While threading the needle to sew Sacha's worn jeans I asked Annie if she had any tender memories of living during World War II? If there was any light in that dark passage. Anything that reminded her of beauty when life around them was so unfair and off-balance.
Annie kept her eye on the thread and needle, "Of course, there were tender moments, we had each other. Our family moved from Marseilles (which was heavily bombed) to our country house. We were lucky to have a garden, my mother planted lentils. We had plenty to eat. We exchanged food from our garden for other things we needed.
Annie went on to say that during that time she was barely twenty and pregnant with her first child.
"One of my activities was to walk down to the village and exchange some of our produce
for whatever my family might have needed.
On the other side of the village, there was a man who grew watermelons. Whenever he saw me in the village he would race back to his garden to give me one. Can you imagine how wonderful it was to have a watermelon? It was such a rare treat. They were not very big, but they were sweet, and you know I have a thing for fruit. Mon Dieu, I prefer fruit over bonbons.
Whenever, he would give me a watermelon he would say, "This is for your baby. Your baby needs to taste sweetness." I was surrounded by such generosity. I think being pregnant brought out the best in the people around me. Seeing my big belly gave them hope, made them reflect on the wonders of life... or something like that... instead of the hardships of war."
I would lug that watermelon, the supplies I had exchanged from our produce, and my big belly to the river. The river is on the outskirt of the village, Annie's home was on the other side and up a steep hill. Then, I would sit by the plantain tree, you know the one at the end of your street, and I would crack that watermelon open, grab the heart and eat it. Funny, after all these years, I can recall the watermelon juice running down my face. It didn't bother me in the least. It was a luxury, sweet juice running down my face between my breast to my pregnant belly.
Note: This is one of my favorite stories of Annie's. When Annie she told this story I felt transported to another time when her memory was living, and her body was young and ripe. It showed me Annie and how she was full, ripe, sweet, and with many seeds of hope.
Happy Birthday, Annie.