It’s all because of butter

10.19.09 | 3 Comments

While we were in France, I wanted to take advantage of my grandmother still being alive, to tell us some stories of the “good ol’ days”. My grand parents’ experience (like for most of our generation) has the particularly interesting layer to their past, being that they went through World War II. In fact, WWII was when my Mamie Lise and Papou Robert met and fell in love.

I don’t feel like I ever got the full story, or at least not consciously – you know, when you’re younger and hear your family’s love stories, you say “yeah, yeah, very cool, mmhmm, that’s really cute” – so this time, I didn’t want to miss it.

To paint the picture a little bit, my grandmother’s family owned a farm for several generations in the town of Egaules, central France. My grandfather’s family lived in Clermont-Ferrand and his dad was a train mechanic. Now in those days, we have to realize that there was a big difference in social class between industrial workers and farmers. This will be relevant later in the story…

Part of Mamie’s family business was to deliver butter and other foods to people in the towns nearby. One day, in 1942, the government required young male students to join a farm to help out during the war. At the time, Papou was studying medicine to become a family doctor. He had to drop his studies and his mom sent him to Mamie’s farm, since she knew the “butter lady”.

Papou ended up spending 3 years at the farm, leaving lots of time to get to know the daughter… one thing led to another, they started dating when she was 14 and he was 20. He got to return to college for a short while during this time, but only to come back to the farm instead of being sent to work for the Germans.

The photo below was taken with Papou’s camera… on self timer. Notice Mamie’s dress and how the fabric wasn’t uniform? She told me they didn’t have enough fabric at the time to make full dresses, so they would patch up different pieces. Turned out quite nice if you ask me!

Papou would take her to his family once in a while, in Clermont-Ferrand. But one day, his Dad decided to refuse to ever see her again. The reason being they were getting too serious and she was the daughter of a peasant, which was too disgraceful to approve of their love. They ended up getting married at the farm, with close family, except for Papou’s parents who didn’t attend the ceremony. His sister walked him down the aisle instead.

Below is a picture of their very modest wedding, with Papou on the left and Mamie’s brother on the right. It was on July 23rd, 1949.

Papou and Mamie ended up having 3 children, Bernadette (center), Christiane (right-Mom) and Alain (left). They were all three born in their house with the help of Dr. Roux at Ardes-sur-Couze, a very snowy part of France in the winter.

To get away from the snow they would take vacations on the French Riviera in little towns like Seillans (which is their current next door village) and Le Bar-sur-Loup. I believe that this picture was taken along the shore, near L’Esterel. I love the Vespa leaned against the wall! Classic.

So can you believe it? I was born because my Mom was born because her Mom’s Mom delivered butter to my Mom’s Dad’s Mom!
I think that’s pretty cool.



Leave a comment