Earlier this semester, Holden Ferry ’11 (Glencoe, Ill.), a French major, presented a full translation into French of the exhibition catalog “A Son and His Adoptive Father” to Diane Windham Shaw, special collections librarian and college archivist, for the archives. The catalog was for the exhibit featured first at Mount Vernon and then Lafayette during 2007, when the College celebrated the 175th birthday of the Marquis de Lafayette. Curious about how it came about, Shaw asked Ferry if he could explain. Here’s his story:
“When I arrived at Lafayette in the fall of 2007 (the beginning of my freshman year), each student was given a copy of A Son and His Adoptive Father: The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington, as it was the accompaniment of an exhibit on display in the Williams Center for the Arts at the time. I saw the exhibit and read the book and kept it on my bookshelf at home, as I thought it was a nice story.
“But it really took on a whole new meaning for me last year when I studied abroad in Grenoble, France. I was in Grenoble for the entire academic year, and was fortunate to have found a French family (the Amiel family) who was looking for a native English-speaker to give English lessons to their 10-year-old son. I was very happy to accept their offer and began to stop by their apartment once a week to meet with their son.
“From the outset, I could tell that there was something very special about my relationship with this family. We got along very well together, and oftentimes a small conversation, which began as I was buttoning up my coat and making my way to the door would lead to my staying for dinner, and we would eventually find ourselves having to force ourselves to part ways in the early hours of the morning. Before long I found myself spending more and more time with the Amiels, accompanying them on trips to visit their family and friends in Provence and Pyrénées. That’s the most important part of our relationship; I felt as though I had really become accepted as a member of their family. We often joked that they had “adopted” me. And that’s what made me think of this book, A Son and His Adoptive Father.
“When I returned home to Chicago last summer, I immediately sent the book to the Amiels as a symbol of our friendship. Gerard [the father] was very touched by the story and spent the entire summer translating it from English into French. Yesterday [March 2], I received a package with the copy of the translation, which you now have in your possession along with a note instructing me to give the translation to the Lafayette College library. We both thought that it might be nice to have a French translation of this story in the archives of the library not only as a symbol of our friendship but also that of George Washington and Lafayette himself, of France and the USA.”