Sunday, June 16, 2013

joyeuse fête des pères

Happy Father's Day,  you, you dads out there! My daughters' dad included!

Ed is not a father. I used to tease him with a "do you know for sure?" and "maybe a child was hidden from you!" He'd think a while, shrug it off and continue with his reading (Ed reads copious amounts, constantly).

Perhaps his lack of commitment to being a dad is what causes him to be so affectionate with stray cats.

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(The cat here who loves Ed best is one without a tail and with a very remarkable face.)

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...Or with the stray person -- me -- that stumbled into his life nearly eight years ago. His quotient of affect hadn't yet been spent.

I think about this as we sit at the cafe bar on the square with our morning pains au chocolat, because in France, as in the States, today is Father's Day. One consequence -- the lines at bakeries are longer than usual.

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the two affable clerks who have been handing out bread in the old bakery for as long as I've been coming to Sorede

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the good bakeries put two strips of chocolate into their pain

And, too, it's harder to eat today without forethought or a plan, as many eating venues fill up in the afternoon and close for the evening.

From what I can tell, Father's Day here isn't so much a gift giving day, it's an eating day, which distinguishes it from other Sundays not a whole bunch and here's the irony -- because this day is special, prepared foods (rotisserie chickens, for example) are especially popular! 'Special' means someone outside the family cooks it for you. The local shop in Sorede that sells only take out foods (chicken and shrimp, bouillabaisse, etc) is so swamped that it stopped taking requests for this Sunday many days ago.

And so as we approach our cafe bar...

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... in the wee hours of the morning (circa 10:30) I'm thinking ahead to dinner. And what a delightful surprise -- I see that the boucherie on the square has a chalk board out  and it announces that they're making paella today. In an hour, it'll be ready in an hour -- the jovial butcher tells us, glancing over his shoulder to the kitchen where the wife is stirring something intensely fragrant. As always, he punctuates his sentences with bellows of song. The man loves his job alright. Or singing. Or both.

We had left our bread and pain and books at the cafe table and the waitress, in spotting us, put out the usual without even waiting for a request. Cafe creme and Perrier with ice.


We spend a wonderful hour eating, sipping, reading and, in my case, watching fathers take pride in their sons and daughters.

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We pick up the tub of paella from the proud cook and she is kind enough to go easy on the sausage (Ed foibles). In the background, her husband butchers meats and whistles.

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It is a warm day. Sunny skies, calm winds. Beach weather!

But first, lunch. On the terrace. Ed has just finished repairing my broken sandal (yes, I'm thankful that he rarely travels without an extra piece of rope, just in case...) and so I am feeling appreciative, not so much in the mood for challenging his views on, for example, fatherhood. [One frustration that you could have in discussing parenthood with Ed is that there are the articulated views and there is behavior and the two do not necessarily fit well into a coherent whole.]

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We linger over the cherries, we forget that there's half a Napoleon left in the refrigerator. Warm, so warm. A quick nap -- just a wee little doze...

I wake up an hour later to that howling wind. This is something I have learned about southern France -- its winds are like no other. The sky will be clear, the sun will be radiantly brilliant and yet, when the winds set it, watch out! It makes demons out of people, they say.

I ignore the wind and say to Ed - how about the beach just north of here? Me, I never once swam there. The waters have always been too choppy. But, the air is warm, the sun's out, why not head out to something that's not just one of our favorites?

So why wasn't I paying attention to the wind? The calm waters of the Mediterranean are dancing some crazy jig: it is wild out there!

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Ed is delighted. He plunges in. Again and again. And of course, I have about ten moments when I think the sea has swallowed him and I worry about whether I should call forth a search party, but each time he emerges with a grin, only to disappear again. This happens again and again. Our love of the sea is so different! So very very different!

Ed, we have nothing in common!

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How many hundred of times have we said this/thought this? So how is it that we still end the day in the way that we always do -- eating nuts and touching limbs and sharing stories that one of us has read in one place or another?

Come in, come in - he beckons now from the sea. No, not my kind of waters. Instead, I walk the length of the seashore, admiring  it all -- the children...

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...the windsurfers...

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...the fathers and daughters, fathers and sons...

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Dinner. So simple, so delicious! I want to write an email to all the butchers in Madison. Something like this: dear butcher of Madison, On the off chance that you want to make some extra cash, how about mixing up some take-out paella every now and then? I think you'd strike gold! We all love Thai take out and some people love Chinese takeout, but a butcher back home with a takeout menu that includes paella? I think that's not been tried before!

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The winds roar in from the mountains. A wild and brilliant Father's Day.  Hey, you dads out there -- was the food good? Did you kid(s) let you know they loved you?