Saturday, August 11, 2007

a long time ago

The first time I went to Paris, I was five and my brother was three. I have only a few, disjointed memories of the trip, but it's a testament to how large the experience loomed that I have any memories of it at all.

I remember urging my mother, who was terrified of heights, to climb the last few flights of stairs to the top of a church tower that must have been Notre Dame. I have no recollection of whether we actually got to the top, but I vividly recall standing in the dark stone stairwell, a few steps above my mother, telling her that she just had to go a little further, that we were almost there. I remember trying my first yogurt -- something that seemed impossibly exotic and European. I remember standing on a bridge over a green river, holding a little whistle shaped like a bird. My brother accidentally dropped his whistle into the water and I was almost overwhelmed with the unfairness of it all when my father bought him a new whistle, and a better one at that, with a tail that moved up and down when you pressed on it.

We visited my best friends, twins who had been in my nursery school class, but who had moved to a suburb just outside Paris. They told me how surprised they had been that their new teacher didn't seem to understand English. All three of us sat on the floor in their livingroom and, with occasional contributions from the twins' older sister, had a fascinating theological discussion about whether, if you were inside a brick, G-d could still see you. We stayed with the twins' family much longer than we had planned, because my mother came down with a bad case of German measles, a fact that I couldn't stop laughing at because, after all, we were in France.

When we got home, I begged my mother to let me learn French and she hired a graduate student from the local university, who came every Wednesday afternoon and read me chapters from Le Petit Prince, which I liked very much, except for the illustrations. The lessons didn't do much for my accent, however, especially since I refused to believe that all the "h"s in the book were silent, and about the only lasting effect of the whole exercise was that for a long time I made everyone call our fox terrier Citrouille, instead of Pumpkin.

13 comments:

slouching mom said...

I would have liked the child you were. It sounds as if you were a wise, funny, enchanting kid.

My Reality said...

It is amazing the things we can remember from childhood.

I love that you called your dog Citrouille!

Magpie said...

Huh. You know, there's German measles in America too. Go figure.

Elizabeth said...

completely and utterly charming!

Hannah said...

I always forget that the rest of the world does not, in fact, call Rubella Rubella, but German measles.

Caro said...

Lovely post again.

thirtysomething said...

What a time you had!

Jitters said...

I bought a copy of Le Petit Prince our last time in Paris for our someday child = it is a wonderful book....now I need to learn French pronunciation...

Monica said...

You know this is all funny too, but not as funny as your post on someone's blog about getting vaccinated by the recently transgendered "Dr. Green". I'm still laughing at that one. You are really OOC (out of control) : )

missedconceptions said...

Yogurt, theology, and Le Petit Prince all in one post. Bravo!

S. said...

All I know is, inside a brick, it's too dark to read.

painted maypole said...

i am impressed that you remember that much!

Furrow said...

Ha! You do have a memory that doesn't seem too terribly tinged with pain, unless the whistle thing really, really brought you down. (Remember the whole patronus thing?)