“Because I love him a lot,” was my response when I was asked why I wanted to write a piece about my grandpa. And to say that is truly an understatement.
My relationship with my grandparents, especially my grandpa, Robert Bassot, has grown and matured over the years, but it remains one of the strongest bonds I have in life. The love and care I have for him overflows my heart.
My grandpa comes from a modest French family. He was born on April 10, 1930, at 8 rue du berger, Agémont. (the address). He is a child of war and to this day remembers it all. His dad was rescued from battle for medical reasons, and lived in this little village in Lorraine, Agémont. In 1939, his family was forced to host a young German soldier in their home, and my grandpa had to give up his room for him.
My grandpa experienced traumatizing things during the war that he cannot talk about. But often he cries in his dreams. And in that dream, which takes place during WWII, he cries out for his mom — a high-pitched cry resembling the voice of a young boy, and probably the voice he had during the war. This dream comes back whenever he talks about war or sees some footage of WWII on TV. It breaks my heart every time. But these unknown, horrifying events that happened to him shaped his character and the values he has today. He is kind, loyal, generous, hard-working, passionate, smart and so funny.
Now, you should also know about Agémont. Agémont is the village where my grandpa was born and raised, in the east of France. The village has a total of 30 habitants, and probably an equal amount of cats and cows. It has a church. It had a school that became the public library in 1960. It has a washhouse where my grandpa’s mom would wash her clothes. The village has many fruit trees that overflow in the summer. And in that village, at the end of a cul de sac, is the house my grandpa was born in, which he now owns. The village is my grandpa’s heart. It gives him life, and therefore gives me life as well. And the amount of memories that have been created there is absolutely incredible. My heart is beating faster just by thinking about it.
Agémont is also the place where my grandpa met my grandma and began their journey, hand in hand. Mauricette Leclerc sat on her regular bus in 1956. Robert Bassot sat next to her. They fell in love, took the bus together for a few months and vowed to always love and care for one another until they died. And they still do this 62 years later, sometimes taking the bus together and reminiscing about the past, or simply doing daily banal things, like going to their favorite cheese merchant at the local market and getting a fresh camembert from a local farm.
My grandparents are always there for their community. They gift neighbors with leeks from their garden, or my grandma makes a plum tart with fruit from Agémont and offers it to the lonely lady down the street. They love to go shopping and even sometimes stop for a little coffee on the main square of their town. And they can people watch for hours, commenting on the funniest things and very often seeing someone they know.
I have so many memories with my grandpa. One that is especially dear to me is when we would pick mushrooms in the forest and in some cow fields. It would take all day. We would wake up early and have a filling breakfast, usually toasted brioche with butter and jam, with a coffee for my grandpa and hot chocolate for me. We would grab cookies and water in our pockets and went on the road. We would drive 20 minutes or so and park the car at the start of the forest and start walking. My grandpa would know every mushroom, its name and if it was toxic or not. He would recognize them from far away by their appearance, color and smells. We would fill wicker baskets full of mushrooms, big, small, brown, beige, and grey and continue our promenade. We would spend hours there and sit on a tree swing and eat our cookies. When we would bring our mushrooms home, we would put them on the living room table and count them. And after having sorted them and made sure they were comestible, looking in our mushroom encyclopedia, we would make them into an omelette, a rich, buttery mushroom omelette that was always so delicious. It would melt in our mouths and we would be so proud to have everyone taste our recolte. We still do it to this day. And the omelette is still as good as the one I had 20 years ago.
The compassion between my grandparents and I is as large as our age difference. We have an unshakeable bond that has always united us, right since I was born and they became grandparents for the first time. A precious time together is always cherished to its fullest. My grandpa and I always go grocery shopping together, roaming the alleys, looking for snacks or for meal ideas for the days to come. Just being with each other makes the the day worth it. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
There is always something to eat on my grandparent’s kitchen table. Always homemade. Ever since I was born, there have always been cakes, cookies, tarts, cream choux puffs, and everything imaginable. And every night, at such a casual routine cadence, we surround the dinner table and drink verbena herbal tea from the garden and a square of dark chocolate. It makes us feel warm inside and sleep well.
My love for them overflows my heart. And my time in France with them is just always marvelous.
Header image courtesy of Agathe Muller