I was walking along the presque-isle* area of Lyon and came across a wonderful street full of art galleries and antique shops. Something hanging from the rafters of a little shop full of antique toys really caught my eye. It was a late 19th or early 20th century wooden bicycle ridden by a stereotypical Frenchman complete with moustache and beret. It had a long wooden handle that would allow a child to roll him along the street causing the chain on the turning wheels to move the man's feet around the pedals and ring the bicycle bell. I was smitten! The next day, I brought Chris back and so was she. So now the little bicyclist hangs on our Lyon apartment wall.
As we were talking with the old gentleman who owned the shop, he told us about why he had been collecting and selling childrens toys for over 40 years now. Like all children, when he was little he wanted toys, especially a toy train. But he explained that his father was an "ouvrier", a common laborer, and that a train would have cost half of his father's annual salary. Consequently, as a little boy he didn't have toys. But for the past 40-plus years this his been his livelyhood and his passion. He talked to us about how the things in his shop are "les choses qui parlent"; things that talk. Some of the toys, in fact, actually did speak. But all of the toys, he explained, have their stories and all of them spoke to him.
I guess that is what it means when we say that something "catches our eye". It means that we heard at least part of it's story. I can only imagine the "Belle Epoch" era child who first pushed this little bicyclist along a French cobblestone street well before World War I. It no doubt belonged to others before it came into the shop of our toy-collector friend who grew up in a much darker, war and occupation era of France's history. And now for a little while, we will add a chapter. I hope that when our little Frenchman rides off to his next home, probably with some of our grandkids, they will be able to hear what he has to say too.
Our Lyon toy-shop owner taking his little bicycle rider down from the rafters.
For now he is now flying almost E.T. style over two posters from his own "Belle Epoch" era on the wall of our Lyon apartment.
*Lyon's "Presque-Isle" (almost-island) or peninsula, just upstream from the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône rivers.