Share Your Story Contest: Dave Winner of Week 16!
Congratulations to Dave from Des Moines, Iowa. Thank you for sharing your story about Avignon and the tradition that it inspired across generations.
My father died in 2000. He was a US WWII veteran who talked little of his war experiences. That’s why the post funeral discovery of a photograph of him in his military uniform, standing in front of a simple building with two windows, was so intriguing. On the backside of the photograph he had written: Avignon France July 1945.
I knew he had been somewhere in France during the war and knew he had life long affection for his time there, but knew few details. He would sometimes quietly share that affection and an aunt once asked me if I ever noticed that my father always gave “French” names to his favorite pets.
After discovering the photograph I knew I had to go to Avignon and find the exact spot where my father had stood in 1945, so my wife and I planned a trip of discovery to France for the next year.
We arrived in Paris in March 2002 and after a few lovely days there, boarded the TGV to Avignon confident we could easily find the photo’s location. However, two days of strolling Avignon’s streets and alleys yielded no discovery of the sought after location. We had great sorbet, toured the Palais des Papes area, walked the Avignon Bridge, dined well and enjoyed the pleasant Spring temperatures, but eventually assumed the photographed building must have been removed at some point since 1945.
We awoke on our third and last full day in Avignon and decided we would make one more effort to find the building in my father’s photograph. Surely it still existed and if it did, certainly we could find it. It was simply a matter of focusing our search.
The focus came from understanding who my father was and determining where he would have gone in Avignon. With his love of people it was obvious he would go where there was a concentration of people and in Avignon that place was the square near the Palais des Papes.
We had walked through the square numerous times, but this last day we returned with a single-minded purpose. Find the photo’s location. We entered the square, looked for the most logical gathering spots then turned to plan a search route. Right in front of us there was the building, with two windows, almost exactly as it had been photographed almost fifty-seven years earlier. We had found it.
We both laughed, yelled with joy. Then, of course, I cried. This is where my late father had stood in Avignon during the last year of WWII. And now, I stood in the same exact location. I dried my eyes, my wife photographed me and we quietly talked about the experience.
Six years later, my son and his new bride honeymooned in France and spent a few days in Avignon. I sent both photographs with him but did not tell him the location of the building with the two windows. Of course, they too discovered the exact spot and now we have photos of three generations in Avignon.
Today, my grandson is only four but I’m sure at some future date he will feel that same draw to Avignon and we’ll add a fourth photo to our family album of Avignon France.
Dave (Des Moines, Iowa)
Dave received his prize, a bottle of French champagne, from Honorary Consul of France Mark Schlenker at the Des Mones Bastille Day celebration.