Strategically placed in our conservatory is an old suitcase with a story. Doesn’t every suitcase tell a story? After all, think of the places that suitcase has been, the treasured items it may have held, the expectation the owner held in their heart as they packed their suitcase to take a trip. I know I feel that way. Whether it’s a little overnight trip just to get away and watch a glorious sunset over the water, or a long awaited trip home to see friends and family across an ocean, every suitcase packed for a trip holds lots of emotions. Some are good, some are not. This suitcase tells a happy tale.
My beloved mother-in-law left her parents’ home on the Southern Riviera in France, to head to a country she had never visited, had only ever heard about, and where she knew only one soul. Yes, it’s a love story. She met my father-in-law during World War II, an American GI Joe (his name wasn’t really Joe) sent to Germany to fight Hitler’s Nazis. He did that, fell in love with a lovely French woman, married her and brought her home to Michigan.
Culture shock it was. Nice, France on the beautiful Riviera may have meant walking on the beach every day during a lunch hour, looking at the foothills of the Alps, no doubt while eating locally-made Brie with a French baguette. Actually no. Hitler had bombed much of the country, leaving it mortally scarred, ugly and bereft of fine food and fresh vegetables. Rationing was normal. Her Jewish friends had disappeared. France, like Britain, was in a dreadful shape after World War II.
So arriving in Michigan in April was a breath of fresh air. Literally. It was much colder than the South of France. It was also farming country, where everyone had a vegetable patch in their back garden, friends grew hay or wheat or raised cattle, and in 1946, many homes still had an outdoor loo. It was drastically different to her life (with an indoor loo) before the war. And it was different to her country during and after the war. But she was in love!
She packed her suitcase to make a new life, said goodbye to her parents and siblings and travelled to the other side of the world to join the love of her life (her words not mine). They had 2 children, who birthed grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She died at the age of 91, having lived in their home for over 60 years, the house where Thom grew up.
I hope you have a suitcase too – and a happy story to share. Share it here, I’d love to hear it.