Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince, a sweetly sentimental novella deemed by The New Yorker Magazine to be “a seminal text for the sixties generation of dropouts and flower children.” That’s not exactly high praise for an author’s best known work, but I know that if I confess that I thoroughly enjoyed The Little Prince and that I cried at the end of it, I would not be alone in that admission. Although Saint-Exupéry was in Paris at the same time as Hemingway, Joyce, and Fitzgerald, he never traveled in their literary circles, so I was somewhat surprised to find myself writing about a poem of his for today’s post. Quite honestly, I was unaware that he’d even written any poetry, but I was searching for something very specific for this week’s theme, and his poem “Generation to Generation” seemed to be absolutely perfect.
Why this particular topic? Well, as some of you may know, a new little person arrived in my life just ten days ago. My grandson, Jack Henry, joined his sister Nora as the two newest members of our family. I took a week off from writing not because I was incredibly busy (my son and my daughter-in-law are doing a beautiful job) but rather because the process of being part of his arrival into the world left me feeling such an array of emotions that I needed some time to sort them all out. I’ve been gathering my thoughts and I’ll share more about Jack on Friday, but let’s begin today with the poem.
Generation to Generation
In a house which becomes a home,
one hands down and another takes up
the heritage of mind and heart,
laughter and tears, musings and deeds.
Love, like a carefully loaded ship,
crosses the gulf between the generations.
Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies
of our passage: when we wed, when we die,
and when we are blessed with a child;
When we depart and when we return;
When we plant and when we harvest.
Let us bring up our children. It is not
the place of some official to hand to them
If others impart to our children our knowledge
and ideals, they will lose all of us that is
wordless and full of wonder.
Let us build memories in our children,
lest they drag out joyless lives,
lest they allow treasures to be lost because
they have not been given the keys.
We live, not by things, but by the meanings
of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
from generation to generation.
There are a number of things that I love so much about this poem. For starters, its language is simple and direct, and it does not require much analysis or explication to understand the meaning that Saint-Exupéry is trying to convey. It’s translated, of course, but yet the imagery remains beautiful. The idea of a house becoming a home is something to which all of us can easily relate, whether we have children and grandchildren, or we are just remembering our own childhood with our parents. Although we are from different time periods and we may have different mindsets, love truly is the “carefully loaded ship” that enables us to traverse the space between generations. Rituals and traditions cannot be neglected or ignored because they are the very things that provide the map that allows us to navigate that journey. It is most certainly our responsibility as parents (and no one else’s) to provide our children with an identity that is built on a foundation of what has come before them. This sense of place is so profound, yet requires no words of explanation other than those that relay the memories we choose to share. And although we may hand down possessions to our children that once belonged to our parents and their parents, it is the meaning and the stories behind those possessions that give them their utmost value. I love the closing lines of the poem and the thought, in particular, that each family has its own set of keys and passwords that unlock a sense of heritage and a place in the world for all its future generations. The experience of parenting takes on such richness with this idea in mind.
For today’s cocktail, I created a riff on a Southside, a traditional gin-based drink that’s rumored to have been Al Capone’s beverage of choice. I wanted to portray a kind of generational change in my version of a Southside by incorporating modern elements, but keeping the simplicity and spirit of the drink pretty much the same. I began with Empress 1908 gin as my base because it’s infused with butterfly pea blossom that turns it a magnificent shade of purple. I added St. Germain as a secondary spirit and combined it with a basil simple syrup as the sweet component of the drink. The original recipe calls for mint, but basil blends so beautifully with St. Germain and it’s certainly a more modern take. I kept the lime juice the same, but wanted just a bit more depth to the drink and something that had a bit of mystery to it that needed unlocking. I received the most fabulous sample pack of bitters from Bittercube, and was thrilled to be able to use one in today’s cocktail. Their Bolivar bitters are a blend of chamomile and jasmine with a just a bit of cinnamon spice to add the complexity that I was looking for. The end result is a cocktail that is familiar, yet different in a way that makes it feel as though it has evolved without losing the sense of its original heritage. Cheers everyone. Happy Monday!
A Carefully Loaded Ship
Add all the ingredients to a shaker tin with ice and shake until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass. Garnish with a basil sprig. Enjoy!