Monday, November 18, 2013

My French Obsession

I don't know exactly how or why I became obsessed with France. I don't even remember WHEN. It seems that it has always been so. In high school, I was thrilled to select French as "my" foreign language. The school offered two other choices: German and Spanish. And while Spanish would have been the more practical choice, my romantic heart led me to the classroom of Dorothy Davis, a diminutive native of Switzerland, who had twinkling eyes, boundless energy and a perpetual smile. Mrs Davis was a good teacher, but she was easily distracted by wily students who knew that to ask a personal question of Mrs D about her life in Europe would send her into a bout of sentimental reminiscing which would last until the bell rang for the next class. It was a fun class. All four years of it. But I learned very little, and retained even less. Over the years, not having any real opportunity to speak the language, my French disintegrated to the point of uselessness. 

Many years passed, with me having little exposure to anything French. An occasional film, article, or a news program were about all I had to feed my obsession. And though it may have waned a little, it never disappeared. I had always dreamed of visiting France, but as the years passed, and the responsibilities of work and family increased, I knew that I would probably never see that dream come true. My husband, Craig, loves to travel. We have vacationed with our children in various areas of the U.S., such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. We live only a days drive from the Colorado Rockies, and have spent many a happy time in those mountains.  We have traveled to Canada and to the U.S. Virgin Islands, but I always felt that Europe was out of reach.

When our youngest daughter, Darcy, began studying French in high school and then college, I was thrilled. I tried to refresh my limited knowledge of the language in hopes that we would converse with each other in French. Silly moi. Darcy had neither the time nor the patience to help her mother re-learn French. When Darcy made the decision to enroll in an immersion course in Orléans, France, in 2008,  I was both elated and terrified. I was thrilled to see her set out on her own, but worried about my baby flying so far away from home. 

While Darcy was in France, she regaled her father and I with details of the food, architecture, people, and culture. I was enthralled. I had the chance to live my obsession vicariously through my child and it was great! Even Craig was caught up in the fascinating adventures of our daughter's life in France. We looked forward to every phone call, email, and photograph. Darcy arrived home a month later and surprised us all with her fluency. She further surprised us with her decision to return to France to study for a year in the country she had fallen in love with. And while it is true that she had also fallen in love with a young man, we were certain that it was only a fling. Little did we know how our lives were about to change.

Darcy is pictured on the right, crossing a street in Paris.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I took French in high school too! I didn't learn much because I was so shy I spent a lot of time hunched over hoping I wouldn't be called on. Before French, I had taken Spanish, and it seemed to hamper my ability to learn French. Thirty years later, I had learned LOTS of Spanish, because in my nursing career smack dab in the middle of the U.S., I cared for many patients who spoke only Spanish. If I chose another language to learn in addition to Spanish in the interest of my career, it would have been Vietnamese, because they comprised the majority of my other non-English speaking patients. Now that I've been studying French for six years or so, my Spanish will no longer come out! I had been dedicatedly studying French for a year or so when I tried to answer a patient's question in Spanish. I started out speaking Spanish but within only three words it switched to French. I was embarrassed at the time but later I realized that meant I was actually, finally, really learning French! It runs in our blood!