Thursday, August 27, 2009

La Vie est Belle

Oh, to be in France. Everything seems magnified there: richer colors, robuster flavors, even the language is more beautiful. I've had a love affair with France since I was a kid. My first trip was a heady twenty years ago this summer as part of a school exchange. Some memories from that trip have stayed with me, popping out for visits over the years... Here's a good one: we're in Paris in a shop buying a bottle of water and my classmate can't quite speak well enough to get that across. I commandeer the request and we're handed the water along with a "Tres bien" and a smile for me from the shopkeeper. Here's a better one: it's July 14th, Bastille Day, and I'm hanging out with my 'sister' and the other kids we'd met on vacation there in the French Alps where our family had taken us. We're marching along, arms interlocked, singing the French national anthem. I'm the only one who knows all the lyrics, thanks to my incredible high school French teacher, the Parisian Madame Gilbert.

Hmm, both memories involve me being better than others at something! Um, paging Dr. Freud...

Well here's the best memory. It's the last night of our stay, and my 'sister' Sandrine and her boyfriend Max and I and another boy, a cute one who's name I no longer recall, are hanging out. Sandrine is coming back to the States with us for the other part of the exchange so she is seeing Max for the last time in a while. They are off somewhere on their own. I am left alone with the cute boy - I'll call him Jean-Luc, why not? Jean-Luc and I are laying in the grass on our backs, watching the stars. There are shooting stars that night. The sky is deep blue and speckled with a sea of stars and some of them streak across as if to visualize the magic that I know surrounds me. It's beautiful, and peaceful. Jean-Luc rolls over and stares into my 16 year old eyes, so naive and trusting and hopeful. He brushes a piece of hair out of my eyes and leans down and kisses me. He doesn't say a word, just brushes his lips softly against mine, and I kiss him back.

If only. Really, though that is my favorite memory from that night - shooting stars, people! - Jean-Luc never kissed me. He remained on his back and I on mine. We were two nervous, insecure 16 year-olds whose hormones hadn't yet quite overcome the confidence hurdle. If he'd have kissed me, I probably would have gotten nauseous bordering on vomiting. Trust me, that's what happened when I did kiss a boy that Fall. So, all things considered, I suppose things went well as they stand. He with his patch of grass, me with mine, and all the stars in the world above us, dancing around and welcoming me to their magical world.

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