Saturday, October 22, 2016

Airs de Famille, remembering family life in the village


Airs de Famille Pays Mellois Deux Sevres
Airs de Famille

An unusual event took place in our village library today called Airs de Famille, Lecture-spectacle. It was the culmination of a project that has looked into the Deux Sevres departmental photo archives and recorded the childhood memories of the older generation growing up in the Pays Mellois area.

Airs de Famille Pays Mellois Deux Sevres
A village wedding


Local actress and author Laure Bonnet used a selection of photographs as the backdrop to recounting stories she had been told and songs she had been sung during the thirty interviews she conducted with older people living alone. In the audience were five or six of our oldest villagers who had been happy to share their stories with her.

Airs de Famille Pays Mellois Deux Sevres Laure Bonnet
Laure Bonnet

I will admit to not being able to understand everything, as there were a lot of words to listen to, but I followed most of it and found it very interesting. It seems that the figure of Grandmother in the 1930’s and 1940’s was a formidable one. Often tiny in stature and dressed in black with a white lace headdress, she was the one who was to be obeyed and children were expected to show respect to their elders and at mealtimes especially, be seen but not heard. 

It was also quite usual for three or four generations to live together in the same modest house and one young lady remembered there being an empty house behind her in-laws home, but her father-in-law had forbidden the owner to rent it to his son and new bride as he expected them to live with him. Another story told of the young bride living with her in-laws who visited her family for a meal every Sunday, her absence gave her mother-in-law the opportunity to check the cleanliness of the bedroom she and her husband shared to ensure her standards were being kept. I consider myself very lucky to have been born when I was and to have a relaxed mother-in-law.  

I went with my neighbour Pierrette, who grew up in the village in the 1940’s and 1950’s. She is never short on stories of her childhood which I love to hear and as we were sitting listening to memories of courting and dating she whispered to me that even though she was 19 when she first met her husband at a dance, her mother had accompanied her and she was expected to return to her mothers side after each dance. There was no hanging around town in mixed groups for her generation, something Ed and his mates have been enjoying since they were about 14.

Airs de Famille Pays Mellois Deux Sevres
Chat and cake in the sun

As is normal for an event in the village, the afternoon was finished off with homemade cakes and lots of chatting and reminiscing. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon for me and other villagers aged from seven to ninety.

Airs de Famille Pays Mellois Deux Sevres
Homemade cakes


The project has been carried out with the help of the departmental library, which will be keeping these precious memories for our future generations.