Though she was 94 and ready to go, we are never prepared to say that final farewell to our mothers. On the day we buried our beloved Mamie, we were overcome with waves of sadness that come and go like the tide crashing the shores of Trouville by the Sea where she lived for over 6 decades. Fleeting memories of her emerged like rays of sunshine poking through the dark clouds.
Mamie cut the quintessential image of a traditional French woman, “toujours bien coiffée”, scarf wrapped around her neck, wicker basket swinging on her arm, bustling off to market to banter with the local merchants for the best cuts of meat and finest cream. No one would dare try to pull one over on Mamie when it came to selling second rate fruits and vegetables, only the finest for serving her family.
Though she had a difficult childhood, she was never bitter about her lot in life. After meeting at a tea dance popular after the war, she married Guy Lechault in 1951. She had 2 beautiful daughters and one fine son, who became my loyal, loving husband.
Growing up during the hard times between two world wars, she dedicated her life to raising her family making sure her children never had need for naught. Family was the center of life and her 5 grandchildren were the apples of her eye. She was so proud of them; they were so fortunate to have had her as part of their lives during their growing up years.
Nathalie her eldest grandchild remembers when she was old enough to drink alcohol and had her first glass of wine à table with her French family,
“Mamie was so delighted,” Nat says, “it was as if the messiah came!”
Mamie made everyone’s favorites dishes, often serving 5 different menus when the kids were little, but they all grew up appreciating healthy food and mealtime remained sacred-a time to gather round the table to tell stories, talk about food and savor the tastes.
As soon as we finished one meal, Mamie, a woman who never served a sandwich in her life, would ask, “What would you like for lunch tomorrow?”
Lunch meant dinner in the old-fashioned sense — a five-course meal with a starter, main course, cheese platter, dessert and coffee with chocolates that she had hidden for special occasions. Then she would set out thimble sized glasses and poured “just a taste” of her homemade plum liquor.
We had barely cleared the table before Mamie started preparing for the next feast, scurrying back around to the village shops filling her wicker basket with fresh supplies from the butcher, the baker and the creamery.
She lived in a 17th century fisherman’s flat chiseled into the falaise on the quay of Trouville. The small rooms were stacked on top of each other like building blocks connected by a creaky, winding wooden staircase.Her home was her castle; the dinner table her throne, although she never sat down; she was always so busy serving others.
No matter how crowded the 12” by 14” living room, there was always space to squeeze in around the big wooden table that could always accommodate one more.
Mamie could be stormy with a sharp tongue that you never wanted to cross, but she was also sunshine filled with warmth and the first to offer consoling words in times of trouble. Ever since my car accident in France 40 years ago, like a mother hen she welcomed into her family nest and watched over me as if I were a baby chick with a broken leg.
Mamie was the sun and the sea, the wind and the rain, the beach, the boardwalk, the open market, the fish sold fresh off the boat on the quay. She was Camembert, strawberries and cream, chocolate mousse, apple tart and homemade red current jelly.
She may be gone, but she will never ever be forgotten. Our every memory of Normandy is a memory of Mamie, the matriarch, the heart of our French family.
Trouville sur Mer, Normandy, France
Pat and Gerald,
Beautiful tribute to Mamie and I’m so very sorry for your loss. I feel as if I knew her after reading this and her story immediately brought back memories of my female relatives from that generation in Belgium. Unfortunately, I know how difficult it is to lose your mother, a wound that never quite heals. But her story made me smile! Much love to you both.
Mar Mar Thank you for your heartfelt words of sympathy that especially touched us during this difficult time. I am sure your female relatives from this time period would have had much same type of lives.
Dear Pat, your words are so beautiful. What a tribute to a great woman! I send my deep condolences to you and that fine son who reflects so well his mother.
Thanks Lynne, I appreciate your kind words and support especially during this difficult time. Love back at you across the miles.
Pat and family, I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing a magnificent matriarch like her must be devastating. You and your children have experienced a love like no other. Prayers and hugs for her entire family.
Thanks for your support Robbin. Yes, we have been lucky to have been blessed with her love for so many years.
So very sorry for your loss of Mamie. Such a beautiful tribute you’ve written?Praying that the heaviness in your hearts will be healed by all of the wonderful memories.
Thanks Dody. I appreciate your kind words during this sad time, which of course is made more difficult due to the pandemic. Our son and daughter living in Minneapolis could of course not fly over for the service. I hope that you and the family are staying safe and healthy.
What a lovely tribute to your Mamie. It reminded me so much of Patrick’s mom. If home is where the heart is then the best way to it is through your stomach. So sorry for your loss . But then again I know from experience she will always be only a story , an expression or a recipe away.
Chris Thank you so much for your kind words. It was such a nice surprise to hear from you. I will think of that idea that our dear Mamie will never be more than a story, an expression or a recipe away. Was Patrick’s mom living in the country house you would go visit when the kids were little?How I would love to be able to see you again to hear all about family.
Pat, So sorry for the loss of your beloved Mamie. Thinking of you and Gerald, sending hugs across the pond. I hope your recovery is going well. I would appreciate it if you could send me Nat’s current contact information? I sent her a text once I heard of your accident and I am not sure if she received it. Take care and stay safe!
Thanks for thinking of us, Shirley. 2020 has been a difficult year. My recovery is slow but steady. I’ll send Nat’s contact to your private email. Hope you, Amy, Jordan and the rest of the family is staying safe and healthy. Will the season get off the ground? Covid makes everything so complicated.
A remarkable woman indeed! So sorry for your loss.
Losing a Mother, even if expected is, is such a profound loss! May all the happy memories sustain you at this time!
Thanks Barb. Yes it is a profound loss and we are holding those memories close and looking forward to welcoming Marie’s baby to the world.
Mamie was indeed, a woman extraordinaire! I remember her as being really energetic. She never sat down much. I so enjoyed trying to communicate with her and Guy when they would be visiting you. She was always so gracious with me and my terrible French. And she worried about me getting enough to eat as well when we broke bread together. Although it was her time and she lived a nice, long life, it is never easy to say farewell to a parent, especially if it is the last reminder of your own being. Losing that last person who always supported you and was so proud of everything you and your family accomplished. Hugs to Gerald and the whole family. So sorry for your loss.
Thanks for your kind, supportive words. As always you know just what to say. Mamie was an energetic woman. The way she never sat down when family gathered around the table reminds me of when you’re entertaining.
Dear Pat. I’m so sorry for the loss of such a beloved woman. Your words bring Mamie alive and help me to appreciate the depth of your loss. Sending thoughts and prayers to you, Gerald and your family. Love, Kathy
Thank you for your kind words Kathy. I feel your hugs across the miles.
What a lovely tribute to French Mamie! AND what a beautiful place for Gerald and his siblings to grow up! Another magical place to renew your spirits by the water — in Normandy as well as Wisconsin. Thank you for attaching the “Trouville sur Mer” vignette!
I attended a funeral yesterday for the father of a dear friend. I find that when I go to weddings and funerals, I reflect on my own relationships and loves. Your stories share insight and ALSO trigger sweet memories that get tucked away in the busy-ness of life.
My mom’s place in Freeport, IL was not centered on food, but it was a place of fun and freedom for my kids and rest for me. She urged me to lie down on the sheets, lovingly pinned to her couch, my bed, as we visited her small condo while she played cards, read stories, and talked with my children. I would resist, at first, then succumb to my apparent exhaustion. Then we’d head out for adventures at Krape Park to climb and explore, the Dairy Bar for fine ice cream, then the parade of places in her life where she would introduce us to her friends and colleagues. Mom was a single, working full-time, and I was concerned about over-burdening her with our visits. Now I’m a working grandparent, and I can attest to her response, “There are NEVER too many visits, NEVER!” We lived on Wendy’s, popcorn and grapes and lots of love!
Thank you, again, dear Pat, for sending me back to that special place. Your writing casts a magical spell!
Amy, thanks for the magical spell you created for me with your word picture of your memories shared with your mom in Freeport, a town I can picture even now as an almost twin to Sterling. Your mom gave you such a fun loving spirit, an artsy flare and so much wisdom. As we age, it seems even more important to seize the moments and create the memories, so enjoy being a part of your granddaughters growing up years. I have to confess though you can thank Gerald for the vignette Trouville sur Mer; he is the photographer and technician of our family.
Of course, I am sending condolences to you and Gerald. Her life, well-lived and generously given will be greatly missed. Peace to you all. Love, Amy
What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful lady and a life well lived. My deepest sympathy to all of you in the loss of your beloved Mamie. May the very best of Mamie remain the best in each of you. Holding you all in my heart.
What a wonderful way to remember her, the best of her living on in each of us especially her kind and loving son.
What a loving tribute to your MIL, Pat — why, I almost feel like I knew Mamie, too! How nice that she was able to watch over you after your accident — I’ll bet that was a tiny relief for your own parents, though they probably wished they’d been there or you’d been here. And I loved your slide show — such pretty scenery, and so different from corn and bean fields, ha!