Today is election day, and we’re gnawingly anxious about the results. We’ve been gnawingly anxious for the last two years, and the outcome of today will either grant some measure of hope or will plunge us further into the abyss. Or both. But we’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning to know anything, as France is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

In the meantime, the photos of ballots piling up on Facebook are a welcome connection to home, and the incredible hospitality of my father’s second cousin, Jean-Louis, and his wife, Claire, are a fantastically nourishing gift. Claire’s French cooking has all of us in disbelief over how good food can be (Quiche Lorraine! French cheeses and wines! Coffee with chocolate and ginger! Salads and sausages and jams! Mirabelle plum desserts!), and Jean-Louis has carefully preserved relics from our family history, including my immediate family history. He kept the note that my father left on his door in France, 45 years ago, introducing himself to his second cousin and promising to return later for a vist. He had a letter that my father wrote to him the night before my father married my mother. He had my father’s campaign sign for County Commissioner back in the early 90’s (my father was a Democrat in Northern Idaho, and he did not win. May the Democrats do better today…). He had a letter that my great-uncle wrote from Idaho to his grandfather in France, inquiring the age of my great-grandmother as she did not know when she was born and her children thought she might be old enough for “old-age benefits.” He even had a wall of United States license plates, including an Idaho one that my father gave him from one of our old vehicles.

After the kids were done with homework and we had all benefitted from the journey through family history, Jean-Louis and Claire took us to the elegant Stanislas Square in the city of Nancy, and we strolled through a beautiful Japanese garden and visited a Daum glass sculpture store. It was gorgeous, and included a statue that cost approximately the same as the sum of all of our expenses past and projected for this year abroad! We also toured a bit of the city, saw the city gate and the palace of the dukes, walked through a large park in full fall splendor, and visited some jaw-droppingly enormous apartment complexes that were built in response to the city’s homelessness problem. It was fascinating.

In the evening, we went to the home of Jean-Louis and Claire’s son Guillame (my third cousin), and the boys played with their fourth cousins, Lino and Loris. For a family that looks relatively (ha! I didn’t do that on purpose!) removed on paper, we have felt incredibly at home with our French relatives. They have been so kind, so lovely, and so welcoming. And to be here in this land where my family lineage traces back at least as far as the 1600’s, for the first time in my life, is amazing and wonderful.

Stanislas Square with Jean-Louis and Claire:

The beginning of a beautiful friendship:

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Follow-up letter from my father to Jean-Louis:

 

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Idaho election history:

Daum glass art!