I don’t know if I should start in the beginning or work my way backward from where I am now, about forty miles west of Paris.
It seems I’ve lived in so many places. I’ve been in this house since 2000, and that’s a record for me. I’m getting antsy.
I guess I’ll jump around.
April 1979 – I arrived in Paris in the middle of a huge thunderstorm. We caught a taxi from the airport and there was so much water on the road it flooded and everyone stopped. We had to wait for an hour until the rain stopped, the water subsided, and we could go on. By then it was dark, and my first glimpse of Paris was rain soaked streets, fog shrouded buildings, and the Eiffel tower wrapped in a cloak of thick mist.
The next day I had instructions how to get to the agency and off I went – after a typical French breakfast of strong tea, hot milk, and toast. The taxi driver asked me if it was my first time in France, and I said yes. He said he would give me a kiss for luck, and gave me a peck on both cheeks, French style. “There, now you are French,” he proclaimed.
I was both enchanted and mortified. A stranger had kissed me, but I was French!
The enchantment lasted all day. I easily conquered the metro system and learned my first words (left and right) and talked to an old lady at the magazine stand. A book slid off the counter, fell on the sidewalk, and I used my vocabulary – “Tomber!” I cried, pointing at it.
“Well, don’t just stand there. Pick it up,” she said, in English. She gave me a post card with a picture in black and white of a little boy sitting at a schooldesk, staring hard at the ceiling. “Very famous french photographer,” she said.
It was ROBERT DOISNEAU and I’ve loved his photos ever since.
I also loved the museums in¨Paris, and I think I went to all the shows in the ‘Grand’ and ‘Petit’ palace one year. I was at the opening of the new ‘Jeu de Paume’ and ‘Orangerie’ museums, and I spent hours wandering through the Louvre (getting lost in there is so much fun!)
My daughter went to the Louvre with her class (so did my sons – lucky French children, they get to go to the Louvre!) They start early, first in the Egyptian section, then going to the Greek part, then going to the paintings where they admire the Mona Lisa as she stares at them with her smug smile (she has the same smile as French waiters, come to think about it…)
I just read that a teacher in Texas was fired without tenure from her post for taking her kids to a museum where they saw *gasp* a naked body. Now, I don’t want to sound smug (picture my Mona Lisa smile) but kids in France not only get to see naked people in paintings, but they get to see naked Greek statues and even a statue of a hermaphrodite, which they had to comment on in the paper they were writing on the visit. Most comments were “I didn’t know the Greeks had such great mattresses.” So you see, the French are not raising a bunch of sex offenders. I might add (again without the smug smile) that statisticlly, we have far fewer teen pregnancies and sex offences than in the puritan US, which might be an argument from taking kids to museums earlier and more often, so they can see what a naked body looks like and get used to it.)
Television shocked me (coming from puritan US) when I saw the naked women advertising shower soap (and whatever else a naked woman could advertise, it sometimes seems they get carried away, like the naked woman advertising a new telephone company…) but they give fair time to men, and there is a wonderful DIM commercial with a hunk in his birthday suit – and of course, my favorite rugby man calendar.