In Normandy, 2 hours from Paris, Andrée Lesaint raised 4 boys while holding down a full time job as a sales woman at a local boutique. Like many moms, she changed diapers, cooked meals, laundered, ironed, paid the bills and somehow made their house a home, all while wearing heels with her hair swept up in a chignon.
Life was not just full of responsibility but possibility. Andrée had a talent for making the ordinary an art. Every chore was executed with inspiration. During the week she dressed for work simply and chicly, dabbing on a touch of parfum, cameo earrings ever present. She loved beautiful Limoges porcelain and traveled to Paris as a wholesale buyer for her employer. She wrapped packages for customers in tastefully patterned paper and sealed them with a beautiful label. Her inventory was meticulous and her reputation as a warm and attentive sales lady was widespread.
On on the weekends she managed a large and prolific potager garden, canning its entire output all summer through fall. Her home was spotless and she buffed the floors with special pads made to be worn on the soles of shoes.
But unlike most moms, she had a unique hobby that she maintained well into her 70s: Andrée kept bees.
Growing up in Andrée's house, in summer there were always bees buzzing in and out of the open kitchen windows as there were no screens. The window sills were lined with cascading red geraniums and the bees loved them. The mobile bee-hive was often left in the back yard under the windows when a hive was enroute to a new location for pollinating. Andrée was a member of the local and county board of Apiculture and on the weekends was off in her car to a new apiary, harvesting honey, and moving the hives. There was always fresh Royal Jelly in the refrigerator and her hand cream was a variety containing propylis, a byproduct of bees.
Bees were revered, their fundamental role in the food chain and ecosystems respected and nurtured. At any given time there were at least three different types of natural honey in the kitchen complete with honeycomb. Honey, Royal Jelly and other byproducts were believed to have positive properties for healthy living. There were magazines on beekeeping, candles of beeswax and honey candies scattered about. The light scent of beeswax always hung in the air.
Today the bees are no longer her charge as age and arthritis have caught up with her. She still wears earrings and has a penchant for honey. But now that her third son is so far away in America, she can at least console herself with the chocolates he sends regularly. Her favorite is the Caramel Truffle.
And of course nougat, made from honey, is her Christmas treat.