An envisioning . . . mid afternoon in 1809 in a villa somewhere in Switzerland.

Oh to be here

Mid afternoon in 1809 in a villa somewhere in the more unfashionable outskirts of Zurich.

The trunks brought down and a granddaughter with the key. Grandmama’s it must be. Has the scent of faded rose and chrysanthemum from her favorite perfume.

Frock after frock and some old baby clothes. An envelope at the very bottom with Grandpapa’s name.

What looks like a blotted kiss. A true memory, it must have been. Grandmama able to get out when the Terror started but Grandpapa already in prison and trapped. Guillotined but who knows when. So traumatic that no one could ever recall.

Years that are in snippets like ribbons that float through the air from one of the peasants’ maypoles that soar and sink. Versailles, Trianon and a cousin that was a special friend of the queen.

Picnics by fountains and plays to be in. Gambling that went way into the night. Being a domino at the masquerade ball at the Paris Opera.

Wedding dress by Mlle. Bertin but that cannot be. Dressmaker to Marie Antoinette. A frock from them and no one would have been able to afford to eat for life.

But maybe. Only two rings and the design left. For Grandpapa’s last ball, the note says in letters so tiny and cramped up that they take younger eyes to read.

Everything else gone for a bribe at the border. Safe but not rich anymore except for memories . . . .all one has . . .. even the ones that were Grandmama’s . . . .. they will live forever until the king comes again and everyone can go home.

Embroidery design for a gentleman's waistcoat pocket. ca. 1785. French.
Embroidery design for a gentleman’s waistcoat pocket. ca. 1785. French. Fabrique de Saint Ruf, designer. Cooper Hewitt Museum. via

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