Dad and Zerky in Paris, France

We are thankful for our little heater, having reached the Mediterranean coast at Genoa in Italy. Since then, we have been following the coast westward toward the French border and then down the Cote d’Azur all the way into France. We have finally stopped right across the bay from St. Tropez where we are now camped for our second night. St. Tropez is part of the French Riviera, a kind of ritzy vacation spot where the Parisians gather in August to spend their month-long vacations jammed in together on a gigantic beach. I never wanted to come to this place, Zerky, but your mother, it turns out, is very fond of St. Tropez, having come here along with all the other Parisians when she used to live in Paris before I knew her.

Today when we were shopping, your mother told me she needed to buy some new clothes for France. When I reminded her that we don’t have much room in the car for a new wardrobe, she cut me off abruptly by assuring me that her new clothes were not going to take up much space. So we bought her a pair of tight, bright red pants and an even tighter yellow sweater, after which she bought a bikini. When I questioned her as to the wisdom of such a purchase, she explained that she had simply assumed I would want her to wear something on the beach. Now she tells me that she plans on doing a lot of “beaching it” in Southern Spain where the weather is warmer. I tried to explain to her that Spain is a very conservative country and that the people there don’t much go for that “French look.” Whereupon she told me that I should be thankful she is going to wear anything at all on the beach. She also told me that while she had been living in Paris she had spent several weeks one summer on a beach near here that is famous for being the largest nude beach in the world. She’d had a job, she informed me, selling fruit to nudists. She also told me how much she had enjoyed that summer, walking around in her suntan and her cute little basket of fruit. I’m still not sure how this happened, Zerky, but it appears that your father has married a nudist.

Tonight we are camped on the side of a hill overlooking St. Tropez. It’s much warmer here than was Germany, but it is still pretty cold. No matter, our little stove is humming away and everything is perfect. We just now finished a wonderful meal consisting of a fresh baguette, a Camembert cheese and a bottle of Rose d’Anjou wine. With our own private woods, our own private
ocean, and the incomparable French food, we are living alive in the lap of luxury. And then to top it all off, I just opened a bottle of cognac which we also bought in St. Tropez. Your mother insisted it be Remy Martin.

Now we have turned on the car’s new FM radio and, strong and clear from a transmitter right across the bay, comes my favorite opera, The Magic Flute, by a certain Mr. Mozart. Now we are thinking about renaming you Wolfgang Zerky Mozart.

Tomorrow we hope to show you some wild horses in the Camargue, the Rhone River delta. Along with wild horses, there are gypsies there too. When I was a little boy, people used to tell me to stay away from gypsies because they steal little children. But you need not worry, Zerky, we shall hold onto you tight. And then it is up and over the Pyrenees and down into Spain.

—Excerpted From Letters to Zerky


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