Bonne annee 2011! As my third New Year’s celebration en France ends — with my toes three feet from a crackling fire and the idea of returning to school tomorrow marinating with slightly forced positive thoughts (New Year! New Year!) — I am at a loss for words.
Really. What can I say about the past two weeks that would even begin to characterize the mélange of action and pure, unadulterated gluttony typical of this time of year?
“Tu travailles?” asks Francoise, looking up from her library book and eying the computer on my lap. “You’re working?”
“Non, j’ecris,” I respond. “I’m writing.”
But then I feel the need to clarify. “J’essaie d’ecrire…mais je n’ai rien dans la tete.” She laughs a little, and I realize that maybe I meant to say “je n’ai rien en tete,” that maybe the latter is closer to “I can’t think of anything” and the former — what I said — means “There’s nothing in my head,” i.e. a brain. In any case, I’m not really sure and I know she knows what I meant, which is why she didn’t correct me. I let it slide.
That’s what you have to learn to do when you live in a foreign country anyway. Let it slide.
Anyone who knows me even just a little would laugh to think of me “letting it slide.” They know I’m more “crazy like a fool” than I am “Daddy Cool.” But, among other things, la France has taught me that as long as I want to communicate on a semi-comprehensible level with others, I have to let my pride, and sometimes my dignity, slide a little.
Just this afternoon, Nicolas and I took a walk up the hill to say goodbye and bonne annee to Geoffroy’s family before they all went their separate ways (alas, la fin des vacances, even in France). After ten minutes of harmless (for me) chatter, we turned to leave and Geoffroy saw us to the door. “Salut Emily,” he said, extending his cheek for la bise. I pinched the arm of his red and white striped pullover, and sang, “Salut mon petit sucre d’orgue!” What I meant to say, and would have, if I would have pronounced it correctly, was “Bye, my little candy cane.” It came out instead as, “goodbye my little sugar organ!” Translate that as you will.
On that same walk, as we reapproached the house named for the valley’s typical “cold wind,” I was quick to forget my own pronunciation hurdles in favor of teasing Nicolas about his. In English, he had pronounced a double ‘s’ as if it were a ‘th.’ Launching into my best lispy French, I taunted him with a question. “Tu as un cheveu sur la langue,” I wanted to say. (“You have a hair on your tongue?”) But in my occupation with the lisp, I replaced the “cheveu” with “cheville” and said, “you have an ankle on your tongue?!” Nicolas exploded in laughter. “That would be kind of difficult!” he said.
Oh, well. And so, another year arrives with the promise of continued progress and continued opportunities for laughter. I tip my beret to you, 2011. Here’s to letting it slide.
By the way, my work has been published, again!
To my Louisville friends and family, pick up a (free!) copy of the beautiful Underwired magazine at Whole Foods, Kroger, Heine Brothers, or a host of other indie stores in Louisville to read an essay I wrote in celebration of LAUNCHING into the new year. And,un grand MERCI in advance to the wonderful person who sends me a copy at my Dijon address! I’d love to see it myself, after all. 😉