A benefit of an American lifestyle is having the occasional weekend off.
Yet the weekend is more French than American — le weekend!
In June 1977, over two weekends, I was in France with a French infantry marine unit. Those days imprinted the meaning of “weekend” on me even if I don’t get to weekend very often.
My guide for the exchange officer experience was an infantry marine platoon leader stationed on the Atlantic coast in Vannes. The unit was on alert to deploy to Djibouti, which had recently declared its independence from France. If there was trouble in the transition, the unit would head there.
Upon arrival at the train station I was driven straight to the officer’s club. I drank too many pastis before attending a reception in my honor — no one told me about the reception until several pastis had passed my lips. The non-commissioned officers lined up one aperitif after another in front of me with glee. Too drunk to be embarrassed, when someone mentioned the reception, I decided to leave the remaining drinks on the table, sober up, and listen and learn about the culture.
At the reception I practiced my French and mustered a dim comment about the Concorde, which was still new. The alcohol drove out my vocabulary so it was the best I could do.
In homes and apartments I briefly lived as French do. There was a continuous series of meals and events tied together with a notion of forgetting about work for a while. Weekends continue to be French in Big Grove, although with much less alcohol and no drunkenness. God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.
The garden is in, harvest begun and work remains to be done this Father’s Day weekend.
Weekends at home are a way to avoid expenses as I navigate from semi-retirement to full retirement in a few years. There is no extra money to drive into the county seat for “shopping,” nor is there adequate clothing in the closet to attend any galas to which I may be invited. Working at home avoids expense.
Saturday was the first of many harvests from the vegetable garden. Untold hours were devoted to planting, cultivation and now harvest of kale, celery, carrots, peas, spring onions, basil and oregano. It was exciting.
One of my outlets for excess produce has been workers at the public library. I prepared shares of onions, kale, oregano and basil in a cooler and drove them into town. One of the library workers gave me an acorn squash seedling for which I will find room.
Next I went to the grocery store where a neighbor and I talked for ten minutes about beer selections. He didn’t carry the union-made Pabst Blue Ribbon that would have been my first choice, nor did he have made in Canada Labatt’s Blue which would have been my second. Partly as political commentary I settled for a six-pack of a Mexican mass produced brand. Upon return home I iced three of them and two cans of Royal Crown Cola in the cooler.
The garden entered the summer phase and it’s time to break loose the broccoli.
Last year the broccoli crop was a failure. I decided to protect the seedlings with chicken wire a
nd they survived initial growth. It’s time to take the chicken wire off the individual plants and create a close fence that will keep deer from jumping in and allow the plants to spread their leaves. I scoped it out on Saturday and hope to free the broccoli later this morning.
Harvest is unfinished until the produce is washed, distributed and processed. In a kitchen garden like ours that means cleaning, storage and cooking which takes more time than one might expect.
For dinner I made peas and carrots, and kale-black bean-vegetable soup poured over brown rice made with a jar of home made tomato juice. By the end of Saturday I was very tired.
I took a course in African American Studies while in graduate school.
The late Jonathan Walton made the case that slaves were likely too tired to do much organizing after working a shift on Southern plantations. I learned a lot about the literature of slavery and its narratives because of Walton. I wasn’t sure what to make of his assertion, other than that slaves were people just as we are.
I yawned during class from time to time and Walton called me on it, inquiring about my condition… was the subject matter too tedious? Had I been up late the previous night? I tried to stay awake. It was a dry topic.
Everyone has an opinion about slavery. For the most part, people don’t directly favor it. It is a stain on our public consciousness that has not been removed, nor likely will be in my lifetime. I’m not sure what exactly that means in 21st Century America.
The term “wage-slave” is popular today, especially among people ascendant from low-paying work. Forced labor continues to exist unawares, notably through labor trafficking. Neither is the same thing the peculiar institution was.
Modern life has us removed from the actuality of things like neighboring, sharing and slavery and we are the less for it. This Father’s Day Weekend I plan to commune with what is actual — what is real. By doing so sustain our lives in a turbulent world.
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