Somewhere in France, there may be a grown woman who pauses once in awhile and remembers the kid on the bicycle who ran her over. “We’ll always have Presles,” she probably muses.
The year was 1964 or ‘65. Presles — a village where I, as a yoot of about 10, I lived with my family — is about 90 miles northeast of Paris.
I didn’t actually run over this girl, Marie France, who was about the same age. I just ran into her. See, I came roaring up behind her, thinking I’d show off by skidding to a stop inches behind her legs. Well, anyone can misjudge distance in that situation, don’t you know.
I kinda thought, “oops!” But Marie France apparently thought it was funny. She laughed, anyway.
Now here’s where it really gets weird. You see, in that same year, another American yoot in another French village was doing whatever girl yoots do. Her name was Minessa Tomlinson, and she was 4 or 5 years old. She’d never heard of me at that time, nor I her.
Well, Minessa went on to become Minessa Mesic, director of the Red Cross chapter of Brownwood, and I of course went on to become the famous chat jongleu de Brownwood.
You’re just not going to believe this. We recently discovered we’d both been in France, thanks to our Air Force dads who also didn’t know each other, the same years — 1964-’66. Is it a small world or what?
My dad was stationed at Laon Air Base, France, and her dad was at the Air Force base at Evreux, in the Normandy region of northwestern France.
All of us unenlightened Americans pronounced Laon “loan,” even though we knew it wasn’t really correct, but it was easier than the proper French pronunciation, which was, approximately, “Lohn.” The air base, as I understand it, had been a German Luftwaffe base in World War II, which had ended just two decades earlier.
Since I was but a yoot, my memories of those days are a little better than vague, a lot less than crisp. Minessa, being an even younger yoot at the time, remembers bits and pieces of places and events in that Nordic country.
“I was born and raised in Texas and ended up in France for a few years,” Minessa mused.
Her dad was already in France when she boarded the Queen Elizabeth with her mother and two siblings for an ocean crossing. She marvels that her mom, in her early 20s, managed to get three kids from a small town in Texas to Chicago and then New York, where they sailed.
Our own trip was a little less complicated — a six-hour flight in a Boeing 707, with all the Air Force guys wearing their dress blues, accompanied by their wives who, I’m sure, wondered what they were getting into, and their kiddies.
I remember watching out the window as the agrarian French countryside slid beneath the big swept-back wing as we descended into what was then Orly Field in Paris. And just like that, we were in a foreign country, strangers in a strange land. Foreign country? It was a foreign century. But it was an adventure.
Minessa remembers the Eiffel Tower, which was, and probably still is, the coolest place in Paris. It’s way cooler than the Louvre and that painting — what’s it called, the Something Lisa?
She remembers being at the Paris Air Show in ’65. I was there, too, and it was the coolest event in Paris.
We remembered some of the movies we attended in our respective bases’ theaters — we both saw “Help!” “The Ghost and Mrs. Chicken” scared her. I didn’t understand any of the creepy “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte” but some of its scenes like to gave me heart failure.
I axed Minessa if she thought my story about running into Marie France on my bicycle was funny.
“’Funny?’” Minessa repeated thoughtfully.
“Not ‘funny,’ Minessa she said. “Uh … human interest — it’s kinda cute but not laughing funny. It certainly seemed like something a little boy would do. It didn’t make me laugh. It made me smile. I can see you doing it.”
Steve Nash writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.