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Thirty Years of Surprises

Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral

My sister got married thirty years ago today, a small wedding celebrated at our family’s favorite restaurant on Long Island. She and Jacques went up to Montreal the next day for their honeymoon, returned a week later for the wedding of our cousin John and Joan, and then were off to France, where they have been ever since (and, of course, where Jacques was before too). They would live in Clermont-Ferrand for three years, and I was fortunate to visit them there a couple of times, in summer and winter, before Joëlle and after Joëlle.

By the time I was ready to make my third visit, in August 1983, they moved to Paris. I was at a conference in Antwerp that month. Since they were just about to move when the conference ended, I temporized by heading up to Amsterdam, not a bad place to kill a couple of days. More good fortune — my friend Paul (a New Zealander then in England who would join me in Seattle three years later) was heading up to Amsterdam from the conference too, so we hung out together part of the time. And then I took the train down to Paris, arriving on their third anniversary, just in time to babysit for ten-month-old Joëlle in their new apartment while they went out to dinner.

Some time during my stay at the apartment, I decided to call this woman I had gone out with a few times just before heading to New York, London, Durham (another conference), and Antwerp. She was rather surprised. She would have been even more surprised — outright disbelieving — if someone had said that two years later we would ourselves be married and visiting my sister in the very same Paris apartment as part of our honeymoon. And on the list of surprises, who would have thought that Joëlle would now be living and working in Montreal, thirty years after her parents honeymooned there?

Well, yes, life is full of surprises. That’s hardly news. Nonetheless, it’s fun to watch as the surprises wash ashore.

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Categories: Family, Life
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