Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

& her barefoot heart

Tag: 70273 exhibit Lacaze France

Lacaze, Here We Come

Sunday morning
25 juin 2017
8:30 a.m.

Katell picks us up at our hotel in Albi, France and off we go to Lacaze with Katell behind the wheel and Kristine navigating.

The air is cool

the sun is shining

and the scenery is exquisite.

About an hour later, we round the curve

and we are at Lacaze, greeted with our country’s flag


and a sign to let us and others who will come later
know we are at the right place.



There are tears
at this first hint of the hospitality to come.

~~~~~~~

I will be writing the only way I can right now: in blurts, snippets, and bits – we’ll call them postcards, why don’t we –  that won’t necessarily be presented in chronological order, but as they rise to the surface of my heart. Which means you’ll receive these postcards all out of order, just as if I put a stamp on them and sent them through the postal service. That is how I will tell you about the first major European exhibit in Lacaze, France.

Now if you’d like to know more about The 70273 Project and help commemorate these people who deserved to live, here are some links you might be interested in:
~ making blocks
~ registering quilts
~ making middlings

And if you’d like to read the other postcards from this magical trip, here’s a road map for you:
Under Two Flags

Paris, Day One

Paris Day Two

Toulouse

Paris Again

More Kindness in Paris

“I drive you from airport. It is not much. This is how I contribute to this projet magnifique.”

They speak to each other in rapid-fire French. I can’t even pick out an “une” or a “du” or a “oui” – Chantal Baquin and the landlord to the flat we rent in Paris – so I give up trying and just stand there smiling, nodding when they look at me, hoping that’s appropriate. Suddenly the landlord’s face registers something – what? Surprise? Shock? She rubs each arm with the hand on the other arm and continues looking at me. Her eyes fill with tears. Chantal tells us that she’s just told the landlord why we are in France – for the Lacaze exhibit of The 70273 Project – and the landlord says she gets goosebumps and is very grateful for what we are doing.

They resume talking, and this time the landlord says she is so moved, she is doing something she’s never, ever done before: she insists that she will pick us up at the airport in Orly when we fly back to Paris after the exhibit. We thank her, never thinking about how we will be on our own – no Chantal with us to read and speak for us – trying to find her. We are blissfully stupid about this.

On Monday, the day after the exhibit, we arrive at the airport in Orly a few minutes late, fetch our bags, and head to the 10-minute parking lot – something we know to do because the thoughtful landlord called Chantal the night before and gave her instructions, except she didn’t mention where we find this 10-minute parking lot, and of course we didn’t think to ask till this very minute. I count aloud to ten in French – the only way I know to remember the word for the number ten – then scan signs in search of the word. Not seeing it anywhere, I do the only thing I know to do: I stand in the middle of the sidewalk and turn around and around with my mouth open while my face registers worry. Sure enough, before I complete the second turn, a man stops to ask if he can help us. He’s speaking in French, but I’m sure that’s what he asked. Yes, I’m very sure.

“Dix,” I say to him and hold up 10 fingers because I don’t trust my French, being only 4% fluent according to Duo Lingo.

Through hand gestures, he indicates we must re-enter the airport, walk to the other end, exit the airport, and walk around to the left where we will (eventually) find the 10-minute parking. “Merci beaucoup,” I tell him, and when he smiles, I do a little hop, so excited I am that he understood me.

At least, that’s the way I chose to interpret his smile. It could be my accent. I’m told I  have one.

Though I feel no panic like I think I should, I have no idea what we will do if Madame Landlord has already come and gone – which surely she has because it’s been more than 10 minutes after we asked Chantal to tell her we would be there. We are outside again on the other side of the terminal. I see the word “dix”, and I’m not sure if I’m happier that my French was correct or that we are finally in the right place. I stay with the bags and send Andy to find a car . . . oh no. We have no idea what kind or color car Mme. Landlord drives. There’s nothing to do but move forward, so I stay with the suitcases and tell Andy to go look for the landlord’s face. He is about 20 steps away, when she pulls up to the curb, leaps from her car, and runs towards us. She is sorry she is late and made us wait. I assure her we just got there ourselves. At least that’s what I meant to say. What actually came out of my mouth could be something totally different.

She had water and cups bearing a mid-century plaid. So thoughtful. Such hospitality.

She has a big bottle of water for us in the car, with the cutest paper cups (bearing my favorite mid-century plaid) I’ve ever seen. I am so touched by her hospitality, I surreptitiously save the cup.

She opens the sunroof so we can see better, and I have to tell you it is the most fabulous sunroof I’ve ever seen.

The Paris sky isn’t bad either.

She tells us of things we are passing, giving us a personalized tour. When she gets to The Bee Hotel, she is concerned that we didn’t understand about the bees that were raised on a floor of the hotel, so what does she do? She dials Chantal to ask for the words in English. Yes, she’s that thoughtful.

pairs of X’s everywhere

We get back to the flat, and Madame Landlord insists on helping us get our luggage into the flat. Once that’s done, we thank her again, to which she puts her hand up and tells us through tears, that she is quite moved by The 70273 Project, and picking us up at the airport will be her small contribution to this projet magnifique.

~~~~~~~

Because:
~ we had only one night between arriving home from France and flying to Florida to visit Nancy,
~ we had no internet in Florida,
~ we got home from Florida and left to come to Georgia where we have been working long hours every day,
~ I am still overwhelmed with thoughts, memories, and emotions from the trip to France,
~ there is so much to tell,
~ I am still processing it all
~ and receiving photos,
I will be writing the only way I can right now: in blurts, snippets, and bits – we’ll call them postcards, why don’t we –  that won’t be presented in chronological order, but as they rise to the surface of my heart. Which means you’ll receive these postcards all out of order, just as if I put a stamp on them and sent them through the postal service. That is how I will tell you about the first major European exhibit in Lacaze, France.

Now if you’d like to know more about The 70273 Project and help commemorate these people who deserved to live, here are some links you might be interested in:
~ making blocks
~ registering quilts
~ making middlings

Day Two in France: Paris

Day Two is a day of stories, friendship, quilts, and pairs of X’s . . .

This morning, dear Chantal showed up at our rented flat with the first Friendship Block for The 70273 Project. What is a friendship block, you ask? Well, it’s something I’d planned to wait to tell you about till July 1, but looks like I need to go ahead and tell you now since I’ve got and spilled the beans early.

We’re borrowing a page from the history books and creating Friendship Quilts to raise funds for The 70273 Project. You take a red marker and write your name, using your first name as one of the lines in the red X and your last name as the second line that crosses the first line in the red X. For the other red X, you can write the name of the person you dedicate your block to – maybe an ancestor, a friend, a family member, a student – or maybe you do like Chantal did and make a collaborative friendship block. Ask a friend or loved one or even me to use their name to make the second red X. Then you send the block with a financial donation that will be much appreciated and well used, I promise. If you live in the US, you will also receive a receipt for your income tax report. So that, my friends, is what a Friendship Block is. Friendship blocks will be used only in Friendship quilts, too, by the way, and they will be counted as commemorative blocks.

Our first stop was heaven. Or, as some of you might call it, a fabric shop. But not just any fabric shop. This is the fabric store little girl Chantal visited with her mother, and every time they went, young Chantal secretly wished that this would be the day her mother bought fabric to make a dress just for Chantal instead of another hand-me-down dress she would get when her sister outgrew it.

When I heard that, I knew what I wanted – nay, I knew what I just had to do: buy the fabric for Calder Ray’s sleeping quilt. And I did. Found some beautiful soft fabric in the blue that he loves. And what’s in Chantal’s bag, you might ask? Well, she bought herself some lovely fabric . . . to make herself a dress.

I love everything about this shop . . . the quilted floors,

The doll-size mannequins wearing the most smashing outfits. Chantal says she remembers them being here when she was a little girl coming with a special wish.

Though we took our time looking around, it was eventually time to leave, and let me tell youThe Engineer was sad to leave, too . . . because the store was air conditioned.

We visited the Chapelle du Saint-Sacrement, where Chantal was gracious enough to find shady inclines instead of full sun steps.

There are quilts everywhere in that church . . . at the door, I spy borders.

On the floor, I spy quilts..

On the altar, I spy a quilt.

On the floor, I spy a colorful quilt of stained glass reflections appliquéd onto the floor “blocks”.

In the ancient stained glass, I see a 9-block with much color and intrigue surrounding it.

I fall head-over-heels in love with these modern quilts . . . I mean windows . . . and Chantal and I take a seat in front of them and talk about not just the windows, but Nancy and The 70273 Project and quilting techniques.

In the ceiling, I find two X’s, and I imagine they are red.

And on our exit, I get another view of Paris.

On the nearby multi-function place, I see more X’s that, if you squint your eyes just right, can be red.

In the area where artist have long set up stalls, I spy a blue, white, and red 9-patch.

We enjoy a French pancake breakfast for a late lunch. It was delicious, and there was a heart in my sweet pancake. A heart. That’s what this trip has been filled with.

I wish y’all would look at the bottom of the chairs, something I didn’t see till just now . . . two more X’s.

it was cooler today, in part because of the spectacular clouds, in part because of the constant breeze, and in part because Chantal went out of her way to find shade for us to walk in. And it was another lovely day spent with the darling Chantal who gives us time from her busy schedule. I am so very grateful for that and for all she does to commemorate the 70,273.

Three more sleeps till the first major European exhibit for The 70273 Project. How will I manage to sleep with all the anticipation and excitement? Pfffft. I can sleep on the flight home.

Under Two Flags

Napkins stitched by French women during World War I

When Germany entered northern France early in World War I, they showed no mercy. The countryside was devastated, and women struggled to survive while the men were off fighting in the war. One way French women put food on the table is through  their stitchery – detailed cross-stitch depictions of soldiers, flags, coats of arms, and other representations of the main Allied forces – that was sold in America through the Society for Employment of Women in France, with all the proceeds going back to the French women and their families.

Excerpts from a June 1916 letter from Mercy Richards Essig (Mrs. Norman Sturgis Essig), 1700 Locust Street, Philadelphia that accompanied some of these items paint a vivid picture of the women’s lives and their efforts at survival: “The women sit inside their houses under fire constantly, and embroider. When a shell is heard on its way they duck into the cellars until it bursts, and then come out again at once. The cellars are all marked—that is[,] the safe ones, with signs pointing to them and telling their capacity. The women who embroider are those whose men—sons, husbands, and fathers are at the front or wounded or killed . . .”

And that’s not all . . .

In 1914, Anne Morgan (daughter of John Pierpoint Morgan) spent a week visiting the Marne battlefields in France, and what she was so horrified by what she saw that she created the Committee for Devastated France (CARD) with offices in New York and chapters across the U.S., all dedicated to raising money to provide relief work in France. Activities of CARD were documented in the weekly bulletin called Under Two Flags. CARD offices were located in Château de Blérancourt that was later restored by Anne Morgan and turned into a museum dedicated to the friendship and cooperation between the France and the United States.

Today, The Engineer and I take a seat in the big chair in the sky and make our way to France where we will enjoy a current-day continuation of the rich, long-standing tradition of French and American women working together in friendship and caring. I can’t wait to call many women I already consider friend Sugar to their face and hug them in real – not digital – hugs. We will laugh together, and no doubt shed a few tears together as we attend the first major European exhibit of The 70273 Project in Lacaze, France on Sunday, June 25, 2017. You can read more about the exhibit and what hundreds of French volunteers did to commemorate another day when the United States and France worked together on the blog of my friend Katell Renon, who has worked tirelessly to coordinate the making and collection of the 55 quilts that will be included in the exhibit. Many have worked with great dedication to make this exhibit happen, and I will introduce you to them throughout the week, I am deeply honored and grateful like you wouldn’t believe to the women of France and to the Association France Patchwork for their dynamism, for their obvious deep feelings about the commemorations we undertake, and for the hospitality and kindness they have already extended. These women don’t dwell in the past, but they don’t forget it either, knowing that forgetting is the first paver in the road to allowing history to repeat itself – something that will not happen on our watch.

I’ve been brushing up on my French, and today I learned how to say “Pinch me”, something I expect I’ll be saying a lot to make sure this is really happening.

I’ll be posting from France here on the blog, on Facebook here and here and here, and on Instagram. I will also be taking lots of photos and gathering lots of stories that I will assemble in a catalogue of the exhibit when I get back to the States – a catalogue that will be available for sale to raise money to ship the quilts to their next destination and ultimately . . . eventually . . .  here to Heartquarters for photographing for the book and preparation for The Great Gathering and Launch.

~~~~~~~

Places to find more information about the rich tradition of French and American women working together:

http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/women-in-wwi/introduction

http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/women-in-wwi/french-stitchery

https://www.theworldwar.org/explore/exhibitions/online-exhibitions/american-women-rebuilding-france

Many thanks to the Smithsonian Institute, to the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and these people for allowing me to use these images and for doing and sharing the research provided on their web site.

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