Bastille Day ©

Bastille Day is important to Shinazy

bastille dayJuly 14th is Bastille Day, a day I’ve been planning for, well, for years. I waited because I needed Bastille Day to land on a Saturday. The previous two times it did, I was unable to organize the family reunion I desired – I thought our family was too big for me to track down and arrange a gathering.

But this year, is the year!  Because, I learned, I knew every member of my family – it was just us. No unknown relative living in a town I had to research to know what state it was in. No long lost anyone.

The planning started when I was into genealogy and uncovered some facts about my great great grandparents, who came to San Francisco from France.  Julie Robinet arrived first, in 1866. She emigrated from Paris. I am unable to image how she felt. She was young, single, and unemployed; a city girl, speaking a language different than everyone else, arriving in a lawless, dirt street, frontier town. She was a brave babe.

Jean Jacque Chaine arrived later that year from Lyon. He came with buddies, this had to help him transition into his new life. He was a farmer; she owned a laundry (but that’s another story). He bought land in what is now Colma, CA, then deeded it to her 5 months later (I bet there’s another story here, too.)  My family still lives on that property – the seventh generations to do so.

I also discovered the location where they were buried. On a Bastille Day years ago, I decided to visit them. The old parts of cemeteries are difficult to navigate. I found where I thought they should be, but there was no marker, just crabgrass. I felt sad. This is all there was to commemorate the lives of two courageous people. Something had to be done and I am, after all her intrepid great great granddaughter; I can do this. And, so the idea of a family reunion on Bastille Day was formed.

I designed a stone for them. It has a french cross, called the Cross of Lorraine. I wanted a modest marker because I think they were unpretentious people, at least their daughters and granddaughters were – I knew them and that is why I decided my assessment was correct.  I put their full names, dates, and the city from where they came.  I had it made from California Granite because they choose California and it felt right.

So, now, forever after, when anyone wanders through this old part of this cemetery they will see that Julie and Jean were important and loved. I may never have met them, but I know who they were because they are me. On this Bastille Day their descendants will gather and celebrate them; I am grateful I am one of them.

photo by shinazy

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16 Responses to Bastille Day ©

  1. Have you ever wanted to do something that had no relevant purpose and made no sense? This seems to be a frequent state for me. Today’s story is about one of those times … I still think it was important and it mattered.
    ~ shinazy

  2. The stone is beautiful. So important to keep ancestral stories alive and to honor those who paved the way for us.

    • Will, Thank you! One of the reasons I started BOBB to to get the stories I know on the internet so that they can live forever. And, of course, I want to encourage everyone to do the same … we all have stories. ~ shinazy

  3. Very interesting to learn a little about the Shinazy history. Im glad the reunion was a success! Wish we could have made it.

  4. michele miskel-thomas

    Linda, What a lovely story, and a good way to start my Wednesday. Thank you,

    • Michele, You are most welcome! I’m so happy to know that BOBB is filling the need for a 2-minute mental vacation. ~ shinazy

  5. Good story. How is your French? I was in Chicago on business and where the meetings were held was across the street from a cemetry. For some reason the area looked familiar. I called Cuz Jan and checked in where the GGparents and Gparent were buried and you guessed it they were across the street. Before returning home I went over and paid my respects. Funny how our travels bring us back home. ~kb

    • Well … I speak English as my first and only language. However, when in France I do try and they smile and speak English. Thanks for sharing your Chicago story. I wonder if our GGparents knew each other as our uncles did. Maybe we knew each other before our uncles were born! ~ shinazy

  6. Deborah Johnson-Phillips

    What a wonderful story! I loved,loved,loved it!! What a great idea to organize a family reunion for the occasion. You Shinazy women are just so cool!!

  7. Oh so poignant and bittersweet! Brilliant!

  8. What you did was important and meaningful. This will always be with you. About 5 years ago I visited my fathers grave in Hardin, Montana. It had been 30 years since we barried him in his home town, as he had wished. The grounds keeper was there and thrilled that I was visiting the grave of one of the founding families ( a story is waiting). He thanked me! Honoring those that have gone before us is important.

  9. Janice Miskel

    What a beautiful story and an awesome tribute
    to your great, great grandparents! They would
    have been so proud of you! Keep up your fabulous
    site & stories!
    Best Wishes,
    Jan Miskel

  10. I sure enjoyed your story Shinazy. It had impact. Look how the territory of the old west was shaped into what it is today by the likes of people like your ancestors. With the same genre of courage they had, we will shape the frontier of our own time into the good place it will become.

  11. This story is immensely inspiring!

  12. Suzan Shinazy

    Beautiful. Love, that is what it is all about!