After living in Paris for three years French Husband Chelsea (who was three months old) and I moved to the south of France, to Marseille. Our household items plus our car was shipped so we took the train to our new home. When we arrived in Marseille my first impressions were notable at the train station in Marseille,
I first for things I noticed:
1. That the wind was cold enough to freeze water into ice-cubes.
2. That the air smelled like pine trees.
3. That the French language sounded different.
4. And gold ball necklaces.
It seemed everywhere I went the necklace was dangling in front of me. I wasn't noticing faces, instead, I was seeing those darn balls of gold. I had a running conversation with myself, "Yeah she has one- Oh yeah her too- Hey, isn't she too young to be sporting balls already-- Wow, she dresses to impress, get a load of the size of those balls." Women, girls, and chubby babies with no necks had the necklace as a badge of some sort of Provencal honor it appeared. But what did it mean? Apparently, if you lived in Marseille and didn't have a gold ball necklace you didn't belong. I caressed my neck, feeling out of place or more so naked.
French Husband is not from the south of France. He didn't notice the gold ball necklaces even when I pointed it out to him hoping we could explain the Provencal culture trend or what was meant by the
"God what? Corey quit saying, "God balls!"
He said to me like I was making fun of God's anatomy.
"I am NOT saying, G-O-D balls, I am saying GoLLLLLd balls!"
After living in Marseille for a few months, I became a "Pro-gold-ball-observer." I could pick out the old gold ball necklaces from the newer ones. I learned that big gold balls didn't mean better and that the best ones were linked together.
Then one day I met an older woman who had lived in Marseille for over eighty years. She knew the best place to buy cheese, that Friday was the best day to buy fish at the Vieux Port, and that the Mistral wasn't just a name to describe the wind in the south of France.
She also had the answer to the gold ball necklace mystery.
The Collier Marseillais or Grain d' Or is a necklace that is added on to one-by-one as time goes by. When a girl is born she is given a chain with one gold ball. As each moment in her life comes to be the child is given another gold ball to string on her chain: A first word, a first tooth, the first step, her first day at school so that by the time of her 21st birthday or on her wedding day, the necklace will be ready to be linked. The young woman by then would have a necklace full of golden memories. Of course the wealthier the family the larger and more solid the balls of gold were.
"See mine?" My eighty-year-old friend asked and then added, "Gold balls that haven't any dents, are solid gold. They are by far the best." Madame also pointed out, "Nowadays, a baby girl is given a full necklace at her birth, there is nothing special about that, no "first" grain d'or to celebrate."
How do you honor your "first" time experiences? Here is hoping each memory is a grain d'or!