Monday, July 27, 2009


This week, my house is free of a French accent. That's because Marie left this morning with my husband and daughter to visit the East Coast. It sounds so metropolitan, doesn't it? But it isn't New York or even Boston. They're staying near the University of Maryland and they'll be visiting Washington, D.C. and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on the days when Grace isn't swimming at the National meet, before they drive home again.
My sons were resistant to the houseguest before she came. "The house is too small," they insisted. And, although they were right, we're making do. She has a twin bed in Grace's room that replaced the sturdy Crafstman style desk there. The boys asked again tonight why we invited her. My reasons are many.
It's always good to meet people from different cultures.
It seemed perfect to have a French girl the same age as Grace.
But, and this bugged me, no one else offered to host her. We're in a city surrounded by fairly wealthy people with houses so big that there are rooms they never use, but no one else offered to have her stay with them. I've started working on a theory that the larger someone's house is the less generous they become. Maybe if the space is small, it feels like everyone can give a little without being imposed on too much.
Marie laughs a lot. Much more than most French people, I think. She's helpful, always asking if we need an extra hand preparing dinner. She pulls glasses from the cabinet and sets them on the table as we're nearing meal time. Okay, I tell the kids, this is helpful, even if everyone else then goes to the cabinet and pulls out their own glass and fills it before coming to the table. Then after dinner, we replace the empty, unused glasses that Marie set out. I can picture the ceramic water pitcher and the bottles of wine that probably grace her dinner table each evening. My kids are used to pouring their own milk or turning on the tap to get water.
The visit has been full of interesting incidents so far. She tasted her first Pop Rocks on the night she arrived. A group of girls at a graduation party urged her to throw a handful in her mouth. She did and this was her reaction.
The next day Grace took her along to a car wash that the swim team hosted to raise money for their National team. As you might expect from teenagers, there was more spraying of each other than actual washing of cars. But she got to know the swim team and she'll be spending a lot of time with them this week.
They spent another day of swim championships holed up in a tent while the rain poured outside. The swimmers would dash from the tent when their events were called then huddle inside towels, sweatshirts and sleeping bags between races. They left the tent a mishmash of smashed oreos and discarded Vitamin Water bottles.
Last night, when Spencer announced he wasn't going on the trip out east, and my husband began to lose patience with Grace's worries about swimming in the big meet, Marie climbed from bed and asked if Grace wanted something for stress. Something homeopathic? She poured the white pellets into a mound in her hand and gave them to Grace. A bit apprehensive, of course, Grace took them anyway. She's sweet, this French girl, and she does have to live with us, so she may not have gotten a bargain. My hope is that they can be friends and that they'll stay in touch long after Marie leaves. That these two girls, who share a love of musicals and small animals, Jane Austen books and warm throw blankets, will visit each other across the ocean regularly, in spite of their differences.


Linda said...

I think it's great that you doing this. Your family will probably always remember it and it will certainly expand your daughter's life in many ways. I remember a german exchange student in my high school but she turned out to be a trial for the parents, even used thier credit card to buy clothes.

Sheila said...

Beth loved having Marie over to visit. When they get back from DC we would love to have her over again. I think it's great that you host students year after year. Everyone will have lots of memories from these experiences.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the benefits just can't be explained, like Stephanie said before that 'priceless' adventure to the AT, "you won't regret it" and "you don't want to miss this".
Moments of 'what were we thinking' were soon replaced with lifelong memories and friendships.

It's great that you can see beyond the small stuff.

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