When Charlotte started her dance class at the beginning of the school year she had a particularly French dance teacher. I don't mean this in a mean way either but when I say particularly French I mean like my mother in law, --very correct, full of rules and using madame a lot when you could just simply answer the question without addressing the person with a curt madame. I'm so used to this type of woman that I don't even flinch at them anymore. In fact they're kind of comforting facet of French life. What would we do without them and their high pitched voices seven octaves above the rest of the world! Oh dear! What music to my ears they were when I came back from China.
On this particular September day all of the parents were seated on the floor of the dance studio while Martine checked out all of our girls to see if they were in the right class by age. She quizzed them one by one and then quizzed the parents, and then continured until there was only one left, an adorable little blonde with a sassy ponytail and a downcast eyes. How old is she? Martine asked the mom in French and suddenly I heard the familiar twang of an american speaking in broken French "Elle eess seeez anZ" was the response and Martine kind of crinkled her nose and asked the little girl instead who responded in near perfect French "I'm six!" She would be better in the other class, the morning class Martine decided so she told the mom who didn't understand and then two or three or possibly seven French people jumped at the occassion to show off their English. "Eeeet eeez about dee leeetle girl must to changing dees classes to do anUdder classes" and so on until finally the little girl deciding that a six year old can easily translate better than any French adult can, said "Mommy she wants me to do the morning class if that's okay with you." The mom smiled uncomfortably and I clammed up embarrassed for her and not wanting to contribute to the chaos. At the same time I was amazed because you rarely meet Americans living in France unless you live in Paris where they're practically sprouting from the pavement, but here in rural France? Gah!
After the class we spoke a bit. She was blonde and pretty from California. She spoke quite a bit about herself and me about well, mostly about her. It was a first impression to be honest but she seemed a) a little self centered b) intimidated that her French sucked c) I didn't care because I figured she speaks English so we'll make it work between us somehow because here was an oasis,--a lovely oasis of an island in a churning sea of french linguistic calamity. My ears ring with this calamity all day and I long to have a few words at my own speed and in my own langauge. So yes, she was tolerable enough and even better than any of that, our girls nearly jumped on each other rattling away in English and asking very excited when they could play together at each other's houses. Charlotte stood amazed. She has never spoken English with any other child and here in France she only speaks it with me and her marraine so she was in awe that someone her age could speak like her. I told the mom we'd see them next week and off we went to catch our bus before it was too late.
The next week unfortunately the class had dwindled to six, no doubt due to Martine's charming introduction. I arrived a little early for the exit of the six year old class and stood outside the studio waiting for the american mom to show up to pick up her daughter but she hadn't come back. Too bad I thought. I won't have my oasis after all.
Okay so fast forward to two months later, as I'm in with my esthetician Sara whose part time job is town crier, I swear she knows everything about everyone,. Anyway I remember as I'm numbly following her chattering telling me about her daughter's school that the american mom said her kids were in the same school when I first met her. I decide to ask her if she knows her and she says "yes, of course her daughter is in my daughter's class and they have dance together on Wednesdays" It turns out after all that she'd loathed Martine's frenchness and changed dance schools alltogether. Well my esthetician Sara who is super friendly suggests I pass along my phone number through her and she'll do the explanation but to be safe and make it clear I write a little note to go with my phone number in the vein of "I'm the american mom you met at the communtiy center dance class" ... "let's have coffee sometime" . The note is passed the week before Thanksgiving and three bikini waxes later no response. The esthetician Sara asks me every time and I just shake my head, "no not yet." Then Sara says, "well I did give her the note but she seems tired lately" or something odd to fill the awkward moment..
Now here's the funny part which will tell you how small the world is. One of the only people I really chat with outside Charlotte's school is a muslim mom who moved here from Paris around the same time as us. She's really nice and we always talk. Sometimes our kids play together after school and she's also my occasional running partner. Turns out her husband who works across the lake in Lausanne happens to work with the american mom's husband and they cross the lake together every day in the ferry boat, They're guy buddies! She asks if I can call american mom because she's very lonely and could use a friend. She also tells me that american mom was in a huge argument where a french person in town spit on her and called her a "sale americiane" or something strange. She gives me the phone number and says "you should really call her." This was a week ago. Each day my muslim friend says "did you call her yet?"
So do I call or not? I feel a little funny that she didn't call me after my note nearly two months ago. It doesn't sound like the actions of a lonely person. I don't want to push anything but our kids would really have fun together. And I'm dying to know about the fight she had in town. What could this all be about? I've never been provoked or spit on in France? What did she do to get someone to do this? My curosity is getting the better of me.
One note on all this. When I met my American friend Bea in Annecy way back when, she told me afterwards "I hate it when Americans speak near me and I move when I hear them in cafés or at the beach" I said well, then why are you friends with me? You enjoy hanging out with me, right?" And she said "well, you're different" So that always stuck in my head. Maybe everyone isn't like me. I don't feel like that. I think it's nice to have a piece of home here. I like meeting fellow americans. There just aren't that many around these days.