01 October, 2011

So what’s a Massachusetts girl doing in France so often? And how did I get from the Connecticut River banks to Cape Cod Bay?

Sandy Neck, 10/1/11

My parents honeymooned on the Cape in 1962, when there wasn’t too much out here and my dad spearfished off the beach, probably to impress my mom with his abilities as a provider.  Maybe if all we ever ate was dogfish?  But they were both from Western Massachusetts and set up shop there, literally, an automotive repair shop and gas station.  On opening day, Dad offered a free case of Pepsi with a fill-up, gift value $1.69.  But somewhere along the line Dad had taken French, and would toss out a petit mot or two now and then.  He sang Alouette.  This was a big guy on a motorcycle.  My first dog was a toy miniature French poodle named Cherie who jumped out of a hat box on Christmas morning, circa 1970.  

I went to Montessori kindergarten in Springfield somewhere around then, and my favorite thing was French class, more Alouette.  I still don’t know all of the words to it. But after that it was public school, where foreign language was, well, a foreign idea until seventh grade. In 1972, my parents divorced and I changed school districts.  In junior high one chose French or Spanish and that was your lot in life.  Although I was really interested in the lengua maternal of my Cuban great-grandfather, I went with the French flow, as down the Canal du Midi. 

Neither high school nor French class were my shtick.  Although I threw in a semester of Latin and one of Spanish, three and a half years of that French program got me nowhere.  There weren’t any French questions on the GED exam. But I didn’t give up and struggled on again with Madame Ball at Smith College, even as an Economics major. 

My daughter at the time of that first trip
Still with me? It was a long, slow journey. My daughter  was meandering along beside me and for Christmas 1990, I gave her a plane ticket to London in her stocking.  She was eight and being my kid actually thought that was cool. We would take the hovercraft from Dover to Calais, then train to Paris.  We were living in family housing at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the first Gulf War raged, hence the cheap tickets.  The airline called daily to give me updates.  When we landed at Heathrow there were tanks on the tarmac, but the dream begun in kindergarten (mine, not hers) was about to be realized.

I will have to scan some of those first trip photos, pre-digital camera.  There was the war, general strikes, bad weather and a picky eater but I was in love, with Paris.
Toward La Defense
Tomb of the Unknowns