Les Invalides and Napoleon’s Tomb, Rodin’s museum and of course the Louvre, we rented a car and drove to the village of Barbizon. Barbizon is home to many artists, and I had been there years earlier with a graduate study group. At that time I had purchased a lithograph of a quaint, stone church and house entitled La Maison de Theodore Rousseau et L’Eglise de Barbizon by Marcel Jacques. The artist’s widow was still living, and she was gracious enough to write a few words and sign the back of the picture.
We arrived in Barbizon around 9:00 a.m., parked the car, and followed a sandy path through some grass to get to the main street with the galleries and businesses. As we walked along the path, I looked to my left and there was the church of Barbizon pictured in my lithograph back home. It was a still, quiet morning and no one was around. Bill and I walked over to the front of the church, pressed on the heavy metal handle and, much to our surprise, the door opened. We stood there in silence for a moment, and then I said, “Let’s go to the front and exchange our vows again.” As we gazed into each other’s eyes, we pledged our love to one another all over again and then left as quietly as we had entered.
We then started enjoying the local restaurants and the numerous galleries for the next several hours. When we both agreed it was time to leave we found our way back to the sandy path. As we passed by the church, I noticed there was a paper posted on the heavy wooden doors that had not been there earlier. Bill and I walked over to see what it said. We were amazed. It said in French, above the now locked and chained door handles, No Entry! I have always believed that there are no coincidences in life and some things are just meant to be.
Bill and I were married almost 19 years before he passed, but I still have the lithograph, and every time I look at it, I think of that special moment we shared in the church at Barbizon.
_ Jean Marie Welch