Chateau is the French word for castle. For those weeks I firmly engrained “chateau” into my vocabulary. We were in La Dordogne for nearly two weeks, touring the valley of a river in Western France whose banks are scattered with Chateaux.
It was just the three of us since my son was away at summer camp with friends. Visiting the Chateau de Beynac, walking among its cobblestone paths, in the summer heat with the breathtaking Dordogne River in the background, it was hard to imagine that there was a time when these places were less than idyllic.
This region was once so dangerous and vulnerable to attack that people had to live within fortressed villages just to protect themselves.
Of course, humans are now vulnerable to different sorts of attack, not just that which comes from each other. My husband’s ulcer flares up from time to time and my daughter’s Prader Willi Syndrome will affect her for life. These problems generate similar fears to the ones people held before – fear of survival – of not being loved- the age old threats take different forms now.
On the day we were walking up to the top of the most majestic part of the Chateau de Beynac, we were in the heat, sweating, stopping to admire the view and trying to help four-year-old Ollie keep from slipping on the cobblestones. Each turn in the path revealed a new part in the labyrinth of small alcoves; we climbed the perimeter of the uppermost, fortressed part of the castle and posed Ollie for photos for our summer family scrapbook.
The pieces of moments that stay with me are Ollie smiling with the Dordogne in the background; Ollie laughing and catching her hat as it almost blew away in the wind; my husband and I trying to get a selfie while taking a quick kiss on the cheek, hoping to add one more photo to a sequence we have of cheek kisses in many parts of the world; all of us squinting in the sun, our skin glistening with perspiration.
This could very well have been one of the happiest days of the year for us as a family, it certainly was for me- a day when we were afflicted not by ulcers nor appetite, nor aware of our human limitations, just that we are loved and that a walk through a chateau with one another is one of the great gifts of life.