Wednesday, June 11, 2008

from somewhere in Paris, by the river Marne: the next day

Finally, on Tuesday, the country wakes up from a post-dejeuner doze. The café where I want to be a regular café crème customer each morning is open. I bike over and settle in.

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I play with my camera, but just a little. Mainly I am enjoying the coffee, the pain au chocolate. The camera is loosely in my hand. A gentleman calls out to me from across the street. Don’t take my picture this morning! I didn’t put on make up yet! It takes me a minute to translate this in my head. Putting on make up – a phrase from the past. I haven’t much use for it these days. But he is already laughing. No make up! He says it in French, then in English. I laugh too.

I’m not always sure how my camera will be received when I’m out and about. I am always quite obvious about it and these days, oftentimes I ask. In this section of Paris, no one has yet said no.

Aurore wants to know if I want to go to the market this morning. (If you know your village schedules, you can catch a weekly open air market every day. Except Monday. Yes, I know, I am in Paris, but I live as in a village, because this part of the city is, indeed its own village.)

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I follow her on the morning rounds. Market, bakery, plant store.

The sellers are engaging. Young men, bantering about this rather unusual presence of a tourist. (My camera is dangling conspicuously again.) I assure them that for once, I am in a buying mode. Really, j’achete tous! Well, maybe not everything, but a lot. My backpack fills and Aurore lends me her second basket. I am a kid let loose in Disneyland. I am a person starved for markets that have dinner right there for you, so that you don’t have to sweat thinking and planning. Shop at the market, cook and serve – how complicated is that? And if you’re not sure about your cooking skills, throw in the cheese and fresh bread and everyone goes home happy.

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Except that here, I am certain that everyone must know how to cook. It is as important as learning to tie your shoes. (Does it show my age that I should use this analogy??) Some time back, in a country b&b in Brittany, my landlady said -- I don't cook much for breakfast. I only made a Brittany cake, some breads, yougurt, fruit... Right. Not much at all.

At the plant store, Aurore buys plants for the garden. I think her garden is already magnificent, but I understand the temptation to add more.

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And then I am home again and I close the door and work.

In the early evening, I take a walk by the Marne. I’m in a people watching mode.

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And I see this adorable family, where one girl is on a lap, the other is dancing around and there is a picnic basket at the side. I recognize it as my landlords and I tiptoe past them, not wanting to disturb a moment so singularly peaceful that it catches you right there in the throat.

Back home, the little one brings me a bouquet of mint and a sprig of tiny yellow buds.

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Her sister looks up from homework and I think that surely homework must be pleasant, fun even, when it is on the terrace amidst roses. And when you know that the next day there is no school.

Wednesdays here are school free days and next year, the primary grades will cut their Saturday classes as well. The president wants to improve the performance of school children and he is doing this by eliminating some school hours. An idea I could totally get behind, being of the belief that school work took my own daughters away from family time far too often, particularly on the week-ends.

I eat dinner en famille and it is as if I am eating with my own family fifteen years back except that they’re all speaking French and so the analogy ends right there.

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The girls play in the way that only children their age can play at the close of a warm, sunny day. With vigor!

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And then the evening winds down. Two more minutes! I know that cry. Two more minutes, I have dreams about “two more minutes” in life, where I want to continue something but I know I cannot. It’s so intense, so good, just two more minutes please!

I work late, not wanting to give it up just yet on this day of such warmth and tenderness.