What do Parlez-Vous Provence, Mme. Louise, Mlle. Adriana, a trip to Quimper and Mount Holyoke College have to do with Pippa Middleton's bridesmaid dress?
Well, in my mind, where admittedly, connections are made leap by leap at times, there's a definite live stream of consciousness/life link.
Let me explain. I mean, really, can you stop me? Trust me, even if you were here in person with me, you wouldn't be able to.
If you've been following this blog or Parlez-Vous Provence, you know I've just come back from a month long trip to visit our daughter Adriana, who is teaching and living in Limours France for a year. (For more about her current adventures, check out http://lettersfromlimours.wordpress.com)
Because my time is more my own, now that I'm not actively practicing law, I rented a car and took the opportunity to venture out a bit with Adriana. We spent a lovely week in Bretagne, so enchanted with the region that we extended our stay for several days. The lovely host and hostess of the Hôtel La Québéçoise recommended we see Quimper, so we added it as a stop on our way from Dinan to Carnac.
Quimper is an "ancien" small city on the banks of the Odet River. In the center city, elegant half timbered buildings abound, and we drifted around as if under a spell. We made the obligatory stop to shop for Faïence, which was delightful, and then wandered at will.
I am a fabricaholic. I can sniff out a good fabric source a mile away. A small shop window, without signage, quietly beckoned. Let's go in, I said, let's not be shy, even though the door was closed and there was no indication of hours or even whether it was open.
In we walked, a little timidly, as we weren't sure we'd be welcome. But of course, one fabric lover instantly recognizes another! We explained to the madame and monsieur, who were wife and husband, that we had seen the colorful tweeds in the window and were intrigued. (Speaking French is so helpful to make introductions.) They informed us the tweeds in the window were Chanel - unbelievably beautiful. While they explained they couldn't allow us to take pictures of the interior, as they tried to keep their business affairs discreet, they told us they bought bolt ends of very exclusive fabrics. Their customer base was worldwide, as they sell well under current retail prices.
As we quietly gushed over the colors and textures, out came a bolt of pale pale cream silk - the fabric used for Pippa's bridesmaid dress! Could we touch it, we timidly asked? Bah, bien sûr, of course! It was fine and delicate, yet had a lovely substance and drape. And I could feel this even though (timing is everything) I'd gotten super glue by accident on some of my fingers, and hadn't gotten it all quite off! Not to worry, I did not cause any runs in the fine silk.
A remnant hanging by the door of black lace underlined with nude silk netting was the same used for Charlize Theron's famous dress, worn at the White House in 2012 and designed by Pucci. More bolts of Chanel tweed lined the wall to the right of the door. Out came remnants of heavy silk linings by Yves St. Laurent and Dior.
Madame had worked for Chanel for many years and was elegance herself. Monsieur wore a bespoke suit and a gray small ponytail that very few men could have pulled off. They were simply charming and only too happy to enjoy a few moments with fellow fabric lovers and "amateurs" of fine quality.
Now, let's connect the links, shall we? Starting our new business gave me the time and the impetus to visit Adriana for more than a week or ten days. As mother and daughter, we took this little vacation to Bretagne to have some good old fashioned fun, and luxury of luxuries, neither one of us, for once, had ANY obligations urgently whispering in our ears the entire week. No worries about the office, business disputes, theses due, exams, regulatory investigations - none of that. We had time for a real, true vacation, probably the first in decades.
Now we must go back in time a bit, and bring that link forward into the present. My beloved alma mater is Mount Holyoke College, one of the most beautiful and amazing institutions in the world. I say that without exaggeration. Those of you lucky enough to have experienced the support and power of that school are lucky in a way only a few can know.
Mount Holyoke has just embraced a new identity: Never Fear/Change. I kept this in mind during my last visit to France, as Adriana and I talked about courage and timidity. Getting past timidity, and embracing courage - even in the simple act of going into a store and talking to strangers - can enhance our lives immeasurably. With courage we can connect to the world, learn well outside our previous internal and external boundaries and limits. Adriana remarked that it seemed much easier for me to start conversations, walk into strange places and generally make myself known. I was not always like that, but the first steps I took to embrace that courage were in South Hadley, Massachusetts, on the Mount Holyoke Campus. And keeping Never Fear/Change in mind was a mental support to continue exploring, being open and being brave.
And that's how we got to feel Pippa's bridesmaid dress fabric! The link is actually fairly direct.
Parlez-Vous Provence is an also an example of Never Fear/Change in action. A switch from practicing law to running an import business requires courage, faith and a mental "180." But ditching the fear, or perhaps better put, planning for the worst and hoping for the best, erases lots of self-imposed limits.
À la prochaine,