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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

En Francais?

As I sit at the dining room table at Grammy Jo's house, contemplating making a breakfast frittata from Aunt Ann's fresh eggs, summer squash, zucchini, onion and red pepper from the garden; I've been mullling over incidents from our trip east.

No, not just the 21 hour drive from Michigan to New Hampshire which seemed longer than usual due to bickering male siblings in the way back of the van.  Nor the lack of air conditioning; a pricey repair on a decade old vehicle that may be worth less than the price of said repair and insurance paid on the vehicle.  Not even the fact that Duncan left his new Land's end sandals under the picnic table in Mattawa (Note to self: call the Ontario Ministry of Transportation today).  What I've been mulling over was prompted by our passage through Montreal, Quebec (and it wasn't the horrid stop and go traffic at the hottest part of the day either). 

Someone had to pee (someone always does) so we stopped at the Quebec welcome center just over the border of Ontario.  It was a lovely place full of all sorts of informational brochures en Anglais et en Francais.  I was the first person through the door (everyone else was still using the toilette) and was greated by a lovely twentysomething young lady, en Francais....which after the "Bonjour" was lost on me and I had to, apologetically in low tones, speak Anglais.

What I realized was, thinking about this on the rest of the ride, how I failed myself miserably.  I took four years of high school french, compulsively translated "things" into french for decades, and was going to be a French major in college.  I grew up with a Grandmere who was from a long line of French-Canadian ancestry (whose family did not want to speak French because they were "Americans") so the words she spoke were those mysteriously tame swear words and phrases of a lady born in 1904.  However, by the end of the ride I decided to cut myself some slack since I realized I'd been out of high school for 26 years, I can still read all the signs en Francais after a fashion (and still have that French-English dictionary from way back when),  I chose a college degree that actually landed me a career (BS in Resource Ecology and MS in Conservation Biology), that I like the mysterious phraseology from my Grandmother and maybe it should always be a mystery, and I really am not too old to learn conversational French....if I want to.  I just don't have anyone to converse with at home!

Johnny and Will are now sitting across the table from me both on a 'pewter.  Coffee has been made (by the boys after some hilarious antics which had them giggling) and the veggies are awaiting slicing and a quick pan fry before sliding into some silken golden eggs.  Bon matin!


  1. When I moved to France over 40 years ago, I spoke some schoolboy French. I could ask 'Is my uncle's pen on my aunt's desk?', and a few other equally useful sentences. However, where I moved to is an agricultural area, and the words for tractor, roof tile, and septic tank, suddenly became more important, so I had to learn French all over again.

  2. My grandfather was from Two Harbors, MN. He was 1/4 Sioux and 1/4 French. Their family did speak French for a time so he knew both languages as a boy.

  3. I am waiting for more info on this blog. Cannot understand the lack of news of people on holiday. Maybe a dunking in the pool would help or an extra scallop.