Thank you Mo!
For restoring the old wooden crown.
Everyday when I see it, I thank you,
instead cursing French Husband for accidentally breaking it.
Thank you Mo!
For restoring the old wooden crown.
Everyday when I see it, I thank you,
instead cursing French Husband for accidentally breaking it.
When you are an American living in France, there are a few things that you can be sure of:
1) You will compare your adopted country to your home country.
2) You will miss home, and eventually miss the other when you are home.
3) You will say French words when speaking English, and English words while speaking French.
4) Family and friends will come to visit, crowning you the best tour guide.
5) You will find yourself defending the misunderstood ways of the French.
6) You will say Oh la la in a perfect French accent, and be able puff your lips, and blow air out in the most convincing way.
7) You will know how to get the French waiter's attention to pay the bill.
8) Instead of hugging your friends you will kiss them.
9) You will be able to spot another American ten miles away.
10) When in the States you will ask the waiter, “Can I have water with no ice, please?”
11) You will know the secret of how the French stay thin and how to wear a scarf.
12) Endives, Radishes, Leeks... will be your new best friend.
13) The paper cup will feel shameful.
14) You will understand the art and appreciation of flirting.
15) Good butter, wonderfully inexpensive wines (that would cost a fortune in the States,) and baguettes will never, never compare anywhere eles in the world.
17) Being chic for no reason is reason enough: Why not wear high heels today?
18) That dogs are not dogs but human beings.
19) You will smile knowing that a facade is a facade, and that what is real is behind the wall.
And I am not talking about shutters and house interiors.
20) When you have visited France, or have lived here for nearly thirty years, or are a native, you will be asked, "What is it about the French?" And if you are like me you will smile knowing deep down inside... la vie est belle and with that you know what they know and cannot explain it.
First I must say I collect seashells.
My first memory I have of a seashell is when my Grandmother Amaro came back from a trip to the Azores. I must have been about five years old. She unsnapped her suitcase and unpacked an enormous seashell, she held it up to my ear and asked, "Do you hear the ocean?" Surprised, I nodded yes. Then she held the seashell to my nose, "Breath in." When I did I made a face. My Grandmother smiled, "That smell is of home, far far away." It was a strange thing to say considering it did not smell very good. But later I would understand that it wasn't a question whether it smelled nice or not, it was to say that the ocean, the island where she was from, in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, was far away from the place she called home in the Sacramento Valley.
You are probably wonder how this turns into "Fork and Knife"?
Secondly, my daughter's prenom-first name is, "CHELSEA."
My Father-in-law, Belle-Pere, a man of very few words, let alone English ones, said to me at her birth: "Chelsea is, "Sea-Shell, backwards, non?"
I hadn't thought of that and was amazed he did.
The French pronounce the sound "CH" as "SH", my daughter's name therefore in pronounced, "Shel-sea."
When I was pregnant I mentioned to French Husband that I liked the name; "Chelsea." French Husband was perplexed, mouthed the name without any sound coming out, then despite himself he said, "Chilli, you said Chilli!" That should have been my first clue that names were not pronounced the same, and picking a name that sounded the same in both countries should be foremost of importance.
Unfortunately, I just thought he was making it up, surely he was teasing about the name? It took him weeks to get it right.
French Husband calls our niece Maci, "Messy". He calls our other niece, Molly, "Moully". My Dad use to say, "You can call me what you want as long as you don't call me late for dinner."
I won't say how French Husband says, "Fork". Instead I will let you imagine it. And I won't even begin how I slaughter the French language. But I will say that I cannot pronounce the French name "Quentin"... without making it sound like a very bad F word. French Husband swears I do it on purpose. Which I have to remind him, "...And how do you say fork?"
But I will add this to humor you: Fork and knife said by French Husband sounds like, "F_ck an Nice".
In English we pronounce Yann as Yawn. French pronounce Corey as Core-Ay. Names like Anna sound the same as does Laura, Camy, Pierre or Mark, well more or less the same, but not nearly as butchered as Chelsea. Chelsea would be called,"Jealsee" by her teachers from the first day of school to the end of University.
I will always be Core-Ay, which I cannot stand.
Luckily, in France everyone gets by with Monsieur or Madame, names are something reserved for a future relationship. Though, when you have a prenom that isn't French, you are left as a Madame Américaine forever.
Do you have a story about your name?
Can you see the red dot? That red dot is it a worm, or French Husband on a rope?
French Husband and I went hiking in the calanques, along the rugged coastline between Cassis and Marseille. Our starting point was a charming obscure little port called, Morgiou. French Husband told me to bring a book commenting, "I'm going to rope down the Cap de Morgiou, while I do that you can read in the sun." Thoughtful isn't he? The day was cold with a strong Mistral blowing. "...Sit in the sun," he said, "... and read a book." While he ropes down a sheer face cliff? Every voice inside of me was screaming, "Don't go!" However would I be calm enough to read a book while Crazy Frenchman was hanging off a cliff?
Foregoing the book, I grabbed my camera and went.
French Husband's back pack was full of ropes, hooks, clips, things-I-don't-know-the-names- of, plus water, some granola bars, a helmet and other paraphernalia of fear-fun. His backpack was bigger and heavier than me. I carried myself and my camera.
(If you click on the photo you will see French Husband hanging midway, on a rope. Doesn't that look easy breezy?)
It reminded me of my Father... every Friday night after he had milked the cows, we would hop in his pick-up truck and go to Cycle-Land, a flat track, motorcycle, speedway, where he would race. Sitting in the bleachers I would feel the same feeling that I had on those cliffs. Terrific fear. The sense that my stomach was in my mouth.
I don't dig the feeling of fear. Not at all. I do not see scary movies 'cause I do not dig the feeling of fear.
Half way down the cliff the wind caught French Husband, he started to swing back and forth, twirling around and around. Who could even breath while that was going on? There were other hikers behind me, they stopped, pointed and commented on how crazy that person was... "Is he out of his mind to be rock climbing in this wind." I agreed with them, and didn't mention that the crazy person was my husband. "Is he mad? Is he trying to kill himself? What an idiot!"
Oh Lucky me. Such comfort in the words coming from strangers, and the mistral blowing, and my vomit inching closer to the outside world.
Standing there watching French Husband I forgot that I was cold, I forgot that I was very close to the edge, I nearly forgot to take a picture of him hanging there, but I did not forget how mad I was the entire time. Most of the time I wished I could clobber that Freak I was married to, I prayed in short choppy sentences, "Damn, oh God, oh please. Shit. Oh God why? Oh Lord." As he hung off the cliff, being twirled around by the Mistral, he waved to me.
He was mad,
as in crazy mad,
not angry mad.
Yes, flat out, crazy mad.
But I was madder,
And that somehow made me want to jump into that wave of that beautiful man.
I prayed: "I will never complain about any form of housework again, or my weight, or anything unimportant, if he makes it back alive God. Then I thought, "Great! Now, I am bartering with God over the life of my husband and housework."
Slowly he made his way back to the top, he was smiling and his enthusiastic energy was evident, as I ran back to his side of the cliff. The first thing he said was,
"Did you take a picture of me?"
I stared at that mass of fearless wonder.
"Yann!, You looked like a worm on a hook! Ready for some starving fish to jump out of the sea and swallow you up in one delicious gulp!" He didn't hear my fear, nor see my anger, nor my desire to kill him so that he could never die by doing that crazy madness again. Instead he shook his pretty head, and laughed with utter joy, grabbed me and kissed me deeper than the sea that was below us.
My Frenchman, and no complaining about housework again. But then again, God knows me.
Sacha is not a barber. Nor a hair stylist. He just wanted to cut his Father's hair.
French Husband sat calmly as Sacha did what he wanted to do.
French Husband's hair could not be shorter than this unless he shaved it.
French Husband's sister... Soizic (an old name from Brittany) was a firecracker who knew how to razzle, dazzle and most of all pop. She was beautiful, stunning chic... when she walked into a room she commanded attention a pleasure she enjoyed. Her smile winning the way of what she wanted, yet underneath, the certainty of a fox who knew how to use her teeth. I was cautious from the moment I met her, which had only been thirty six hours early.
My soon to be sister in law and I shared the brocante bug, something I knew at once when I sat at her table, the day before, for Easter lunch. Soizic's collection of dishes, silverware, linen and stemware were beautiful, she had an artistic, antique enthusiast touch. The transferware's unique pattern, the etched stemware with a 1920s design, the silverware with mother of pearl handles... and the vase in the center holding a cascade of roses. As I did not speak French I admired Soizic's home. We communicated without words, admiration can create a cozy place of comfort, it is easy to detect, which allows a space of acceptance, understanding... a dialog without having to say a word.
Sozic asked where her brother was, I pointed upstairs since I didn't speak French. Then she pointed to the linen closet. What was I to say? To this day I can still see the tip of her tongue dabbing her red painted lip as she opened the closet to feast on the linens with her family's monogram. She ran her hand down the stack, looked back at me with the most delicious smile, then pulled out a set tied with a blue satin ribbon: Set of twelve linen serviettes with the thickest large monogram, she wrote the number down, tossed her head back with glee, reached in and took out a few more stacks. I ran upstairs... I had to get that man out of the dark attic and into the linen light.
French Husband was sitting in the same place, the dust had settled and he was absorbed in some magazine about God knows what. He was content, I was flustered. For him it was uncomfortable to be sorting through his Great Uncle's house. For me it was nothing short of a dream. We stood on opposite sides of the spectrum, and yet there he sat not knowing at all what I was thinking.
With notebooks in hand the band of six climbed the front steps to their Great Uncle's home, or as I saw it a treasure trove museum. Instantly each one went in a different room the library, the dining room, the kitchen, one of the numerous bedrooms, the office, even the hallways offered memories as they were covered with gilded framed portraits. The cousins went along taking numbers of items that held something endearing or a time well spent with their Great Uncle Augustin.
I was the last one to enter, right behind my soon to be French Husband. I held his hand as we walked through the entrance hall, through the living room, barely pausing in the dining room, walked down the hallway, where I glanced into the library as he lead me up the three flights of stairs, passing bedrooms, bathrooms and the study to the attic. French Husband opened the creaky attic door, walked over to the window, opened it, then pushed open the shutters. The light of the day filled the attic space... showing us what was hidden: Cardboard boxes marked "miscellaneous", stacks of books not worthy to live in the library, simple wooden closets containing out of season clothing, with bits and pieces of things that had nowhere else to go, yet must have held meaning? Otherwise why would his Great Uncle have kept such things? I looked around the attic noting that nothing compared to what we had passed up along the way.
French Husband lived in Paris in a studio. His furnishings were minimal: A bed, a set of shelves and a table for two. My small apartment in San Francisco had not much more than his had. I had come over from the States to meet his family since only his mother would be able to come to our wedding in California.
I knew that when I returned to California to prepare for our wedding that I would set up a money tree instead of registering at the local department store that I had dreamed about doing since a child. I would not be able to transport more than my two suitcases could hold. Standing in the attic, the thought of French Husband's few belongings, and about me giving away my few possessions before coming to live in France crossed my mind several times over. We could easily label home on many things in the rooms below. I thought of the kitchen... and my heart raced, I covered my mouth with my hand and tried not to scream, "What are we doing up here!!!!"
Desperately, holding back my desire to run downstairs and rip every ticket I could put my hands on, I asked French Husband was there something he was looking for? Was there a reason why we were in the attic, and not downstairs? Without looking at me he sat down by some boxes and simply said, "No. I came to the attic because I do not want anything. I do not like this sort of thing. I am only here because my cousin asked us to come."
I watched him aimlessly open a box, take a few things out.
Thoughts of begging him, to dragging him downstairs to collect a few things for our soon to be home in Paris came to a halt, his misery made me feel uncomfortable to do so. As I sat down beside him dust ran from underneath me swirling around a box containing 1950s Match magazines. I tried to be silently supportive, I tried to understand his lack of desire, I wondered what I could do to make French Husband feel better; I pondered for fifty nine seconds... then I stood up dusted the dust off me and asked if it bothered him if I went downstairs to take a peek.
Downstairs the other five cousins were having a field day, their notebooks filled with numbers and descriptions. Trying to stay out of their way, I stood in the hallway with open mouth wonder. From where I stood I could see the library with its mahogany floor to ceiling bibliotheque filled with leather bond books with gilded detailing. Oil paintings of the seaside, boats, and those portraits in massive gilded wooden frames. A chandelier dripping with rock crystals, a desk the size of my bedroom. I opened a linen closet in the hallway, monogrammed linens were neatly stacked, tied with pale blue ribbons separating the sets of napkins from one another. I wanted to bang my head against the wall. I felt like a dog in need of a bone, and finding an entire house full yet I felt tied ten yards back. I felt myself screaming inside, "God this is punishment for what? This isn't funny you know." Every cell in my body wanted to make French Husband "want" to get into this giveaway.
I thought about running back upstairs, grabbing the notebook and bopping the man-soon-to- be-my-husband on the head. Even now, nearly thirty years later, recalling this memory I want to bop him on the head... "What was he thinking! Didn't he know me at all?"
ALL those brocante things down below to be had just by writing a number... a number.
How I ever got pass this is a miracle.
...to be continued...
Just as I was about to faint with frustrating pleasure, French Husband's sister came into the hallway turning the page in her notebook, ready to attack the kitchen with a clean page. In a manner not to attract attention I closed the closet door with my foot, inconspicuously looked at my fingernails.
To be continued...
Once upon a time and one time only, did French Husband help deliver a wedding cake for our dear American friend Cynthia, who had an American bakery in Paris.
Cynthia who introduced chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cheesecake, bear claws, and muffins to the Parisians, decided to try her hand with wedding cakes, à la Américain style. French wedding cakes are little cream puffs stacked like a Christmas tree... Not at all the same thing.
The first order came, the cake was baked, decorated and ready to go.
Cynthia delivered her cookies, brownies, and other baked goods with a bicyclette that had an over-sized-basket-like-thing attached to the back. I called it the, "coffin-on-wheels"... imagine riding that thing in Paris. There was no way that this wedding cake could ride in the back... alone... safely.
Cynthia called a taxi.
The taxi-driver looked at the cake and shook his head, "Pas possible!" The wedding bells were ringing, the three tier wedding cake with its fresh cream frosting had to be delivered. The cake was the size of America...
"How am I going to get this wedding cake to the reception?" fretted Cynthia who hopelessly looked at me who had her own little America, an eight month bun in the oven.
French Husband, who would do anything for 10 grams of chocolate, accepted the deal: Two dozen brownies - if he would sit in the back of the coffin-on wheels, while another guy peddled clear across Paris to deliver the wedding cake.
Imagine the bride and groom's surprise when they saw their wedding cake arrive, barely in one piece, straddled between the legs of a Frenchman.
French Husband loves to eat. I was taught that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. It stands to reason that we'd make a good team. Except he eats so fast. His plate is cleared-off before I've taken my first bite. Honestly, he shatters the French image of proper dining etiquette. He borderlines abnormal in this department. I've often wondered why he doesn't enter a food eating contest.
To slow down his rapid hand-to-mouth feeding, I propose simple non-threatening questions, non-threatening because he could blow food chunks! Questions such as,
"What are you eating?"
Last night was no exception. I made curry lentils with coconut. I asked French Husband if he could define the flavors he was inhaling? Barely coming up for air he answered,
"Brown and good!"
"Really," trying not to be insulted I laughed, "I haven't seen brown and good in the market. Seriously, Honey what is the flavor of brown and good?"
He guessed cinnamon.
He thinks humor will charm me. Which it does. Though I did not lend a smile.
French Husband knew if he wanted seconds he had to appease the cook. He always wants thirds so he had to make up big time. He added without licking his lips, "The dinner tasted like bananas mixed with little grainy things and chopped white stuff." And as if that was the craziest answer, he added, "...there were hints of chocolate, eggs and tomatoes."
Nothing surprises me when it comes to his description of food. He almost described a cake until he said tomatoes.
Sometimes I wonder if he is just being cute, or truly a clueless dude when it comes to flavors.
I gave enough clues that the fish in the pond could've given me the answer.
I said, "It is white." He teased, "Oh white chocolate!" Not acknowledging that response I continued, "It grows on a tree." French Husband frowned, "Mais Oui, I said bananas!"
You're probably thinking he is being funny, that he's pretending to be food illiterate. Trust me he is not kidding. He claimed to our baker friend that mustard would be a sweet flavor to add to brownies. Before that comment she thought his "French" admiration to her baking was honorable. He is really just a piglet in a handsome French body.
Looking at him I shook my head, "Remember I am listening, and trying not to feel like I could cook a shoe and you would eat it."
One last clue. "It starts with the letter "C" and it is a tough nut."
French Husband didn't miss a beat. He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye. I smirked, "Don't even say Corey, or you will be eating rocks tomorrow for dinner!"
French Husband does love my cooking. Actually that doesn't sound like a compliment anymore. I'll let you know what he thinks of rock souffle.
Photos: Of a French vintage journal about love, food and homemaking.
French Husband proposed to me in a small neighborhood park in Paris. His breath was swirling white from the cold; funny when you are first in love, the things around seem brand new and miraculous, seeing his breath made me feel less cold. We sat on a bench. French Husband handed me a box of chocolates. Opening it I saw a simple gold band in one of the empty chocolate spots. Oh. I looked up at him, and followed his eyes...
Slouched over the park's fountain was a young man, obviously poor in spirit, shaking from cold, he was holding a spoon over a lighter. I looked back at French Husband, and tried to understand. French Husband stood up, as if in a trance he went to the young man, put his arms around him and held him for which seemed like eternity. He rocked him, gently talked to him. Eventually, the two of them walked to the nearby phone booth, later an ambulance came. French Husband walked back to where I was sitting. He told me the young man was trying to shoot up heroin- and yet he felt it was more than that. French Husband sensed the young man was trying to kill himself, and he felt he needed someone to hold on to.
At that moment I knew my answer would be yes.
The way to know the heart of a person is to see how they treat people they don't know when in need.
Photo: Views and painting of Versailles I took while visiting Marie Antoinette's Trianon.
How was your proposal?
My Vintage Wedding Scrap book starts out with few photos.
Twenty-one years ago on this day, French Husband and I were married under a massive downpour. I wore my Grandmother (Ava) Amaro's moth-eaten, paper thin, silk wedding dress. My mother was worried it would fall off when I walked down the aisle.
I didn't care I liked my Grandmother's wedding dress, even if it were shabby and not chic .
French Husband wore the same wedding tuxedo that his Father wore for his marriage. Which was very chic. It was midnight blue. His mother came to California, from France, for our wedding. But his father could not because he was seriously ill.
We told each other we would write our own marriage vows. The eve before our wedding day French Husband hadn't penned his. I was not pleased. My bride-to-be-nerves kicked in. He told me he was going to say them in French. I cried saying he could be saying anything to me and I wouldn't understand. He told me to look into his eyes that they would speak clearly to me. Horrible as it might sound, I smirked at him. I still feel bad about that.
I did look in his eyes they spoke thankfully since I did not understand one word of what he was saying.
We did not have bridesmaids nor groomsmen... we told everyone gathered that they were our witnesses.
My cousin Julie picked Calli lilies from a garden for my wedding bouquet. I tied an old lace ribbon around them and called it good.
My father was horrified that his only daughter was "doing" her wedding like this... Threadbare dress, handmade wedding invitations, no professional photographer, flowers from a garden, no maid of honor.... no wedding register. What would people think of him! I told him it didn't matter because the wedding was exactly as I wanted it to be.
He nearly died when an Aunt called offering to buy me a wedding dress.
French Husband and I were married at ten in the morning in the Catholic church.
We had brunch.
Our family and friends read the readings, played the music, sang, danced, celebrated with us.
To say that the last twenty seven years have been blissful would not be the truth. To say that it has been easy would be a lie as well. To say we have held on to the good moments and stuck it out in through the rough patches would be honest.
We returned to France shortly after our wedding day.
We lived in an attic studio, on the seventh floor, next to Les Halles in Paris.
What were the details of your marriage?
Twenty-one lots for sale.
By, Mr. D'Agrain, notary, Isère, France.
February 2, 1896, at 1:30
Price Range: 300 French Francs to 1200 French Francs.
Back in 1987.....
French Husband's Great Uncle had died, leaving everything to his only child, Louise, French Husband's cousin who was nearly seventy.
Louise's Father's home was a lovely two story house in the country. Her Father had a wooden shoe manufacturing company, and a home filled with beautiful antique furniture, paintings, books, mirrors, dishes, linens... there was barely breathing room between the walls and the furniture. It was stuffed beyond imagination from the attic, down through the two floors, into the basement, pouring out in the yard, and gorging out of the garage. You might say he had it all and then some.
Simply said: He had the brocante bug badly, and stacks of wooden shoes.
Louise had asked her six cousins to come over to her Father's house, she had somethings she wanted to give each of them. French Husband, his five cousins and I gathered on the front lawn. Louise handed each of them a notebook and a pencil, then told them to go into the house where they would see numbers on everything, if they saw anything that they liked they were to cross the number off the item then write it down in the notebook with a brief description. She said, she had everything she needed, and since she did not have any children herself she thought they might like to have a few or as many things from her father's house before she gave the stuff away. Louise clapped her hands encouraging them to go inside...
I had just met French Husband's family the day before, I felt so odd being there, it was such a personal family moment, yet I cannot deny how excited I was to see what was inside.
To be continued...
Two years after my boyfriend had died I still was far from myself, life seem to spin in a different circle. Questioning the meaning of life became my new past time, along with spewing angry words at God. Which was not convenient considering I was working for the Catholic church. Imagine sitting in church, a holy silence, prayers being said right and left, and there in the middle a young woman, eyes closed, seemingly in sincere prayer for courage and grace as her boyfriend had died... and instead if you could turn the volume up so that her prayers/thoughts became out loud you would have heard her cussing through the Our Fathers and rarely saying peace be with you.
I felt lost in a very dark cave called depression.
I was working for the Catholic church in San Francisco, though found refuge at a gay dance club called the I-Beam... I loved to dance, and it was certain that at a gay dance club a woman dressed to sweat, who wanted to dance her pain away could do so without hassle. Freedom to dance without anyone watching.
It was heavenly.
As time went by my family and friends tried in vain to set me up with dates. They had good intentions trying to find me love and happiness. The guys I met were kind, interesting, perfect really... but I wasn't in the mood for falling in love. It was a risky business that love thing. Death seemed to lurk behind the eyes of those I met. Maybe I was bad luck? Maybe they would die on me too? Weren't we all going to die? Fear became my new best friend, and it sat by my side unbecomingly. Hauntingly.
In response to those who encouraged me to date again I would tell them, "When the time is right someone will walk up to me unexpectedly, telling me his name is John. That will be my sign." John was the name of my beloved.
I honestly believed the chances of that happening were next to none, that suited me fine. It was if I was taunting God and all those who cared about me, I don't care! Who needs love!"
If someone was attracted to me and out of nowhere came up to me and said, "My name is John." Well it would be a joke, an eye opener, or a miracle. I danced on and on not taking the time or interest to notice anyone.
So imagine how shocked I was when dancing at the I-BEAM that a young, handsome man danced by my side. The I-Beam was a place a woman could dance unnoticed for eternity. What was this guy doing dancing by me? Gee, couldn't he tell I was a woman? His flirtation was blatant causing me to blush. Nervous, caught off guard by my feelings of attraction I decide to leave the dance floor. He tapped my shoulder. A rush of warmth went through me causing my fear to melt.
I was surprised at my reaction.
In broken English the young man blurted, "I me name...Yann." I didn't understand a word he said, I asked "Yawn?" Thinking to myself that is a funny name.
His next words changed my world. He said:
"Yann... in French is John."
(Tarzan and Jane via 1934)
My Mother told me two things when she met Future French Husband:
1) The way to that man's heart is through his stomach, bake cookies.
2) He loves adventure, so don't be a wuss.
I took cookies out of my Mother's freezer and told French Husband that I made them. He adored me more for the cookies I didn't bake.
...and when my (not yet,) French Husband and my then 14 year old brother, Zane, went swimming in the canal I followed. Next to the canal there was a tall tree with a long dangling rope. They climbed the tree, grabbed the rope and swang out, roped-dived into the canal. My Mother said, "Corey, you gotta do it!"
"Do what, That?!" I thought my mother was mad, but she knew that I had to be a Jane or risk losing that Tarzan.
The easy part was climbing the tree. I grabbed the rope, I took a deep breath and pushed out. The rope burned my hands and upper torso, as I slipped down, down, down... not even close to the canal, but into the muddy embankment. POW! SPLAT! Mud in mouth and swimsuit top torn off.
"Me Tarzan You Jane!" French Husband seem to say when he kissed me. As my Mother made frantic sign language for me to cover up my nude torso.
Mischievously, I smiled, knowing that this too was a way to that man's heart.
It is funny how we forget certain things.
Or think we know all that there is to know about a subject. It is funny to discover that in the multi-page book, or the patchwork quilt, or the box of puzzle pieces of our lives that there are points that we have overlooked. It is awesome when the points make themselves known, When our eyes are opened to the fine print, or when our hand touches the patchwork's rough edge, feeling velvet instead. Or when a small piece of the puzzle adds an eternity of dimension.
Years ago I asked Sacha if he knew how French Husband and I had met. He smirked, "Of course!" He went on to defend his romantic knowledge of our meeting, and I beamed while listening to our seventeen year old talk about his Papa and me. Then like a thunderbolt he said something that made me take note, "What?! Oh my God! You're right I forgot about that! How did I forget about that?"
Sacha looked at me like I was a delinquent lover, "Mom, if Daddy had flipped Tails we wouldn't be here having this conversation. How did you forget about that?"
You see when French Husband was in L.A. standing at the Pacific's edge he realized that his dream of being in Southern California was not what he had imagined. He had not met anyone, his wallet was thinning, though Skylark was full, he was desperate. Reaching into his pocket he took out a coin: "Face (Heads) I will drive North, Pile (Tails) I will continue South."
In response to Sacha I offered, "I am flaky that's why. Thank God I have you to keep me on track." Then because Sacha was feeling full of himself, smarty and cute, looking so grown up I asked him if he had read the blog post about the Twenty-Steps. He shook his head no. I read him the Twenty-Steps. When I read number Twenty, he put his hand to his mouth, "Mom your joking! You are making this up! You did not write that? Daddy didn't do that, did he?"
Afterwords he realized that this was a missing piece to what he knew of our story, he continued, "Please tell me he modeled underwear or something like that and not that he was hanging out like a penis model!"
"A penis model?" I laughed.
"Whatever," he shrugged, "Mom?"
"Ask your Daddy, it is a good story."
Note: For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, and for those of you who have just started: Many of you over the years have asked me to "Fess up" about how I came to meet my French Husband and what it is like living in France. I am repeating these blog post that I wrote five years ago.
Back then I wrote:
"After blogging every single day I am starting to put on my blog,
"How I Met my French Husband"
It is a new direction for me. Though I usually write about my passion for the French Brocante spiced with my personal life, I have never gone into so much detail about the reason I have spent over twenty years living in France. I will continue to talk about the brocante, my family, cooking, Annie, showing photos, and the other aspects of my life while diving into "How I Met my French Husband"-- I warn you the details are not always as pleasant as the "Happy Blog" that I have been writing but it is my story and hopefully you won't mind following along.Your friendship, your comments, are appreciated."
Thank you for encouraging me to write my story. (Any tips, corrections, or thoughts are welcomed.)
French Husband didn't think it was that easy.
Shortly, after French Husband arrived in San Francisco to live his "California Dream", he looked forward to calling it his home for a few months. Needing a place stay and money he found an au-pair job (live-in nanny) in Cole Valley in San Francisco. The family: Two doctors living in a restored Victorian with three young children. The two doctors worked endless hours. They desperately needed someone to care, take to school, pick up, fed, and put their children to bed. Oh and they wanted their boys to learn French. For this they gave French Husband a small stipend and a place to live (a small cottage in their backyard). It was exactly what French Husband had hoped for.
His Au-pair job was ideal, paying for his basic needs and giving him a place to live. Though he had no extra cash. He asked his new found friend (Madame H.'s niece) Francoise, if she knew of anything that he could do for a few hours a week where he did not have to talk too much to make some cash... like washing dishes or something. Francoise was an art student in San Francisco, she told French Husband that her art class was looking for models. French Husband applied and got the job. They sketched his feet, his face and his hands holding a book.
After weeks of hanging out at the I-Beam I agreed to met French Husband at a Burrito joint. He was more handsome than I had imagined. I thought to myself, "The outdoor light has its advantages."
We talked in simple verse:
"How old are you?"
"Me tunty-tree, a you?"
"I am TWEN-TY- seven."
"What are you doing in San Francisco?"
"What? Rahpeet slow-ly peas?"
I pointed to him, "You," then I looked around the burrito joint, "San Francisco, why?" as I lifted up my hands with my palms up.
"I like you."
"Okay. Oh? No- I mean WHAT...are...YOU... DOING in San Francisco?"
"Oleeday. And you?"
Those early days were a lesson in patience. French Husband would say his head felt like it was going to explode with the overload of another language. I knew I had to speak slower, simpler, and memorize what words he knew. Sign language works wonders.
French Husband's English improved. He told me the Art class at the school had asked him if he wanted to model nude. That they would pay him a $100 an hour. All he had to do was stand still with a sheet draped over his shoulder.
"What should I do?"
"One hundred dollars an hour?"
"But what if someting, you know, eh, goes up, poof?" he asked pointing his finger by his pants.
"Oh, don't worry, it won't be the first time any of them saw something go up," I made a funny face, giggled, "it will give them a different angle!" cracking up over my own joke. I knew he didn't understand anything I said.
"Why do you laugh? You tink it not good I do this?"
"No, do it."
And he did and nothing ever went up.
As French Husband modeled at an art school photos were not allowed. Phone cameras and digital weren't around, thank God. He saw some of the drawings: Mostly modern art were you could not tell if he had an eye, or an elbow, or an ear or corn.
The word handyman and the husband that is French do not get along. If there is one thing I could change it would be that, and his long need for silence. To make matters even more interesting that man who is French does not like anyone to do things that need to be done. So hiring a handyman is out of the question. Kinda really drives me to swear under my breath and often out loud.
The woman he married has a tendency, oh wait that might be too mild of a word... to change things, add things, likes old things that need repair. So a lack of handyman and a woman who loves home decor can create for quite the game of: "How to make this happen?"
Learning to let go and let be is awfully aggravating at times. Usually I am not successful, not at all zen, and well basically a brat.
Prioritizing my handyman jobs is high on my list of learning, "How to make this happen" and keeping peace at home. Don't get me wrong that man of mine who dislikes doing things around the house, appreciates a beautiful home, but could so easily live in a tent... maybe prefers a tent.
As we planned our trip to Paris, to stay in our apartment and visit our children I knew I had limited time to get things done. I wanted the bed to be raised... but that didn't happen. I wanted the large bust that I bought in September to be fixed so it could stand upright... that didn't happen. I wanted to paint the front door but that didn't happen. Instead I focused on hanging the collection of 1700s French antique platters that I had been collecting this year for the two walls in the apartment.
I know how to drill holes, I prefer nails, but funny how nails and stone walls don't get along. Also another amazing fact is how pictures can cover big holes. So like I was saying I know how to drill holes but French Husband unravels if I daresay, "I can do it." If I want him to unravel all I have to say is, "I am going to drill holes." Can you hear me laughing? You see French Husband is for the most part easy going... but that is because I know what not to say... well sometimes.
List in mental hand I picked the moment carefully to ask that man who hates to do handyman jobs, and dislikes anyone doing them, and goes nuts if I attempt to do it myself, to drill NINE holes.
Nine holes is serious business. Serious reflection. Crime worthy. Stressful. Ridiculous to ask.
The day before we left Paris I asked Sacha if he would drill some holes, he said, "Sure."
Just like that. Sure.
Wow, what a concept.
French Husband didn't know what to say.
Why hadn't I figured out that trick before?
The power of the son. Trump card. Magic trick. Love. Happiness. Nine holes with one.
For the record I ask for a handyman every Christmas only to have someone sigh and roll their eyes. Now I have Sacha. If only he lived closer.
Sacha is a perfectionist.
His tendency to have things just a certain way is actually a plus when you want something done right. I remember when he was little if I asked him to sweep the terrace he would literally sweep it lickable clean.
Perfectionism can be annoying. But not this time.
That other guy called husband didn't know what to think.
Mom thought genius!
Son worked on.
Most of the platters are from Gien, late 1700s, they are perfectly imperfect: Cracked, crackled, chipped and stapled.
I could read his regretful mind. I asked, "Don't you like them like this? Tricky question isn't it?" I giggled and nudge him but he wasn't buying my "let's move on" ticket.
Years ago when the children were children my parents came to visit us. I had been begging Yann to drill some holes in the kitchen so I could put up a rack to hang pans on. After days of asking Yann to do it, my dad bought me a drill. I dared not use it because Yann would not appreciate it. Weird I know, but don't all couples have weird things in their relationship that they have to work around and be mindful of?
Anyway, one evening after asking Yann for the millionth time to drill two holes, he said, "We (like he had a mouse in his pocket) had to think about it some more, since the house was old and not standard, there could be electrical wires to consider, or a pipe or something... we couldn't just drill a hole just like that." My dad had had it, he stood up, grabbed the drill he bought me and drilled a hole in the place I had marked.
POOF the wall exploded, and I am not EXAGGERATING! POOF! Hot water came flooding out of that rapidly ever growing hole.
As the wall became a sideway volcano, our children cried, my mother covered her mouth, my dad swore, I ran to turn the water-line off and Yann's point was proven.
Nobody ever used the drill my dad bought for me again.
French Husband grabbed the pliers.
I teased, "Isn't it fun to have a family project."
His smiled did not crack as charming as the platters.
The corner piece I found in Paris a few months ago. French Husband had a helluva time getting it home: The shop was closing, we were leaving the next day, it didn't fit in a taxi or a car... so he carried it home. He is generous like that.
Handy man or transporter?
While in Paris this last week I painted it. Which I did instead of painting the front door. Some painting projects are more creative, inspiring, more fun than others. I tend to do the fun stuff first.
"Nine platters hanging instead of nine ladies dancing!" I cheered.
French Husband didn't respond.
Son shook his head.
Mother didn't care.
Son stepped back and offered his opinion, "A few more platters are needed." Which was music to my ears, he asked if I had anymore?
I wished. I agreed. I thanked him.
At that moment I saw that man called my husband calculating the meaning of more platters needed: More holes to drill.
Though even he agreed, more smaller platters were needed.
Love can shine through cracks.
... and they lived happily by the end of the day.
So there we were standing next to Notre Dame in Marseille, and the memory of yesterday hit me. Laughter all over again.
Our friend Dave teased Yann, "You could do an ad that reads, "Have Panties will Find."
Yann added, "I could be the Panty Finder."
"Better yet," Dave laughed, "You could do F. P. Tours of Provence!"
French Panties Tours of Provence.
"You lose 'em I'll find them."
We think he has a new calling. Panty Guide.
Thank you Denise!
A few months ago French Husband said he thought that our Paris apartment looked too bare, he wanted it to be more like our home. Gee, is that the best dream like thing to say... "Fill it up!" or in other words: "Go-to-the-brocante-and-buy!" Needless to say I dove into that request.
Goodness is what I hoped for in a relationship. A goodness that makes the strain and stress that sneaks into any relationship melt and mend.
Melt and mend...
No marriage is as easy as happy ever after.
Loving has its unmarked roads, and some of those bumps can really kick butt and throw one off course.
What keeps us together? What keeps me believing in the road under our feet?
Two hearts beating in rhythm that cannot be controlled.
a simpleness, a breath of fresh air, those little things that make my heart leap unexpectedly. Laughter. A hand to hold.
Melt and mend.
Melting over me
warm and complete.
Ah the ease of loving, and what keeps me close.
And when it isn't so....
and a willingness.
And when he wants to do the scary stuff like fly that Ultra Lite, or worse wants to go caving, or when he stays silent too long, or when he becomes a Drama King over nothing, or when he takes hours to park the car... things that drive me nuts.
count to ten.
count the blessings.
count the pills that I am.
Melt and mend.
I wish loving were so for everyone.
"God, why not?"
On the road I
grabbed his butt and squeezed.
(My mother is not going to like this photo.)
Thank you to the universe around and within.
May it be this loving for my entire life.
My friend Cheryl took these photos.
At Dinner with the Joker. French Husband can be a clown add that to goofy and stir in his joking about something silly such as a Frenchman acting out different accents as the French hear them.
Instant comedy without much to drink.
Our friends Mari and Shelby egged French Husband on with, "Let's hear a German accent, an English accent, a Chinese accent," and then they went into over drive with laughter as French Husband acted each "foreign accent" in French for them.
Some people have to drink, or take drugs, or been paid to have this much fun. Mari and Shelby just had to sit and ask for a different accent.
I didn't know who was having more fun the ones laughing (Mari and Shelby) or the one being laughed at (French Husband).
In a restaurant they laughed full throttle.
The more they laughed the more French Husband accelerated.
As French Husband joked,
they laughed, which prompted them to say english expressions, and French Husband tried to understand the meaning:
'Have a cow!"
"Who has a cow? What do you mean to have a cow?""
Winners will be announced tomorrow.
French Husband cooks... and now he is taking photos of his meals prepared. He use to think I was nutty doing that. I am rubbing off on him. This was the breakfast he prepared. Gives meaning to "Happy Meal".
A radish for a sausage. Or a radish for a nose. Two over easy eggs and a bit of scrambled smile. French Husband beamed at his masterpiece than asked if I was making pancakes.
Oh the advantage of saying no to pancakes is the fresh warm baguettes around the corner.
Because Chelsea and Sacha are home for a long weekend, they decided to go canyoning, which sounded like canoeing to me, well the way French Husband said canyoning that is. French Husband begged me to go, "...you will have fun, you will be with us, I will watch out for you, it is not hard, ten years olds do it..."
But I am not so stupid after 27 years of being married to this Frenchman I have learned the hard way that his easy means, "Scary as $é!§è"é§(&#à" for me.
The three of them left this morning for the Gorge de Verdon, a stunningly beautiful canyon less than two hours from our home. Right before they left French Husband pleaded again, "Come on Corey, you can take pictures, you will be with us, I will watch out for you, ten year olds do it... there are only a few ropes and you will have a helmet and a wet suit..."
"ROPES...?" I asked, "Why does one need a rope to go canoeing?"
But when I said canoeing French Husband heard canyoning.
He shrugged, "You should come, and be with us."
I felt guilty. I wished my fear did not control my decision. I thought to myself, "I can take emotional risks, but not physical ones."
They happily went without me.
I went to church and prayed in the calm silent womb, the safe place I feel when I am there. I prayed for their safety, with the word rope coming in between my Hail Marys and Our Fathers.
Early afternoon Chelsea called to reassure me that they were fine.
I could tell they were in hog heaven of over abundant glory. I asked, "Did you take any photos?" Chelsea laughed, "Mom, how could I?"
I was utterly confused, "Couldn't you stop rowing to take one souvenir photo?"
"Rowing" she laughed then clarified, in her perfect accent, "Mom we went canyoning not canoeing."
"Could I have done it?"
"Oh God NO way! We all agreed, that you would have HATED every single second of it."
in which I replied, "Thank God," and under my breath, "I am so gonna bop you dad."
Photos from the professional organization to come.
photos via: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canyoning
French Husband has an accent when he speaks English. But my accent is bigger. His English is better then my French. But I understand what is going on faster that he does. Often he makes me repeat myself once, twice, and he tries for a third time, well then I just say it in French. He rolls his eyes.
French Husband does not speak French to me, nor does he let me speak French to him. WHich drives his friends crazy. You see my French sounds like nails to a chalkboard to him. He exaggerates. When I speak French to him his faces turns into a dried fig. Not pretty for a pretty boy.
French Husband and I speak three languages: French, English and Franglais. We also dance.
French Husband does not swear, nor uses slang words, which means my French is flawed.
Really after twenty twenty six (or is it seven?) years you would think he would speak French with me? If he can say to me, "Rubber Beer" for Root Beer, "Bob Lights" for Light Bulbs, and "F-ck" for Fork, I should be able to attempt the same faux pas with him.
Plus French Husband wears crocs as slippers.
He doesn't know what "crocs" are... and he calls slippers, "sleepers". If French Husband wrote a blog he could tell you about my endearing errors and butchered French words, but he doesn't, leaving me with all the fun.
I took French in high school and flunked. I got out of the class as it was an elective and well an "F" on an elective isn't really worth it is it. French Husband took English in high school and flunked too. His teacher said to him, "You will never speak English."
We were made for each other.
I hope I do not sound mad at my Husband. I am teasing. I don't care what language we speak. The first year of our romance we didn't speak each other's language. It made for some seriously funny moments, frustrating moments and we learned how to communicate by listening to each other... without words. I saw how he was with others, I read his face, I listened to his heart and it spoke clearly.
Plus children loved him.
Mother's Day in France is after Mother's Day in the States. As I live in France, but I am American, I thought I would be lucky enough to have a double dose in celebrating Mother's Day. But that never happened. Which was okay by me as long as Mother's Day was celebrated at least once a year.
My first time I celebrated Mother's Day Chelsea was five months old. I was excited anticipating what gift French Husband had chosen for me... Perfume, flowers maybe chocolate or perhaps he had spoiled me and had all three? Perhaps he had planned to take me out to dinner. That morning as he ready himself I fluttered around the kitchen with giddiness. As soon as he stepped foot into the kitchen I wrapped my arms around him like a child waiting for Santa, blurting, "Okay, okay, I am so exicted, just tell me now, how are we celebrating Mother's Day?"
Confused and caught off guard he said, "But you are not my Mother."
My arms drop as my happy moment spilled to the floor. I reminded him that I knew that I wasn't his mother, but that I was the Mother of our child... and well er um I kind of was hoping for some hoopla.
Now, years later that has become a classic expression in our minds when Mother's Day rolls around I remind him, "Honey, the holiday: I am not your Mother, is coming."
Yesterday we celebrated Mother's Day Sacha came home and we three went out to lunch. Next weekend Chelsea will be home... Oh la la, finally after 24 years I will celebrate Mother's Day twice, plus French Husband gave me the most wonderful gift... Chelsea and Sacha xx