Episode 3 - French Connections
Updated: Jan 14
CLICK HERE TO READ ***Spoiler Alert*** Have you listened to Episode Three?
I actually thought my mom was seeing a ghost. Meg really wanted it to be a ghost. I think she was a bit disappointed it was a mouse.
What did you think when you heard my mom? Do you think the mouse was the spirit of my father?
My husband and I have a double rocking chair and this is what we do every night at 5 pm with a nice glass of wine. If you were a mouse, wouldn't you want to hang out here with us?
This is my family when we were on a trip to Caracas, Venezuela in the 1970s. My sister, Celia, must have taken this photo as she always wanted to be behind the camera. Thus, she's missing in a lot of photos. I am fascinated with how old young people looked in those days.
My parents were probably only 30 here and like most people back then, they got younger looking as they aged. Nowadays, 40-year-olds look like they're 28 to me!
I'm the short one with the Princess Leia hairdo. I'm pretty sure that's how George Lucas got the idea for Carrie Fisher's hair in Star Wars. Perhaps he was in Caracas that day?
I honestly couldn't get enough Shirley Temples back in those days. Have you ever had one? The more cherries the better. You know I have a long history with cherries. It's obvious my brother, Brad, was also a Shirley Temple aficionado.
How about those pant hems? Mom must have been sleeping on the job that day. Looks like Brad could have loaned my dad some pant leg, doesn't it? Brad has that glint in his eyes like, "Hmm. I bet I could get into some trouble around here."
Whenever we went to resorts like this, our parents let us have the run of the place. We basically didn't see them for a week and just charged everything to the room. It was kinda like Kevin in Home Alone. A steady stream of ice cream sundaes and French Fries.
Brad and I had some scams going. We learned a few good card tricks and stopped drunk grown-ups in the lobby to take some money off them. We made daily rounds of the coin return trays in every pop machine at the resort. We'd rake in tons of coin which we would gamble at the nightly hermit crab races. Yes, they let kids gamble in those days at resorts. Probably not Vegas, though.
My dad looked a bit plump here. He yo-yode about 20 or 40 pounds throughout his life. When the lady at the farm referred to his ghost as 'lanky', she was definitely not referring to this time in his life.
I'm noticing between the people in the background and my family, check prints were all the rage. Now that I live on a farm full time, my closet is breeding flannel prints. Life comes full circle.
It wasn't until recently I made the connection that it was unusual for Canadian families to vacation in Venezuela in those days. Or even nowadays. My friends at that time were going camping in a station wagon with wood paneling with styrofoam coolers. Ah yes, good times.
Meg and I debated whether my dad was telling the truth about being the personal bell boy to Charles de Gaulle at the hotel La Pérouse when he was 13 years old, and getting fired for allegedly selling secrets to the press.
I stumbled across this photo of the then-future President of France in front of the La Pérouse during that era. Apparently, he lived at the hotel. Thus, we are inclined to believe my dad, especially since he never mentioned this to me or my mom, and only wrote about it in the manuscript. What would be his motivation for lying about it?
I love that era of the old guard press with their trench-coats, cigarettes hanging from their mouth and giant cameras. De Gaulle looks like such the dapper gent in this image.
This is my Uncle Tony's French passport photo. I think he looks a bit like the actor who plays Joel, Michael Zegen, from the series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisal. What do you think?
Although I don't remember Uncle Tony, I think I was five when he died, I was always curious about what really happened to him. My mom tells me he was a lovely man, and adored us children, spending lots of time playing with us at our home.
This is a current day map of the town where my father was sent to live during WW2 in France. Peyraube is located in the Pyrenees Mountains and about a 15 minute walk from a town called Tournay, which has more of a village.
My dad and step-mom went in search of this farm over 55 years after he lived there. As you heard in the episode, he did find the farm and the woman who owned it still lived there. She was in her 90s at the time and the house had not changed one bit. Even his bedroom was exactly the same, just as it had been in my own childhood farmhouse. More history repeating itself.
The townspeople threw my dad a parade as a 'son returning home', and even the mayor attended! I imagine, being a small town, he was more like the French version of Roland from Schitt's Creek. My father told me the old woman knew exactly who he was when she opened the door to him.
This is my father about two years after he emigrated to Canada from Paris. He complained in this manuscript that Canada was bleak, there was no sunshine, and it was misery. I'm going to challenge the whole bleak thing and I think this photo backs me up. What was he doing at the beach if it wasn't sunny?
I laughed at his comments to my grandmother about Canada being full of igloos and not much else. I can't tell you how many times in my own youth people in Florida earnestly asked me, "What's it like living in igloos?" or "What did you think the first time you saw a television?" Thinking we did not have such modern privileges in Canada.
FYI, if you have never been to Canada, it's like the USA minus the political ferociousness (we have hockey divisiveness issues instead) and we say; 'sorry', 'eh', and 'one large poutine, please' a lot.
This is my mom when she was 16 years old and her only sibling, Billy when he was 21. In this photo, he had already been diagnosed with cancer and lost a lot of weight. I believe he died not long after this photo was taken. My grandmother told my mom at his funeral, "It should have been you."
That's Billy's baby photo with the stuffed dog. Just as it was with me and my brother, Billy was my mom's only ally in the world and his loss was devastating to her, too.
As we uncover more truths about my family's history, I'm struck by how many 'history repeats itself' moments are revealed.
This is my mom when she was in nursing school. She recently told me her dream was to work as a nurse in the far north of Canada, in remote communities. She was after a bit of adventure and wanted the extra pay so she could save for her future. This dream jumped the track when she found herself pregnant at 19 years-old.
Mom was an excellent nurse. She was just born to do that kind of supportive, compassionate work. She especially enjoyed working in mental health.
Mom, now 81 years old, has never fulfilled a dream. I'm saddened by this. She found joy in simple things though, her pet dogs, cooking for the family, and binge-watching crime shows. She's pretty good at sleuthing out the plots. Makes me wonder how she didn't know what was going on in our home.
Have you fulfilled a dream in your life? If not, what's holding you back?
This one breaks my heart. Not just for my brother, or me who was also had learning disabilities, but for the fact that 45 years later the education still does not serve people like us well. This is one of society's biggest failures. Educational institutions are built for left brain math and science types.
Bradley ended up dropping out of school at age 15 and so did I. Brad went to work for the traveling carnival and had a horrendous time. He struggled with asthma and felt alone and scared.
It's my personal belief the entire education system needs to be torn apart and rebuilt from the ground up. Not offering environments for people like us to thrive leads to mental health issues, crime, and all sorts of negative social fall-out. I wonder what percent of inmates having learning disabilities?
There is a solution. I know there is. Maybe one day when I have the time, money, and energy I'll take the system on.
Meg gives us a tour of our not so professional 'professional' bedroom podcast studio at the farm. Hey, you have to make use of what you've got, right?
We record two episodes at a time, and each time I'm editing I discover how I can improve the quality of the audio.
The first two episodes have an echo. This is because we were using the internal microphones of the Tascam DX 40 recorder. I read the mics would be fine for this environment, but I wasn't happy with the outcome.
I purchased a couple of external mics for the next two episodes which improved the quality greatly. I found in editing that the 'p' and 'b' sounds were popping. I worked out we needed something called, 'pop filters' pictured in this video. One of the pop filters refused to stay screwed to the mic stand so I taped it to the arm which was really annoying. Still had a bit of the echo, though.
This is where the boxes and blankets come in. I read if you fill a room with 'soft stuff' it would absorb the noise. It worked, and you will hear this improvement in Episodes 5 and 6.
Like any new endeavor, it's tricky to know how much to invest, both time and money, if you don't know a project will work. A podcast launch feels just like starting a business.
When we began recording, Meg and I had only met in person briefly, twice. Neither one of us knew if we would have the chemistry to make the show. Thus, the reason I was trying to make do with minimal equipment in the event there was no 'magic' between us, or if we found the project was too complicated to make.
We didn't have any 'Family Secrets' when we recorded our first 6 episodes, so we had to share the first 2 episodes with friends and family and solicit for stories. We received several stories and chose two for our needs, simply dropping them into Episodes 3 and 4. That's why they sound a bit different than the main body of the episodes. At the time of this writing, we still don't have any suitable 'Family Secrets' for Episodes 5 and 6 but are hoping we will get some just after the official launch March 19th.
This podcast came together because Meg is a truly brilliant person. She has a great eye for digging through details, getting to the heart of the story, is compassionate, caring, community-minded, and incredibly talented. She's a strange hybrid between Loralei and Rory Gilmore.
Meg feels like a long, lost kindred spirit to me and I think it comes across in the show. Of course, being connected by a ring may have some secret meaning. If I'm being honest, I was hoping we would discover she was my dad's illegitimate child and my half-sister or there was some type of switched a birth scenario. Now that would have been a story, wouldn't it?