Good Moments in Grettely
I know a family that would be the envy of all families if they were allowed to take part in their history as I have. My story with them started back in college, when Greg was dating one of my friends. Now, this friend has gone via her own path and Greg is married to a wonderful woman named Marie, without whom the story could never be as good as it is today. Little did we know, back during those days, though we weren’t very close, we planted the seeds of a blossoming friendship that has extended to his brother, his sister and slowly his family and other friends. These are a group of people you feel lucky to have in your life. They bring others together, they have a good heart and they know what it means to be a good friend. Moments spent with them are always moments where you stop and think, “I have a good life full of amazing people.”
These are the Lartilleux. Most of you probably can’t pronounce that name, but it doesn’t matter. In my stories you probably know them as Greg, Marie, Emmanuelle and Romaric.
Their mother’s side of the family owns a farmhouse in the Vosges, a mountain region in the east of France. The house has been in the family for almost 50 or 60 years now, bought by the grandparents in an attempt, from what I understand, to make sure their past and the spirit of the community lives on as the rest of the world moves ahead and leaves it behind. It’s one of the last populated houses in this part of the area, one of the other’s being occupied by the family’s cousin, echoing the roots of their father’s family who came from the region. During the summer, Mama Lartilleux (Anne-Marie) and two of her siblings, gather the family to spend weeks and weekends together. Many French families have some form of other home, where they can gather – I hope I have enough euros for one of my own someday.
The house has a name, it’s called “Grettely”. Being invited to Grettely is a privilege. When the whole family is together, the walls hold 16 people and there always seems to be room for one more.
The house has seven rooms, each with a name that has been lovingly cross-stitched onto a small pillow that hangs on every door. The “kids”, all of whom are now 17 or older sleep in the top room, on 5 beds and mattresses strewn about the floor. Everyone sleeps until they feel like getting up.
Spending time in Grettley is a step back in time to days where life was more simple. There is no TV, no internet, no dishwasher. The stove is still fed with firewood and the table cloth on the family size picnic kitchen table is the same red and white checkered table cloth that has covered it since Anne-Marie was a little girl, though I imagine it has yellowed a bit with age. We drink water that comes straight from the mountains in a little stream of water that flows in the garage.
What do you do at Grettely? Well you eat – long French meals full of jokes and singing and good times. You hear the French call “a table” to gather at the table and there is a bell at the front door that is rung, so those who are gallivanting about know it’s time to come back.
Dinner is often a mix of lively debate on politics and current affairs, which I politely opt out of to the disappointment of Papa Lartilleux (Dominique) and Uncle Laurent, and crazy stories, whether true or made up, in which I avidly try to take part.
Most days include a hike through the surrounding area where you get a good dose of forest that reminds me of Colorado, where you see the vestiges of farmhouses of old, pass little lakes, and make your way through wheat and heather fields. Along the way, Uncle Laurent brings the area to life with stories of old. He describes a little farm community café where locals met to share drinks and like, tales of their daily lives. On the walks, you naturally walk in twos or threes and share the details of your lives. I imagine that many a life changing conversation has happened on the trials around Grettely. There is a spot where the fields meet the road and you have to drink Schnapps from a flask in order to come back to Grettely. Of course I drank – it warmed the inside and it warmed my heart.
|Uncle Laurent, our hiking leader.|
Grettely forces you to use your imagination to pass the time. We play games, invent stories, make movies (activities have advanced even though there is still no TV or internet), share pictures from adventures. I imagine this is why the Lartilleux are so creative. The lastest feature film made in Grettely is an Oscar contender.
|Passing the time in creative ways.|
I love Grettely.
The newest member of Grettely is Penelope, the two year old daughter of Greg and Marie. She has a fan club that takes mini-steps with her through the forest. Along the way we all help her to discover horses and frogs, to savor the joy of stomping through mud puddles and to pose for another picture so we can document these moments. She begins the third generation of children who will grow up knowing the Vosges and the love that warms the walls of Grettely.
I feel so lucky to have been a part of it.