Sunday, June 21, 2009

The day when everyone's a rocker

Today’s my hundredth post. This blog has been running for over a year now and it’s become an indispensable part of my life. I don’t mean to be overdramatic, but it has helped me rediscover my need to jot down my thoughts and observations. It’s reminded me that I enjoy writing. For years I kept paper journals but it fell by the wayside before this blog. Now I can annoy the world with my little head dramas! Baby’s probably thinking that all humans spend a good part of their lives on the computer. This Mother’s Day card mom sent me is right on the money. I just have to remember the baby is more important than the blog! Of course. But even moms need a little release sometimes.

And what better way to celebrate this event than with a little musique! Today’s the “Fête de la musique or the national music festival in France. It’s one thing this country does pretty well, if you ask me. They purposely put it on the summer equinox, so you’ve also got the added daylight, till about 10:30 here in France. In my city there’s a great ambience with little groups playing on street corners and in front of cafés. Last year my eight-month pregnant self went out with two girlfriends from work since Remi was at a wedding. And I enjoyed it so much I was eager to do it this year, with baby now ex-utero.

The two coworkers weren’t available this year, so I dragged Remi and his friend Julien out to it. The cool band of middle-aged guys was there again playing Midnight Oil and Sweet Home Alabama. Don’t ask about the accent. Most of the lyrics were pretty indistinguishable, but they get an “A” for effort. Even if I am an Alabama girl, I somehow get a little shy when this song comes on, no matter where I am. It’s like I’m supposed to do something, but I’m not sure what.

After a few songs we moved on to another café, outside of which another gray-haired part-time rocker was crooning old French classics. And in front of the oriental restaurant a group of 20-somethings were doing a damn good job on British glam rock. I started head-bopping the minute I heard the guitar riff from Blur’s Song 2. Remi and Julien gave me perplexed side glances. They’re not used to this mild-mannered girl grooving to screechy guitars and drums. Hello!? it’s Blur, dontchaknow?, I tell them afterwards, and they sort of kind of remember it. Then a respectable rendition of Muse’s Time is Running Out, to which I gave Juliette her bottle. Was that a little fist waggling I saw on her part? I must start her musical education now.

The boys left us to go play pool, and baby and I stayed with the glam-rockers for Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. Then we dropped back by the first band, in the middle of their Eric Clapton ode, I Shot the Sherriff and Cocaine. I guess I’m showing my age to be digging this type of music. We went to the Place du Théâtre where a group of 14-year-olds was giving it their all on the hook from Smoke on the Water. These kids rocked. Never mind that none of them can drink or drive and that sometimes the drums go all out of order in the middle of a song. I should have brought my camera and taken pictures, ‘cause they’re gonna be big one day. The drummer had the rocker bangs already and the lead singer had put gel in his hair for the spiky effect. And he sang in very impressive English to The Most Loneliest Day of My Life.

But baby’s bedtime was approaching so at a quarter to eight we headed home in the summer sun. Next year she’ll be out of her stroller and dancing on the sidewalks with me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Baby’s brain and adult musings

I put baby on the floor with two plastic clothes pins in front of her. One is within grasp of her chubby dimpled fingers and she picks it up and inspects it right away. The other’s a tad farther and I hope she’ll scoot or crawl to it. I’m seeing if she can crawl a bit, even though I’m in no way eager to be chasing her around and telling her not to put the cat litter in her mouth every ten seconds. Each time she tries to put the first pin down and move towards the pin that’s farther. But as she does so she looks down and rediscovers the first pin. It happens about five times, and I, with my adult, goal-oriented brain, am thinking, just drop the first one and crawl to the second. But she, with her baby brain which is growing every day, is more in the moment. She says, hmm, look at that pin over there, but wait, what about this one? Have I seen it before?

It made me wonder which of us was really “right.” In fact, we’re just both prisoners of our ages and sometimes can’t see past our present circumstances. Like me and my perpetual worries about what to do with my life. Would a 55 year-old have a totally different perspective? My parents both unknowingly give me similar advice when I complain about my current state. They’ve been on this planet 20 and 26 years longer than me and know better. They tell me that I can’t always see what’s just around the corner and that one day I’ll see that the choices I’m making weren’t so bad after all. And that it’s no use being so serious about life when laughing would be much healthier. But like baby I’m obsessed with the “clothes pin” in my hand and can’t imagine there’s anything beyond it. My 35-year-old brain simply wants answers now!!

I guess what they say is true, youth is wasted on the young. And when you start to realize that, you must be old!

In the meantime, here’s a look at a typical baby dilemma, cat, camera or TV? Yes, she’s saying “mama” but we’re not quite sure if it’s directed at me or just a sound she likes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

English People!*

The setting: a big French supermarket that’s the equivalent of a Wal-Mart. A man is selling compilation discs and playing old 70s and 80s tunes at nearly deafening volumes to entice buyers. Mrs. Jones, that old soul classic, blares away. I hear a customer crooning perfectly with the end of the chorus: “we’ve got a th-iiiieeennggg, goin’ on….”. I whirl my head around, amazed that a French person would know the end of the line and pronounce it so well. And then I hear the crooner chatting with this son in a perfectly chipper British accent. I guess I felt brave that day, ‘cause I said “English people!” the way a child would shout out “ice cream” and I smile shyly at the two guys (or should I say chaps). But they mutter something like, yeah, just visiting, and go along there way. Leaving me feeling like a (major) goober and wondering if they thought I was (just) a little French gal trying out my English. I want to catch up with them and say, wait, I’m American! But what would they really care. It’s only me who’s entranced to hear my own language again and feel some sort of instant connection with these tourists.

Throughout the rest of the shopping experience I’m like a teenager who’s spotted her crush and both dreads and anticipates seeing him at every aisle. I rehearse other things to say but think better of it. Don’t want them to think I’m stalking them.

Why is it that the mere sound of a native speaker would make me all star-struck? Maybe I see these brief encounters as ways to feel like me again. And to remember who I am. To not feel like the odd one out, the girl with the accent when she speaks French. Instead I take charge of the situation again and am the girl conversing with other natives as French folks go by.

This was the case the other weekend when one of Remi’s British clients dropped by. There are a few of them who have summer or permanent places in the villages near his. He’s proud to use his English with them and tell them he has an American wife. So a recent Sunday when I was at his greenhouse, I got to meet this famous British client and her son and daughter-in-law who were visiting. Instantly we started chatting away, not worrying about non-English speakers being able to understand us or not. They had that easy-going way of talking and cheeky sense of humor that I associate with British folks, and which I find so refreshing. The son and his wife talked about how there was just nothing in the mom’s French village, not even a shop or two (my main complaint of small French villages, too). They even “talked” with Juliette, in English, of course. As we talked the French customers passed us by with their carts full of plants. And for a moment they must have felt like they were the outsiders in a world where there language wasn’t being spoken. It made me smile, because just for a moment, I felt more like home.

*Disclaimer: before I get hate mail from any Scottish/Welsh/Irish readers, I do know that English only refers to those who live in England. The more correct term is British if I’m not sure of the origin of that lilting accent.