Monday, April 18, 2011

Une Vie de Reve!

Years ago, I came to France to study a year abroad. The first family to receive me didn’t work out, and by Christmas I was packing my bags to go home. However, the student exchange directors encouraged me to give it a second chance. They told me about a kind couple who lived in the South. Would I consider meeting them before hopping on that plane?

Having nothing to lose but a few weeks, I told them I’d give it a chance.

The week I spent with them was a bit tense. I thought they’d be just like the first family (who considered me a nanny/house help), but they surprised me.

The couple was also a bit leery; they were so disappointed in their first exchange student. Later they would tell me that they were looking at me in suspicion, as well. Would I rebel or cause trouble like the last one?

After our allotted week, we had a conversation.
“Do you want to stay?” they asked.
Shrugging my shoulders in teenage nonchalance: “Why not?’” Then a bit more hesitantly, I asked in turn: “Do you want me to stay?”
They looked at each other and nodded.        
            -- I guess it was settled.

At that moment, something clicked inside. We had only 6 months together, but we all fell in love. In that short time, they spoiled me like nobodies business, we traveled extensively all over Europe on my school breaks, and I continued my studies.

That was 17 years ago.

I won’t bore you with the details.... suffice it to know, they are more than friends. They are my ‘French Parents’. I’m never a guest in their home. When I’m with them, it’s family.

So in coming to France for my break, in essence, I was coming home. Sigh.

It has been a whirlwind of AM-AZ-ING food, laughter, reminiscing, and hugs. I cannot tell you how delightful it has been.

In this short week, I’ve gorged myself on ‘all things culture’. We’ve listened to opera practically non-stop while discussing the finer qualities of Verdi, Donazetti, and Puccini.

We visited two fabulous museums and delighted ourselves in modern dance productions, movies, and monuments. We’ve talked of Mozart, Chopin, Chagal and Soulange while nibbling chocolate and sipping espresso. (There is no pretense in France, this is really how they live!)          -- I loved it!

Years of ‘cultural drought’ have brought a ‘renaissance’ of desire. I want to write poetry, sing opera, dance ballet, and paint the walls in yellows and reds!

Oh... and the food! I don’t think I can describe the array of culinary delights without making you all so very jealous, that you refuse to read on! Suffice it to know, I’ve gained a few well deserved kilos... and loved every bite! 

It’s been heaven!

However, one of the finest moments came not in activity but silence. As I sprawled out on the lawn and breathed in the aromas of spring, I could feel the garden yawn beneath me. Stretching out each flower laden branch of pinks and whites, it stirred languidly from its wintery slumber, intoxicating me with scents of honey and wet earth.

Tenderly caressing my skin, the westerly sun lulled me to sleep where I dreamed of nothing-- absolutely nothing. Distant lands of harsh winds and blistering suns, were so far away as to seem unimaginable; my brain strained to remember them.

Unbelievable even to me, my memories seemed foreign. Could there really be a land of spear-carrying giants that spit? Or did I dream it?

Succumbing to my lotus-eating ways, I forgot everything and slept. Divine!


However, my ‘French Dream’ has come to a bleary-eyed end; I rub my eyes and stretch as I slowly wake. Although sad to say goodbye, I’m excited for what’s to come.

Today, I’m off to Switzerland. During this last half of my trip, I’ll be able to catch up with family and friends in the land of chocolate and cheese!     --Woohoo!

Who knows, I might even get to see the Matterhorn this time.

A girl can hope, right?