A return to France

atterrir (ah-teh-reer) verb
  1. to land, to touch down

synonyms = arriver, débarquer, se poser

Hear my son Max pronounce the word atterrir: Download atterrir.wav

atterrir sur le ventre = to fall flat on one's face
atterrir en catastrophe = to crash land (emergency landing)

Citation du Jour:
Ce qu'il y a de plus beau dans la navigation, c'est de débarquer.
The best part about flying is landing.
--Benoîte Groult

A Day in a French Life...

I am on an intercontinental French flight. I know this by the taste of the coffee: strong, yet balanced, a far French cry from the watery stuff I drank on the previous flight out of Houston. I ask the hôtesse* for extra cream, no sugar. Next, and after proposing sah-lay or soo-kray,* the hôtesse reaches into the snack compartment and hands me a packet of Madame Poulaine butter cookies which I devour while my eyes admire the patchwork of the French countryside beyond the oval window.

On this last leg of the trajet,* due to scheduling constraints, Jean-Marc is seated one row back with Jackie and ten year old Max is pleased to have his own siège* in a separate row from his parents. I am seated beside a stylish mademoiselle who is reading the glossy Madame Figaro magazine. Her knee-high boots aren't zipped over her jeans--as are all the other French girls' boots this season--but then again she is wearing a skirt. When I make a motion to get up, she and the bookish French woman beside her unbuckle, stand and sidestep to the aisle. Merci. Pardon. Merci. Pardon.

In the cramped toilettes* I stare at 22 hours of west to l'est* travel. There are stains on my jeans from the air turbulence during my previous flight that sent weak coffee and my daughter's hot chocolate splashing to my lap. My eye make-up has crash-landed just below my lower lash line, my skin is gray according to the mirror and indirect lighting and my hair is flat but what's new? It's a good thing I can't see my jet breath. On that positive note, I exit the bathroom. Making my way back from the lavatory, I blush as I discover my row mates still standing in the aisle, politely waiting for me to return to my seat. Merci. Pardon.

When the hôtesse announces the atterrissage* I note the absence of papillons* in my stomach. Once again I am returning to France and not after being kicked out* of the country by my boyfriend and not after leaving intentionally, but with regrets, as in times past. Returning home to France now, the feeling is more calm than flutter, more serene than psyched. More soo-kray than sah-lay.

*References: une hôtesse de l'air (f) = stewardess; sah-lay, soo-kray (pronunciation for salé = salty; sucré = sugary); le trajet (m) = trip, journey; le siège (m) = seat; les toilettes (fpl) = bathroom, lavatory; l'est (m) = the East; un atterrissage (m) = landing; le papillon (m) = butterfly; kicked out = (the full story in the introduction to the book!)

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety