In the mid-1980’s Gerry and Eloy took a trip to the Holy Land. On that trip Eloy met a woman named Francoise. They came to be fond of each other, but chose a friendship and long distance correspondence instead of something more. Francoise lived in Paris, France and Eloy in Broussard, Quebec. They met several more times on various trips and maintained a long distance friendship all the while. During that same time Eloy became an adopted member of Margot’s family and formed a strong bond with Helene, Margot’s mother. Eloy has always been treated as a family member and is often spoken of as another uncle by Margot and her siblings. I’ve come to know him as a friend in 20+ years, and more recently as a stalwart caregiver to Gerry as he continues to battle aggressive cancer. It is Eloy that drives Gerry back and forth to family holidays in the States, often staying at our home for the celebrations. Not long after Margot’s father passed away Gerry took Helene on her dream of a lifetime trip to France, and ultimately to stay with Francoise who had since moved to Provence. She raved about the place and often told Margot she should plan to get there one day.
About a month after the announcement was made we received an e-mail from Eloy that opened the invitation to attend the wedding to all of his family members, including us. Margot called to relate the news and in a surprise move my response was, “so we are going to go, right? At first all she said was “What!” She was shocked at the ease with I was making such a grand commitment. I am not generally that way. But I had my motivations. Eloy has been a great friend to Margot’s family and was at the center of a story that is likely to become a legend for them. The wedding was also in France, a place neither of us had yet travelled to and very much wanted to. And despite some of the stereotypes about weddings, they generally are an example of the best things this life has to offer. I knew I had to be in on this!
As the plans evolved the holidays rolled around and once again Gerry and Eloy came to visit for Christmas. But this visit was much more exciting. Francoise would be joining us and would be meeting Margot’s family for the first time! Our visit with them was fantastic. Margot and I got to play hosts in advance of them doing the same for us. We discussed the arrangements for the trip and were overjoyed when a place to stay at Francoise’s home was offered. We set about scheduling flights between Boston and Paris and the train between Paris and Avignon. About two weeks before the trip we confirmed our arrival details and waited with intense anticipation.
As you read in the first post, our trip was smooth but tiring. We arrived on Thursday, with a day and a half to go before the big day. We joined many other family and friends who were staying and/or bustling around making ready for the wedding. We offered to help in any way we could and ultimately helped clean the home for the after wedding social and helped setup the reception hall for the wedding celebration.
The hour came and we jumped in the car with friends of Francoise’s who shuttled us to the city center of Le Thor where both the civil confirmation and wedding mass would be held.
Up to this point I haven’t mentioned a key detail that provided both a source of frustration (for Margot and I) and a lot of laughs for everyone during our stay. We don’t speak French or Spanish, and both of which were being uttered in considerable quantities during our stay! In an upcoming post about the friends we made during our stay I’ll elaborate on this story a bit more and give a shout out to a few folks who were essential in helping us both learn, but also to communicate efficiently with the dozens of people we ultimately interacted with.
So we drove along with people we had met 3 minutes previously, all mutually unable to efficiently communicate with other. Awesome! It worked out great though. They were even looking for us after the mass to ensure we wouldn’t be left behind.
The wedding mass was held in a 13th century cathedral with an assemblage of 7 priests comprised of both parish clergy and friends from France and abroad. It was a beautiful ceremony with joyful singing and recitation of readings and wedding prayers in multiple languages. Later we received an e-mail from Gerry indicating he celebrated mass at his parish back in Montreal at 9:30 AM so he could be joined in mass with his family 6 hours ahead in France.
A contingent of nearly 200 people returned to Francoise’s home for a celebratory social with champagne, wine, food and lots of laughter. Two of Gerry’s friends got together with us for a picture to send along so Gerry could enjoy the event through us.
The wedding reception was held at a hall a few towns over and was quite similar to many we have been to before. Francoise and Eloy thanked their family and friends for making the trip including special thanks to those who had travelled quite a distance to enjoy their special day. We felt so special.
The food was excellent, the people were fun and when we got to the skits and singing we were once again able to see how the family was celebrating this wonderful event. There was dancing to a wide array of French and American music (50/60’s classics are big there) and lots of toasting. When Tom Jones Sex Bomb came on Margot and I had to laugh. The mix of folks grooving on the dance floor to this particular song is a vision that will make us laugh for years to come!
This story is early in its telling and I for one can’t wait to see more of it unfold.