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A Winemakers Blessing

January 26, 2010

Sunday, we almost lost Angeline, for about five minutes.  Before I tell you the story, let me mention that this is the child I called chunk as an infant due to her roly-poly roundness. 

It was the celebration of St Vincent, the patron saint of all wine makers.  In our town this is a weekend event.  Representatives from the towns in Germany and Italy with which we are twin cities,  Jumelages,  make the trek to Bourg St Andeol to participate in the celebratory mass.   The guests of honor are the various commanderie’s, or brotherhoods represented in town;  of Cotes du Rhone, Olive farmers. 

They don their robes and funky hats and take their seats in the very first pews.  Shortly before the communion,  members from each commanderie makes his or her way to the rear of the church and chooses a basket, bushel or plate of various offerings to place at the foot of the altar.

This year we arrived at the mass on time, in fact, I should say this week.  We tend to get to the church just before communion.  Our early arrival, okay, we weren’t exactly on time but we arrived before the sermon, granted us a prime seat on the side aisle, right next to the rows of commanderie members, all of whom we know. 

When it was time for the procession to the altar, the two oldest girls were invited to carry a candle to place on the altar.  I remember as a child, participating in numerous activities that brought me to the front of the church;  children’s choir, youth service, Easter and Christmas pageants.  But in France, in this particular Diocese at least, there are not many church events which involve the kids, so anything they get asked to do, I encourage.  The active participation  makes church less of a boring hour sitting on a hard bench and being continuously hushed. 

After the service, our prime seating became a problem for a speedy departure, at least for the adults.  The brotherhoods, along with the local band, line up in the center aisle and make their way in a parade from the church to the apéritif , a 2 minute walk around to the end of the block and around the corner.  We got stuck behind the line up.  The kids however, slippery little girls that they are, darted and snaked their way between the lines out to the front of the church to watch the parade.  By the time I made my way out a side door, I found I was on the opposite side of the road from the girls.   I scanned the people and quickly spotted Olivia.  Soon after I saw Auriane, but no Angeline. 

The brotherhood’s, thinking of that first glass of Cotes du Rhone, were quickly lining up down the center of the road preparing to march off to the sound of the brass band.   Now this street, which curves around the side of the church, is one way and cobblestoned.  It is not a two lane main street blocked off with police escort so that hundreds of people can watch the parade.  But the 20 or so people milling about mingling with the parade waiting to follow behind to the apéro, managed to block my way and my view to the other side. 

“Olivia” I called waving to get her attention.  “Where’s Angeline?”  This elicited a shrug and a glance to either side.  I darted between the parade just as they began their march spotting my father-in-law nearby.  I asked if he’s seen her.  “Angeline?  She is outside?”  Yes, I nodded making my way to the small parking lot on the side of the church.  A quick look told me she wasn’t there.  At this point only about 5 minutes had passed since the girls snuck out of the church ahead of us and honestly, I really wasn’t worried.  Back on the main road, I fell in step with the parade, trying in vain to bypass the elderly women slowly making their way to the apéritif.  I reached the end of the road, rounded the corner and behold, Angeline, standing in front of our favorite bakery, watching the parade with her little red sac in one hand and three bags of bon bon’s in the other hand.  You see, Angeline know’s where to get the good stuff.  She apparently made her way out of  the church, decided she needed a snack, marched herself to the only bakery where she know’s exactly where to find the rack of candy, helped herself, and installed herself on a prime corner to watch the parade. 

Face red, more with embarrassment than worry, I whipped the still unopened bags of candy from her hand, snuck into the bakery with a howling Angeline behind, apologized to the woman behind the counter whom I see almost daily, replaced the bon bon’s and turned to leave.  Angeline and I did not see eye to eye as this action was met with little red sac and pacifier being hurled to the ground followed closely by her hat being ripped off her head launched at the feet of the entering customer.  Ten minutes after finally escaping the bakery with the kid and all her stuff, minus bon bon’s, I had to go back.  I forgot to buy bread!

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