Growing Old With Claudette In Mind by Kathleen McAnear Smith

Growing Old with Claudette in Mind Claudette is her real name, but I’m not even mildly worried you would ever find her, even if you wanted to. She lives deep in a French countryside village, and she might not answer her door. While never intentionally rude, her hearing aid isn’t what it used to be and she might not hear you ring the bell. You must know which side door to knock. I only got to meet her when visiting an extended family member. She lived just across the dirt path and was at the age where someone in the village was sent for a daily check, and perhaps a little conversation. I claimed the honour of taking a box of chocolates to her. I thought she was beautiful, and I have always snapped at every chance to learn from someone just a stage in life ahead of me. I had three reasons on that chocolate day to see Claudette. Number one, I thought and still think she was/is beautiful. Her tiny frame, her beautiful classic clothes that were in no way tattered or smelling of moth balls, her smile of welcome enchanted me. Yes, in thinking about it I just wanted to know how you got that old and radiant. The second reason had to do with her toleration of an American who did not speak French. She spoke French and that was enough. She would teach me. She took me through her glistening cabinets of glass and gold treasures that sparkled history. “And this was from Le Resistance.” She said as I was allowed to slowly open the wood and glass cabinet doors, and touch things. “As in THE WAR?” I raised my eyebrows and remembered a high school vocabulary word “Le Garre?” “Oui.” She smiled, lowered her head, took my chin in her hand. “mes enfants.” For two minutes I felt young. But the third reason is that Claudette said via gestures and grimace and a dusty dictionary, that she read poetry. She showed me books, and magazine cuttings and even an American poem she seemed to like. Claudette said poetry would keep me young. “It is my secret. To youth!” Even I could understand that much. “Poems? Which ones?” If I was going to start reading poetry, I wanted a little more than Edgar Allan Poe to go on. “Spirit,” she said. “Experience. Poetry is a religious experience.” Now she was pointing to her Catholic cross on the wall and doing charades with her hands. “Always start with Neruda,” Claudette said in very plain and perfect English. “Go for the romance of God.” Feeling pulled to a new genre that was out of my writing depth, I pulled my Political Science Degree card, “but wasn’t he a communist?” There was twinkle in her eye, a French Gaelic shrug, a brushing of her immaculate navy cardigan with gold buttons at the cuff. “Chocolate, mes enfant? A little wine?” No wonder the whole village loved a little visit.
Kathleen has written three how-to books and from time to time she works on her novel, but is taking a research approach to writing poetry.You can purchase her book, Beyond Broken Families on She is learning how to sell her books on Amazon.

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