My love of the French language and all things French started in 9th Grade. Although it most likely started when I was reincarnated from a French woman, or due to the French-Canadian heritage my mom is discovering in her genealogy research, but I became acutely aware of it in Jr. High. I took my first French class and the rest is la histoire. I loved the gorgeous sound of the language. I loved every silly dialogue and some are still etched in my brain:
“Bonjour, Michelle! Ça va?”
“Oui ça va. Et toi?”
I loved that we all took French names, mine “Monique” and my best friend’s “Jacqueline”. For some reason I loved to say “Bonjour baby” and I wrote it in blue Bic pen on my denim notebook and for the last 11 years have had it on my cell phone screen. I’m a Franglais dork, or is it Frenglish? That first year I learned vocabulary and dialogue, how to make a bûche de noel and Napoléons, and even recited a poem for which I won a trophy at the R&D Forum. A girl from another school tried to psyche me out with her pronunciation of “pingouins” (penguins) but I did Madame McClenahan proud by standing tall and reciting “La Fourmi” par Robert Desnos, just right. By my senior year of college I was really great at French, if I may say so myself, and I had even been dreaming in it. I particularly like the long-haired boy who sat next to me in 19th Century Literature who exclaimed “Zut alors!” pretty much every day. That soon became my favorite phrase. But I was so shy I could barely speak this beautiful language outside of class. My parents wondered what degree and future career path they had paid for. I’m sure that waiter in Paris spit in my beer after my lame ordering. Anyone can order un café. I was corrected over miscounting coins in a pâtisserie in Le Havre. It’s very humiliating to speak French to a French person and have them respond in English…and no, I don’t buy the idea that they just want to practice their English. Zut alors! There was a very gentil shopkeeper in Paris who told me I spoke very well and a jeune garçon who complimented me as well when I ordered ice cream, so I know I could do it. I became a French teacher at Avila College, just for one year before I moved to San Francisco, but it was delightful. In the early ‘90’s, I made and sold beaucoup de chapeaux (lots of hats) while living and working in SF. This paid for my 1993 trip to France with my sister.
See, in my life, it’s all about les chapeaux. And no one can deny the beauty and interesting history of France, the art and museums, the gardens, the architecture, the fashion, the wild kings and crazy Marie. And then there are les pâtisseries. I’ve lost a lot of the French language over the years, but I love it so and I will work on getting it back. It’s really part of everything I do. The fleur-de-lis is my symbol and among the many meanings and representations associated with it, my favorite is its most basic, the lily (iris) flower.
Check back here! I’ll be sharing more beloved French things with you.
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