Yesterday I had a long-overdue visit with Jean-Marie and Vicky Cercley. Jean-Marie was one of five boys who lived next door to me in a little courtyard at 13 Rue de la MaMora in Pt. Lyautey, Morocco, from 1954 until 1956. He and his twin brother, Claude, were about 4, his older brother Guy, was 5, his younger brother, Alain, was 3, and Patrick Tom was born in 1956, I think. I was the older woman next door--I was 6 in 1954. The picture to the right is of me, my mom, and my dad when we were in Pt. Lyautey. (I can't find any pix of the boys right now, but I will and I'll post them in an upcoming blog.)
My mom and dad were in their twenties and they found life-long friends in the parents of the five boys...Maurice and Hughette Cercley. At that time, Morocco was Maroc, and it was still a French territory. The city of Pt. Lyautey is now Kenitra, and I have no idea if the French/American air base where my dad was stationed is still an airbase at all. It's certainly not French or American! When the Arabs won their independence from France--I think it was in 1958 or 59, the Cercleys, like so many Maroc-born French, had to leave Morocco. They settled down in a suburb of Paris and missed Morocco every day for the rest of their lives.
Yet, somehow, the connections of that 2-year friendship have lasted long past the lives of our parents. Two years ago, I visited France and visited with Guy and Alain and their families. Patrick Tom passed away a few years ago, but the other four sons are hale and hearty and with the exception of Claude, I have seen all of them now in the past couple of years. Jean-Marie and Vicky live here in California--but north of San Francisco in Santa Rosa, and it just isn't as easy to see them as I would like. But it's definitely easier than seeing the other three in France!
So, yesterday's visit was heartwarming, information-packed, and fun. All of my family collected (my brother and his son, my sister, and my daughter) to visit with them, and although neither my brother nor my sister were born until we returned to the states, they met various members of the Cercley family over the years during visits and through letters. My mother and Hughette were sisters of the heart and loved each other as much as two sisters could love--even though they only saw each other twice after my family left Morocco. They died just a few months apart, and I like to think that they found each other wherever it is that they are now.
They both struggled to write to each other over the years. Hughette never did learn English, but my mom managed to learn enough French to translate her letters and with painstaking precision, she would share as much of our lives with Hughette through her letters as her French dictionaries would allow. In those days, trans-ocean phone calls were exhorbitantly priced, and there was no email for them to use. Airmail was their main connection with the very occasional phone call allowed for special events such as deaths, births, and announcements of upcoming visits.
My mom took me to France in 1978--three years after my dad died. We stayed with the Cercleys for several days. The stories around the dinner table were mostly about my father and the events of those precious 2 years in Morocco. Anyway, that family has always played a part in who I am and I know that I am better for them. So, Jean-Marie and his three living brothers are truly my oldest-time, dearest friends...I've known them longer than anyone else still on this planet in this plane of living. And, it fills my heart to know that they are still part of me.