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My Father’s French Onion Soup

My father gave me his letters from paris. Written with a fountain pen on onionskin stationery and folded in envelopes marked Par Avion, these formative accounts were addressed to my grandmother, and mailed during the year he studied art in Montparnasse. He was 25 then, and freshly disembarked from a World War II merchant marine ship. Dad asked Nana to ship pipe tobacco and instant coffee from the States, because the French stuff was “too expensive” and “undrinkable.” He spent Sundays at museums. Bought a radio instead of paying his rent. Got engaged to someone else before meeting my mother. Ate a lot of soup when dead broke.

The school my father attended, Académie de la Grand Chaumière, was anything but grand. A modest townhouse with open studios, the academy would become known for its affiliation with modernists Amedeo Modigliani, Alberto Giacometti, and Louise Bourgeois. A few doors down on the same street, his poorly

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