It's In the Genes
The men were gathered around the kitchen table, talking about what men talk about around those circumstances. One of the men was the family doctor. The women were upstairs in the middle bedroom. One could hear the creaking footsteps from below. The doctor would go up once in a while to make sure all was ok. And then it happened. The doctor went upstairs and suddenly a loud scream could be heard. Bonjour, I am alive, red hair and all…the future Mrs. Hedges. In those days it was common in France to be born at home and like my grandmother before me and my mother I came to life in the same home they did. The miracle of birth happens every day but what happens next is all influenced by your family’s traditions and what they do for work as well as your surroundings, the people you meet, the school you attend, the country you live in, and of course your personal interests and desires.
Talking about family, my grandfather, on my dad’s side, was a small entrepreneur, specializing in repairing castles and churches, including a lot of roofs. The scaffolding in those days was not like it is today. My grandfather would climb up the clock or bell tower, attached a harness to himself and somewhere inside the tower wall. Then, through a small opening, he would climb onto the roof and repair whatever had to be repaired. Can you imagine repairing a church steeple in those days! Thinking of that, I wonder why our son, Christophe, is so fascinated with old construction methods and building with stone…must be in the French genes!
My dad loved to talk about his childhood, growing up with an entrepreneur/artist father, there were a lot of stories. One of his favorites was that his father did not bring much money home, but the family never lacked food. You see my grandfather loved what he did and if the owner of the chateau could not pay him in cash, they would pay him in food from the garden or the hunting they did in the fall. My grandmother stayed home, raising her two sons and for some reason it worked for them. However, extra money was not refused and so my dad started at a young age helping the bread maker before school. He would get up really early and work on the dough for the baker to start baking in the morning. He loved the work and the smell of the bakery. The free morning croissants that he would bring home, were not a bad thing either. Who knows, maybe he would have become a bread maker if life had not taken him in other directions. Talking about bread, our daughter, Sarah, loves to bake bread and she is becoming quite an accomplished bread baker. It must be in the genes!
My other grandfather, on my mom’s side, was also an entrepreneur. Well actually he married into an entrepreneur’s family and since he was quite charismatic, clever and a born salesman, he grew the business to a comfortable size to allow him and his family a certain lifestyle. He became friends with winemakers in Champagne, where we lived, as well as winemakers in Burgundy and in the Rhone valley. Yes, he was a “Bon Vivant” who loved his wine and his wine friends. Sometimes buying a barrel or two of wine at a time, which he would bring to the cellar. That was a dramatic experience! Ropes, hooks, and skids…and so would the barrel slide down to the cellar. We would bottle the wine ourselves. I remember the corking device. For me, it looked like a torture machine. Kids always have those strange ideas in their heads! By the way, I grew up in the same household with my parents and grands parents. Not that common anymore but in those days quite acceptable. Weekend lunches and dinners were nearly always with family, friends or business clients. My grandparents’ dining room table could sit 20 people comfortably. Wine flowed freely, food was gourmet (my grandmother loved to cook) and stories were fanciful…well some of them where not for kids’ ears. What a coincidence that Tom and I started a winery and our daughter, Sarah, became a winemaker. It must be in the genes!
Well, what about the ladies in the family? My grandmother on my mom’s side helped in the business but her main role was giving orders. She was a different type of lady for sure. I would say headstrong, demanding and opinionated. She grew up an only child and was pretty spoiled. She loved cooking and gardening and very often said that she would have preferred owning a restaurant rather than a stocking factory. She was a very good cook but for some reason did not care about sharing her secrets. She loved to eat out in restaurants and if a dish pleased her, she was not shy about asking the chef for his/her recipe. Our son and daughter, love cooking. It must be in the genes!
I save the best for last. My mother, Yvonne, was a lovely lady, who could have done amazing things had the war not interfered with her life. Her catholic high school had a reciprocal program in England, and she was accepted to finish her last year of high school in London. She was supposed to leave just when the war was declared. Her parents kept her home and her life changed dramatically…but that is a book in itself. After the war she became an accountant and worked in the family business. At one point, she also became Mayor of our little town. For over 30 years I have done the accounting for our winery and vineyards. I guess accounting must be in my genes!
From a French family business to an American family business, life is what you make it, but it sure seems that for the Hedges, life seems to repeat itself through the generations.
To your health,