This is for those of you who like a good story. For the dreamers, the hopeless, those who stopped believing in love and the magic of life.This is my parents love story. 👫 ❤️
My mom grew up in a beautiful, quiet city in western France, near Bordeaux, in a house with self-made drapes, only a 5 minute walk away from the Atlantic Ocean. My grandma named her Céline, she was also the one who named me. At the time, my mother was a sweet, quiet girl, rather shy, with her nose buried in a book at all times. She was a perfectionist about school, a caring big sister to her baby brother.
Just like me, my mom preferred having a few close friends to hanging out with lots of people. Her best friends name was Nathalie, and they did everything together. They went to the beach every day and talked for hours and hours after school. When my mom was about 14 years old, she signed up for a student exchange program at her school and traveled 1.300 km (810 miles) to Germany. She got into a family with a girl her age, her name was Monja. My mom and her got along very well, even though she was kind of a bit of work. Lovely, but a little exhausting, dominant personality, but with a good heart. She was the kind of friend that would push you a little, that you just could not say no to.Monja, unlike my mom, had a huge circle of friends. The place where Monja lived was nothing like the city my mom grew up in: There were many tiny villages near each other, but mostly nature and not a lot to do, which forced the kids there to get creative:
Every kid who lived somewhat near would come to meet up at night by the river and pretty much all people their age would come. The group consisted of at least 30-40 kids, sometimes more, and everyone would get along, but there were smaller groups of friends who had stronger bonds. They would meet all the time and have huge campfires by the river or in the woods, talk for hours, drink, play games, spend actual time with each other and go on adventures until the sun would rise. To my mom, this was a new experience and a chance to grow and live. Her German wasn’t really good, but she would try and talk English with people and they liked her accent (and her face, that’s for sure).
At the time, Monja had a huge crush on this guy called Stephan, who was very tall and very funny, and unlike her, very uncomplicated. This is how my parents met, my dad was one of Stephans closest friends. His name is Jürgen, but all his friends called him George. He was nothing like my mom: he lost his own dad at a very young age and since his mom had to work all the time to support him, he went to boarding school and was home for the summers and holidays only. He was reckless, loud, a very social and confident guy. He seemed to be friends with everyone, get along with whoever he met and befriended new people all the time. He did crazy things with his friends, like repair broken cars that were left on some junkyard, teach themselves driving and have races on cornfields (and almost kill themselves a few times). He lived like he was immortal like nothing really mattered in the world. He had blondish-red curly hair down to his shoulders, played the guitar in his own rock band and every girl had a crush on him (at least that’s what he always says). Since Monja had this massive crush on my dad’s funny friend, she would insist on going to these meetups all the time. It might have been annoying to my mom at first, but as she started to get to know people, it really grew on her. Imagine going away from a strict and conservative household for the first time and ending up someplace amazing, meeting tons of new exciting people. Spending the nights with friends under a sky so full of stars there was not much black left in the sky. Oh, and of course she fell “in love” with my dad right away and did not want to go home, even though she was missing her parents and the sea like crazy.
Before she left, she obviously had to write a very dramatic love letter to my dad that she left with Monja, so that she would give it to him once she was gone. At this point, she was pretty sure to never come back there, as the student exchange program was only meant for the people in her grade, she had nothing to loose. My mom and Monja stayed in contact as far as I know, but she did not hear from my dad. Time passed. My mom had to move away to be able to go to a lycée (which is basically high school) with her best friend Nathalie and had a shared a room with a girl from her old school, that went to the student exchange program with her back in the day. This girl ALSO fell for a guy there, her name was Magalie. From what my mom told me, she was truly and purely e v i l. She tried her best to have my mom know she was the actual devil’s spawn. She picked fights with my mom all the time, planned schemes against her, would exclude her from everything, take tons of people home to party without telling her (they shared a one bedroom) when she was in her pajamas or when finals were coming up and she needed to study. She would constantly hide all her dirty plates in the cupboards or make my mom do all the dishes. Also, my grandparents did not have a lot of money and were very young still. They were so proud of my mom for doing such a good job at school and worked their butts off for her to live in this apartment near her school. She also had to take a huge boat every day to get to school. They paid most of their rent, which they were supposed to share, but Magalie would pay less and less, eat my mom’s food, have very expensive long phone calls with her German boyfriend and pretended she didn’t when my grandparents confronted my mom with a phone bill that was basically twice her rent. My mom and Nathalie even caught her once on a mission to prove to her parents that it wasn’t her fault and the story always makes me laugh. So this Magalie girl would skip her classes and focus on being horrible instead, so my mom had to deal with her never letting her choose the tv program in their room.
One day, my mom got a phone call from her old school telling her that they needed more students to go on the same student exchange program again because they did not have enough and that her partner, Monja, had signed up too and asked if she wanted to go basically for free. I’m pretty sure she was gone a few hours later.
So my mom went to Germany again. Nothing had really changed. Monja was in a VERY dramatic relationship with her crush from back in the days, Stephan. And of course, my dad was there too. When I asked my dad about the love letter, he jokingly said: “you know, I just put it with all the other love letters I got”. But he and my mom started talking this time. At their parties, they would sit next to each other and my dad would give my mother his jacket and put his arm around her. I also remember my mom telling me something about a first kiss in the backseat of their friend’s car. While Monja broke up with Stephan and (as he still says today, gave him the worst heartbreak of his life) my mom and dad fell in love so deep the ocean would be jealous. My parents were facing a difficult future: They were both young and broke students, internet did not really exist, neither did smartphones or texts and phone calls from Germany to France were ridiculously expensive. When my mom got home, they talked maybe twice a week on the phone, when my dad was at work and managed to steal the work phone for 20 minutes, which was less expensive for both somehow. My mom said she just had to think of him and dream of him at night.
After 6 months, my dad bought a very old and crappy car and drove 10 hours to be with her. 🚗🌍My grandpa was not too thrilled about this, to say the least. He did not even let him in the house and made him sleep in a tent on a campsite instead. He also made them take my mother’s little brother with them to dates, who would blackmail my mother and threaten to tell my grandpa they kissed if she didn’t do what he said 😀 My dad also seems to be very sure my grandpa made him eat all kinds of seafood on purpose to mess with him (ew). He was able to drive down to see my mom every 4 to 6 months, but they had everything going against them. My mom’s biggest dream was to go to Germany and live with my dad, but my grandparents forced her to finish school since they wanted her to have an education before she risked everything at the time for a guy. My mom’s last school year was not too bad though, her roommate moved out to go live with her German boyfriend (not without rubbing it in my mom’s face first of course) and she had the apartment to herself. My grandparents didn’t let her leave until she was around 19 and had finished a diploma at a tourism school and everyone was madly proud of her. My grandpa, a very proud man, was so heartbroken to see his little girl leave, he could not even come to the train station to say goodbye to her. She always described this moment as one of the hardest in her life, she loved her parents like crazy and leaving them broke her heart so much she almost could not do it.
As amazing as it was finally being with the love of her life, my parent’s problems did not stop. They were so poor they could hardly afford to eat. My dad had a job at a post office in a gray, ugly city and my mom had a hard time pursuing a career since her German was very bad and no one would recognize her French diploma. When my dad had to attend community service, my mom was alone in a one room apartment all day, no friends, nothing to do but crappy cleaning jobs and her night job at the bakery. My dad always tells me how she rearranged his furniture almost every day. She missed her home and her family, the sea and especially her own mom very very badly. Even though she was happy to be with my dad, she was no longer romanticizing Germany, as it was not all campfires and happiness anymore.
Eventually, things got better. My dad got promoted and they moved to the small village where they first met, my mom got a decent job in the pharma industry, which she still has today. My parents rented a two bedroom apartment, where my brother and I lived with them until we moved into our house, where my parents planted lots of trees and berries and vegetables and a million flowers. My dad built swings for my brother and me and taught us how to climb trees and pick fruit and make marmalade.
Monja and their other friends still lived there as well: Monja married the guy she left my dads funny friend Stephan for and they got two annoying little girls my mom tutors in French. Stephan married an amazing woman he met after the breakup, they have a really cool daughter and own the biggest music collection I have ever seen in my life. They were also the first ones in my parent’s friend group to use my brother’s pronouns right after he came out as FtM transgender and openly supported him. All of them are still best friends today and drink a lot of wine at parties together, where I got to listen to all their funny stories.
I was incredibly lucky to spend every holiday there was, including the whole summer at my grandparent’s place at the ocean, in the sun, my second home. In the winter, my grandparents often came to Germany to be with us for Christmas and it was the first time my grandpa had seen so much snow before. Sometimes, they would surprise me on my birthday and I would look outside and see them kiss in the flowers.
If this story teaches you anything, it’s that true love is out there. That happy ever after exists and it exists for you too, but probably not in the way you expect it. That love is hard and a lot of work and sacrifice, but if you love each other you will literally move mountains to be together. It teaches us that hard work will pay off, that patience is important, that your current situation is not your final destination.
Love wins you guys. If my parents could do this- so can we.
All you have to do is believe & love.
All the pictures in this post were taken in my mom’s hometown, Royan sur mer, France.