On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
This series was created by Alain Chamot (1971-2020).
Today we have Paris Through A Life, and what a life it was. Thank you for sharing your mom and her life with us. ~WaterGirl
Empress of the Known Lute World
My mother, Alice Frayer Usher, had a life-long relationship with Paris. At the age of 8 (c. 1926) she spent a year attending a girl’s school just north of Paris and learned French by immersion. She also got chilblains. In those days, when the children got pain au chocolat for a snack, it was just a piece of ordinary French bread with a hunk of chocolate.
Mom grew up and became an artist, studying sculpting at the University of Michigan and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, married and had kids. After WWII my parents “adopted” a Parisian girl whose family had been bombed out of their home, sending care packages with clothing, food and such. Mom was able to correspond with them in French, and our family is still in touch with Christiane and her family.
In later years Mom often traveled to France, and while there in 1988 she painted this tribute to Paris.
“A L’escargot” (At the Snail [bistro]) is made from an actual map of Paris. She turned the winding sequence of the arrondissements into the body of a snail. They are numbered in blue to match the river Seine. The painting also features cobbled streets and pedestrian crossings with footprints and tire tracks, to remember all the people who have traveled on those streets before, and will after. She added the names of some of the many French artists who inspired her. The spiral flower alludes to the mosaic labyrinth in the floor of Chartres Cathedral.
The painting is now hanging in my living room. I’m sure Mom would want me to add that this rather whimsical work is not representative of her most serious art! She had it stored in her basement when I asked if I could have it.
In 1959 my history professor father took a sabbatical and we all went off to see the sights in Yurrup, which we kids had to learn to spell correctly. This is Mom, Christiane–all grown up and about to get married–and the four of us kids. And our Fiat, in which we toured Italy, France and England.
Christiane and her daughter Sandrine visited Mom in Indianapolis in the 1980’s and had planned to come again in the fall of 2016. However Mom passed away at the age of 98 that April. They came anyway and had a good visit with myself (travelling from Durham NC) my sister and my brother and sister-in-law. When I arrived Christiane walked up to me and said, “C’est le visage d’Alice” (That’s Alice’s face).
This is me and Christiane with Mom’s statue of St. Francis, in the wall of Christ Church Cathedral on Monument Circle.
For good measure, the actual labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, one of Mom’s favorite places.