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voler de ses propres ailes
(vo-lay deuh say pro-prz zaylz)
Souvenez-vous quand vous ou vos enfants ont volé de leurs propres ailes?
Do you remember when you or your children stood on their own two feet?
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Voler de ses propres ailes--it was one of the first expressions my affectionate host family shared when I came to France to study. And now it is Max's turn to fly with his own wings. Though I know he is ready, every maternal fiber inside of me is tightening, as if it would still be possible to shield a grown child from the outside world.
Careful not to link arms, I flutter beside my son as he struts over cobblestone paths in Aix-en-Provence. In a sunny square with a giant stone fountain and a café teaming with life, we approach a historical building, one visibly caressed from the bustle and hum. I wonder if those shutters on the second floor are designed to shut out the chatter which ricochets across the old stone façades, as bullets did in wartime. A plaque at the square's entrance hints at a dramatic scene that must have played out here. Now, where young mens' lives were yanked away, a new life is beginning for a modern-day Frenchman, thanks to those who came before him... and so a mother's mind yammers--from apartment hunting to apocalypse.
"It's this one here," Jean-Marc says, motioning to a door on the ground level. Flimsy venetian blinds cover a large window beside the entrance. (The French have a thing for outdoor window treatments and it's not uncommon to see door curtains flowing in the wind.) My eyes roam from the second story apartment to this rez de chaussée studio. There are no shutters on this window to block out the noise. But there are bars.
"Bars!" I say, linking arms with my son as we study his new digs.
"Maman!" Max shrugs, but the twinkle in his eyes tells me he's not so bothered by the mothering. "Nobody can break into this apartment," he points out.
"It's not that!" I lie. "It's just... do you think you can study with this bruit?"
(My husband's sacoche, Mr Sacks, is photobombing this photo! A fold-out couch, just beside Max, marks the limit of this studio.)
We are now standing in a room so small you'd mistake it for a Galaries LaFayette window display... Beyond the large fenêtre, there are no mannequins--only a couple of parents, a nineteen-year-old Franco-American, and a pretty realtor. The four of us are now busy closing a transaction. Tak, tak, tak and fast as that you can sign away your first born....
The hipster realtor--a pretty French girl who might be a mini cougar (?) shakes our hands. "You can move in August 1st! If you need anything at all," she says to Max, "you can call me."
"Do you live around here?" I ask, my hand strangling hers. Why am I suddenly wondering whether she's wearing a bra beneath that spaghetti-strap top? Am I reading my son's mind?
For once, Max is linking arms with me, stealing me away from the scene. As we hurry to the next-door café and score a table, my mind changes channels and I'm thinking about coincidence.
Look at those new glasses he's wearing. How his vision has changed since he last got his eyes checked, during his military registration. Glasses!... I remember the new pair I wore and how fun it was to try on a new persona in a new city, in France....
"Can you believe that 24 years ago I lived just around the block from you, here in Aix-en-Provence? Imagine that!"
Yes, imagine that.
* * *
HOMMAGE TO BILL MYERS
Thank you for the warm notes of support you sent in, after I wrote about the death of a reader and editor for this blog. There was some doubt as to whether the "Bill" in question was one of our regular blog commenters.
No, he wasn't. Bill never once sent in a public comment. He sent all corrections privately. A shame, as his notes were so colorful! I have now posted a photo of our friend Bill (thanks to John Newman for sending the picture). There is also an extra section--"In his words"--in which Bill describes himself. Click here to see the updated post.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety