Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Material Girl

Today, I meant to write the story of an Argentine sailor and an Ohio girl who met at the Louvre in Paris. But, I didn't feel that I could tell you that story unless I could find a picture of myself from that trip to France so you could imagine the whole scene.
I found some pictures but they led me in a totally different direction. They reminded me why I fell in love with France. This first picture should sum it up for you.

This was the view from the balcony of the house where I stayed in Corsica. But before I got to Corsica, I was a 22-year-old working at The Middletown Journal, covering exciting things like school boards and city council. I was dating a photographer named Greg and his sister was married to a Frenchman.
Duh, duh, duh, duh.
That's the set up. They lived near Yale or Harvard or someplace, and they had two little girls, Brigid and Claire. The mother was pregnant with her third child when she started to have difficulties with her pregnancy. The family already had tickets to travel to France in early July. What could they do? They asked me to go along with the girls and the father to Paris. Then the father would return home and I would stay in France with the girls at their grandparents' home until their baby brother was born.
I didn't hesitate. I told my boss I was going whether I had a job when I returned home or not. He talked to me about health insurance and I vaguely hummed "La Vie en Rose" as his words whizzed past. Who cared about jobs and health insurance? I was going to France with an open-ended ticket.
The grandparents had an apartment at the Viroflay RER stop, headed from Paris out toward Versailles. But they weren't there when we arrived. They had gone to their vacation home in Corsica.
Before I get too carried away telling the story of a young Ohioan in Paris with two French-American toddlers, I'd better return to the point of this story. My clothes. This was the mid-1980s and I dressed in skirts, dresses, ankle socks and low heeled shoes.
Look. Here's an example.

See those cute little socks that may be red or pink. Hard to tell but they match my top and the plaid in my skirt.
Okay, the girls are cute too. That's Brigid, 4, on the left and Claire, 3, all the way to the right. On my lap was Isabelle and next to me Agnes. They are the children of the French/Polish couple we visited in April. Now back to the 22-year-old me.
I couldn't find a photo of myself in my favorite dress. It was flowered pinks, blues and purples, and had a wide, round, white collar. That's what I was wearing the day I met the Argentine sailor in the Louvre. I also wore a pair of pink ankle socks that had lace around them. The sailor said, in his smidgen of English, that I couldn't possibly be American because I wasn't wearing tennis shoes and chewing gum.
But, I'm getting pulled into the Argentine sailor story, when I meant to talk about why I loved France and how I dressed like Madonna.
Here's another photo on the balcony where we ate dinner every night in Corsica. I look a little fuzzy in this picture, but you can see my white fishnet ankle socks. You can't see my shoes, which are the same color blue as my top.

If they'd had the phrase then, I would have thought I was "all that."
My suitcase was so full of outfits that I probably didn't even get around to wearing them all in the three months that I was there.
Who was that girl, I wonder. That very confident, very flamboyant girl who would only wear shoes that matched the outfit. Now, I shuffle through the snow in my Crocs.
When I first arrived in France, although I had minored in French in college, I couldn't understand very much of what was said. The French family spoke freely in front of me -- about me.
I remember one night at dinner, one of the guests said that it was obvious I loved French food.
They thought I was chunky.
"Oh, no. She came that way," the family assured the guest, letting the guest know that I hadn't been fattened on French food but American food.
I don't remember being insulted, just shrugging it off.
I felt satisfied with myself. Maybe that's why the country spoke to me so much, because I liked who I was at that very moment.
When I visit France now, I think I'm much more aware of trying to do "the proper thing." On that trip though, I was the authentic me -- a Material Girl.

1 comment:

Immaterial Opinion said...

The picture stole my heart too - It put me in a trans. The story about the 22 year old - AND those pictures ....fascinating and funny.

I like the idea that it had a lot to do with what space you were in at the time (my translation).... I guess I find that ringing true for me as well.

There are times when I make an effort to put myself in "that space" before I do something.

Really Enjoyed It !

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