• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 04
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Mademoiselle Martha

Many of the girls ridiculed Mademoiselle Martha. It was long ago and quite another world when I was in the French Alps. I am an old woman now, but I remember my days in Chamonix as if they transpired just yesterday. The snow on the mountain, the cold air, and of course, Mademoiselle Martha.

Look at her. How could you not remember such a figure? The girls didn’t understand her, which was not surprising really. Why did she wear such odd clothes, the gray frock that almost reached her ankles, the lilac-colored poncho, the boots that were more heavy socks than boots — how could she walk in the wet snow with in those? And the hat. It was the rigid hat that stood out above all else.

She was softly spoken when she spoke, which was not that often. Oh yes, in French class she participated as she was expected to do; after all, she was our French teacher. And a good one at that. I speak French and while it isn’t flawless, I manage a good conversation even after all these years.

I was a curious young girl, which got me into trouble from time to time, but I was what I was. I wondered about Mademoiselle Martha, where she was from and how she ended up teaching young mademoiselles French at the Ecole Internationale in Chamonix. It wasn’t surprising that the girls made fun of her behind her back.

She was odd and I was curious, which is a combination that can lead you on a journey. In this case, it led me to follow Mademoiselle one Thursday afternoon when she set off on her solitary trek up the mountain. She was a strong walker and I was young and cunning; I knew how to hide and not be seen by her.


Mademoiselle Martha

I kept my distance and followed as she marched along. Into the wind and up the white slope she moved with urgency, as if there was something calling her. Her frock and her poncho blew in the wind, but her broad hat didn’t budge. She slowed down when she reached a plateau that provided the most exhilarating view of our mountain. You sensed God was there. Suddenly, she turned and pulled off her hat and put it on the snow beneath her feet. She grabbed her frock and tucked it around her legs, then bent down and sat inside her hat. She took hold of the sides of her hat and bending toward the base of the mountain she suddenly took off and flew down the mountain. I have never seen such a demonstration of complete and total freedom. I stood on the plateau and wished that I should one day be as brilliantly odd as Mademoiselle.