Monday, June 27, 2005

Driving the Figure Eight

The girls and I have been playing a running game of Monopoly Europe (french version) which is actually quite a clever and sneakily educational game. You can learn about all the major cities and countries of Europe, about the Euro and a bit of french too. I think this would be a good Basic French product (and I hope Monsieur Milton Bradley will support me in this effort and allow me to buy just a few, not 5 million like Toys R Us)

I call Monsieur Bernard, Zizou’s tile merchant, to find out the Saturday horaires. 8 heure jusqu’a midi. So, I rush Daisy into her crate (as she has been known to disappear periodically and promenade down to Madame Gregoire’s for some french Friskies,) give the girls a Dramamine and promise to do anything they want for the rest of the day if we can just go look at tiles NOW. It’s 10:47 AM and Tassin-la Demi-Lune is a good 40 minutes from here so with my abstract calculation, that will give us about a half an hour to find the perfect floor tile at half the price of La Carotheque.

We are about 10 minutes from the nearest small town (population 2,500) and the roads are one lane and very curvy. We head in the direction of Lyon, northeast, and it’s going to be tight, but I think 20 minutes is enough time to find the perfect tile. St. Martin, Brindas, Craponne, rond point, rond point, rond point and now I have the girls helping me look for street signs and numbers. Well, Tassin-la-Demi-Lune seems like a really big town when you drive around in a figure eight for a demi-heure. We stop for directions twice — I am not proud — we enter and leave the town of Francheville at least 10 times from every possible direction and finally, charming french antique dealer of Craponne points us in the right direction. We arrive at Monsier Bernard’s at midi et demi, just in time to imagine how perfect that perfect tile is, behind locked doors.

The girls are so patient. I’m a handful of a mother I sometimes think, but they are stuck with me. Our ride home listening to FranceInter (french public radio) is peaceful, Hallie and Abbie having passed out from the Dramamine (drama?). I make a fabulous salad of fresh buttery lettuce from Monsieur Jacoud (my favorite next door neighbor, who brings me his garden overflow each morning,) lardon, oeufs dur and chevre chaud. The girls are recharged.

Later that afternoon, a big orage blows in and we watch as the sky grows dark and the lightening strikes the mountains in the distance. We have our storm rituals, having once fried our new DVD player. Everything unplugged, we run out to the clothesline and yank off the almost dry towels. We are ready and it’s exciting. I tell the girls that we could not be safer than in a 200 year old stone house. It feels safe. The storm passes quickly and it is only later at dinner at Monbret that Zizou and Joseph tell us they were badly hit. We joke that we blew the storm their way.

Z and J have six Latvian visitors today and we are invited for dinner, to speak a bit of English and smooth things over. I feel like family. The guests are observant Lutherans, which I find interesting and I am the one who makes all the inquiries at dinner. The French are way too polite or non-confrontational for this. I am just fascinated by religion and how people integrate it in their lives. Martin, a young architect that works with Zizou in Riga, his wife, daughter and two young friends who have all met in theology school, sing their prayers before dinner. Evidently, the Latvians (population 2.5 million) are known for their singing. I barely even know where Latvia is, so I feel like I have learned alot this evening. Must consult a map of the Baltic states one of these days. (Dad, can you help with this?)

At midnight, we drag ourselves home. The girls have begun their reconnecting process with all of the children. At first, it is awkward with the language barrier. Everyone is afraid to talk, so I am translator. I assure them that it just takes time and that like me, discovering Monsieur Bernard’s tile store in Tassin-la-Demi-Lune, they will find their way, and the door will open wide.

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