Oui, C’est Mon Anniversaire!
Today is my birthday and I am awakened by the sound of my favorite neighbor, l’ancien Maire Bernard Jacoud who brings me each day the overflow of fresh delicacies from his garden. In the beginning of the season it is lettuce, lettuce and more lettuce. Then come les pommes de terre, les courgettes, les carottes. All of it delicious and as fresh as you can possibly imagine. The French eat what is in season. You don’t find a lot of exotic fruits and vegetables in the grocery store throughout the year, just what’s in season, and according to the book, “French Woman Don’t Get Fat,” eating fresh and local produce is one of the things that keeps those slim french bodies slim. (More on this later...)
The girls, Lisa and Henry are dying to break into song, but I must first pay my respects to my benefactor and friend. Mr. Jacoud has been my loyal champion, since the first moment I came to Larajasse. I tell him it’s my birthday and he gives me deux bises, a paternal hug and warm wishes. Later in the day, he leaves me a bouquet of fresh myrtilles he has picked nearby in the woods — the sweetest gesture, il me semble. The troops break into song and furnish me with lovely handmade cards. Henry’s says, “I love you so much.” It’s so sweet. And the girls are, as always, ebullient. I am so lucky to have them in my life.
Lisa is spoiling me today. She packs a picnic lunch of salmon on round swedish bread, bio yogurt, and nectarines and we head for the pool at St. Galmier. We are on a pool jag. Can’t get enough of it. Afterwards, we go to Botanic, one of my favorite gardening stores near St. Etienne and she buys me 2 beautiful green glazed urns for lavender, to put outside the house. I buy a double hammock on sale for the backyard. It’s awesome. I have always wanted a hammock.
Les nuits de la Pierre Bleue is an annual “festival itinérant des arts a la ferme” in a little-known region of la Loire, seemingly known for its bluestone. It is Kit, Isabelle’s talented and chaleureuse friend, owner of La Fée Carabine, a wonderful salon du thé in St. Galmier, who suggests we join her, her boyfriend Igor, and a friend for le bal a bistan. It is a curious thing and Lisa and I don’t know quite what to expect, but we are game for anything. We drive up and up and up into what seems like the outskirts of a tiny town with not much to offer and arrive at la maison de Noémi, a beautiful, old stone farmhouse, with a spectacular view of the plains below. Our entrance fee of 7 Euros per person seems reasonable for dinner and the unkown festivities which await us. It all is a bit hippyish to me, or babacool on dit en francais. Noémi’s son is a bard. The first performance is a bit of bohemian performance poetry, which I barely understand, and everyone sits around in a field on the ground (heureusement, no ticks!) and tries to appreciate how deep all this is trying to be. I gather the poetry is about a homeless guy in Paris. Lisa and I try to keep Daisy and the kids from attracting tooooooooo much attention to the only foreigners in the place.
Then dinner, ah no dinner, just les aperos, a plate of cheese or saucisson that we have to pay for en plus and which is not sensational. Henry, Abbie and Hallie have been running around playing cachecache with some french girls they’ve met and don’t care much about eating. We have been drinking local bio wine which is moyen, and chatting it up at our table, but we grown-ups are affamé. Finally, dinner, also not sensational, is available buffet style at 10:30 PM, followed by a tres bon dessert que j’ai bien aimé of unsweetened wheat biscuits and fresh cerises.
The dance began at 11 and we realized that everyone had really come for that, not for the moyen diner or the performance art. These folks love to dance and it was a traditional kind of thing with accordions and line dances that reminded me of a square dance. I was dying to dance, but it seemed very partner oriented. Our kids weren’t game, so it seemed we would be wannabes. Then, the band of 4, 2 accordions, a base? and something else, announced le bal d’Ecosse, which would be a Scottish jig thing, meaning to me, the Halliday shuffle (wish Bobbie and Mimi could see me now. I miss them soooooooooo much!), so bien sur, I wanted to dance. And thank God, Lisa did too! We had so much fun, and I personally was just getting going when the girls melted down and said they must go home and snooze. That’s the problem here...so much to do and so little time. As it is, the kids stay up until 11 or 12, but so does the sun and then the next morning, oh, la, la, it is hard to get up at a decent hour. I am racked with guilt if I wake up at 9, no matter when I went to sleep. I hate getting a late start, but late start becomes subjective here in France, amongst all my self-employed friends.
OK, time to wrap this one up. My birthday — good, better than most, my life — awesome and changing and challenging and fascinating and stressful and interesting to ME, but not necessarily to others. I’m all about the challenge and the deep stuff that is hard to talk about here on a blog. A few weeks late, and here is my birthday story. More to come...