Here is a wonderful old photograph of my father, Emile, his mother Madeleine, and his sister Rosine (they were a mere 13 months or so apart in ages) in Paris in the early 1930s. I love my father's beautiful smiling face here.
Madeleine looks so elegant in her suit and that fabulous hat! She was quite a force of nature, charming and stubborn, generous and terribly opinionated in a way that could be quite shocking. She once told me she sequestered Rosine in the house when as a baby, Rosine had eczema on her cheeks. "Oh, zee 'orror, zee shame of it!" she explained. She was also known to deliver what the French call "a return ticket," a slap that went both ways across the cheeks if Emile or Rosine misbehaved at some public function. (It probably didn't happen too often -- but you know just the threat of it -- that glaring look, the hand in her lap quietly gesturing back and forth -- would have been enough to silence any naughtiness.)
But she was also indomitable -- the youngest of seven sisters, she fled France under Vichy (they were Jews) alone with her two children and came to the states to find her American husband. Years later after the divorce, (she never remarried) she settled in a tiny, tiny Los Angeles apartment (complete with a Murphy bed) and was a governess for Liz Taylor's children (taught them French), and later worked as a receptionist at a doctor's office. She worked into her 80s and saw a doctor only once after 1935, and that was after a minor stroke at 85. She lived well into her 90s, had her hair done regularly (ala Nancy Reagan -- whom Madeleine pronounced as "trés charmant." Politics just wasn't her thing!) and never, never, never lost her thick French accent, or her peculiar habit of transforming French into English with startling results. She once told me that she had made a "raped carrot" salad for a luncheon (her Frangelized version of the French "carrottes rappé," meaning grated carrots). She walked almost five miles every day, and revealed to me that her good health was due to the fact that she was a "street walker."
I have more photos and hope to post them as time permits -- or better yet, when I am back in the warmth of the desert!
*P.S. thanks E.P. for sending these!