As you know my interviews for this blog have always been with French women -- what they feel, what they think, what they like, what they eat, what they wear, etc. Exceptionnellement, in commemoration of Father's Day I thought it would be interesting, fascinating perhaps, to discover what the first man in their lives contributed to their character and personality.
In this, yet another unscientific poll (I call up friends, stop women in the street, walk into boutiques, the usual), I posed the question: "What are/were the most important lessons you learned from your father, either through his words or by his example?"
My sample is more wide ranging than ever -- from age 13 to 70.
This is what they told me:
Caroline: Certainly nothing by direct communication. He has never been a talker. However, he has been there for me in other ways. For example, he knew I wanted to open my own pharmacy and I could have never realized that dream without his help.
Marie-Laure: My father was in the military and I was always afraid of him. Everything was regimented in our house. On the other hand he taught me how to ride horseback and that is still one of my great passions.
Alexandra: I can't say he taught me anything intellectual although he encouraged me in my studies. He taught me how to drive a car and a tractor.
Alix: He taught me to be radin (cheap, stingy).
Marie-Claude: He was generous and when I use that word I mean it in the broadest sense.
Patricia: He helped me be courageous and appreciate the value of hard work. He also showed me how to knit. (His grandmother taught him and he thought it would be funny to teach me.)
Claudie: Because of my father I love the sea. We would swim and sail together. It was wonderful. Now I've passed this love on to my son.
Danielle: I can't think of anything.
Claudine: My father was not at all open or communicative, but I always had the sense he was profoundly good and kind.
Anne-Françoise: He was rigorous when it came to morality, no matter what the situation. He insisted on correct behavior and politesse. He thought young women should dress modestly. Obviously I rebelled against that the minute I left our house.
Pamela: I have seen his honesty through his words and his acts every day of my life.
Aurore: My father is deeply honest and he is the one person I know, no matter what or when or why he will be there for me.
Dany: He was a silent man, but he was solid and made me feel safe.
Ava: He taught me to speak Hungarian, played the piano for me and told me wonderful stories.
Françoise: When I was young it seemed to me he talked only about the past and I never really listened or appreciated what he recounted. Now I regret my impatience.
Letitia: He was tender and full of joy; he explained to me it was a decision one makes to be happy and optimistic. He told me to have confidence in myself (ever a work in progress). Perhaps one of the most important lessons I learned was by watching the way he treated my mother with extraordinary love and respect. When I was a little girl he read me bedtime stories and at the end he would say: "Goodnight my beauty."
Elise: I am the sixth of 12 children so as you can imagine my father worked hard and was exhausted when he came home. I remember when I was about six and ill with a fever and coughing throughout the night he brought me warm milk and honey and sat up with me until I fell asleep. I was closer to my grandfather, my father's father. He told me family stories and wrote poetry for me.
Marie: He repeated over and over it was a waste of time and intelligence to do any task, no matter how small, in a mediocre way. He thought it was like cheating myself and lowering my aspirations. Throughout my life I saw him act fairly and kindly with everyone. I try to do the same.
Andrea: The top ten list for mon pere. . .
- Be polite to everyone.
- Take time to enjoy a good meal (and wine!).
- Be affectionate.
- Learn to accept and give compliments.
- Be generous.
- Do small things you know will make someone happy.
- Don't let a day go by without having dessert.
- Have a warm and welcoming home.
- Ask questions: You can learn something from everyone.
- Talk to your dogs. They really do understand.