As someone tells Jenny in my new novel MAKE THAT DEUX,
“you ‘ave captured my heart.”
I’m not sure exactly when you did it. The first time I saw you, I was a little bleary-eyed, and I felt a little awkward. I had been looking forward to meeting you for so long — years — and I had started to believe it would never happen.
You were just so, well, distant.
When I started to feel comfortable with you (and you know it took weeks), it was almost like I’d always known you. I was so at home with you. It was like déjà vu. Sort of.
I didn’t know everything about your past…but what I did know, intrigued me. What I didn’t know didn’t seem to matter.
You understood me, even when I struggled to express myself. You encouraged me and seemed happy to have me. You shattered the stereotypes about les français — your people — when they politely welcomed me with a “Bonjour, Mademoiselle!”
They listened patiently as I spoke your language, learned its expressions and worked on my accent. They charmed me with their own accents when they practiced their anglais, particulièrement when your (good-looking) young men said “ze” for “the” and “zat” for “that.”
I know you had greeted millions of girls before me who
studied traveled had a blast abroad for a year. Some of them loved you as much as I did, but, I dare say, not all. Some of them were just playing with you. Some just wanted to shop and drink wine, discovering but later forgetting about your certain, well, je ne sais quoi.
Mais pour moi, c’était impossible.
I never forgot you, even as my French vocabulary dwindled and my memories of our time together faded. I kept my few pictures of you, not knowing that (or how) I would use them someday. For years, I dreamed I would come back to visit you with the man I love.
Then, un jour in the summer of 2012, I did.
I had spent months getting ready to see you again, studying your language — listening, reading and practicing it weekly. I had written my novel (set in your south) and was getting ready to release it this fall. I had planned an itinerary for our visit en juillet, but our emploi du temps was flexible and open to spontaneity.
Which was fortunate, because our unplanned moments with you were the best ones.
I loved seeing my husband discover you: the Côte d’Azur, Provence, Languedoc, Beaujolais… Paris. I loved hearing him try out the French phrases he had learned. I loved going with him to see parts of you that I had never seen. I loved taking him to see other places that had once been very familiar to me, that I had been while thinking of him.
He already knew me well, but now he knows me — and my heart — even better.
A la prochaine,
Quelle belle Ode à mon pays! This is si beautifully written. I can feel the French part of your soul singing these heart felt words. Very touching! Very unexpected. Very “formidable”! Thank you for sharing this…
Merci beaucoup! Évidemment, j’adore la France. Je continue à étudier la langue et à parler régulièrement avec mes amies françaises…j’espère aller en France encore, un jour…