Seize the opportunity — don’t squander it | Glass Half Full
Special to the Bonanza
I have recently returned from a most remarkable trip: 10 days in southern France with six of my female cousins. We were a somewhat motley crew: We encompassed a 10-year age range; included two sets of sisters; and hailed from Alabama, D.C., Maine, London, and Incline Village.
Two women had never met each other before. All of us have professional careers. All of us have children, mostly grown. Three of us have grandchildren. We are deeply committed to family (some of us are related through our great grandparents). There are only two of us who have not been divorced. We are, in many senses, a microcosm of society.
For a week, we seven stayed at a chateau that belongs to the London-based cousin, about an hour southeast of Toulouse, near Lautrec. The building itself was out of some movie.
The original turret and supports were constructed in the 12th century. While my cousin and her husband have added considerable modern conveniences, the fact is that the latest parts of the building were built in the 16th and 17th centuries. One of the bathrooms (in the 13th century turret) included small windows from which archers shot arrows.
That same room also housed the remnants — now glassed windows — of slits through which chains to raise and lower the (no longer existing) moat were affixed. The chateau was surrounded by fields of garlic and fields of gigantic sunflowers, the two main cash crops of the area. All told, the setting could not have been more magical.
It was our late night discussions that provided the most magic, however. Every evening we would create a true (vegetarian) feast, complete with a variety of cheeses and the inevitable fresh baguettes.
Everyone pitched in. One of the blessings of the trip upon which several remarked was that tasks were shared equally, without any formal assignments. Each woman prepared at least one meal; each woman cheerfully shopped, set the table, or cleaned up when the occasion arose.
I think I have never seen such equity in action. Following dinners, always outside around a huge stone table, we talked about life, about decisions we have made, about those we might have done differently.
We talked about our careers and supports and resistance along our paths. We explored our feelings about our heritage, much of which stems from the deep south. In the face of current racial strife across our nation and the strong feelings we share about equity, compassion, and human rights, we dared wonder how and who we might have been 150 years ago.
Our conversations were honest, self-reflective, and sometimes painful. The one constant was acceptance and support.
When first invited on this trip, I thought I couldn’t possibly go. Fortunately, shortly thereafter, I realized I couldn’t possibly not go. We came home with better understanding of ourselves, each other, and the amazing family from which we have grown. Should you ever have a similar opportunity, take it!
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.