Tuesday, June 3, 2014

On the Side of Living

Eiffel Tower
If you look very closely at this photograph, you will see from the cars that it was not taken recently or even anytime in this millenia. In fact, this picture dates back forty years to my childhood when I had the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time.

I had the pleasure of going to France when I was thirteen.  Without my parents, but with my friends and my favorite teacher.

In the sixth grade, I started studying French. My teacher was a French native whose name, Mr. Dupuis, was quite simply the most perfect name for a language teacher that I could imagine. He was the curmudgeonly type, growling at our horrible accents and terrible memories, but he had his moments.  That first year, he collected popsicle sticks from the students at recess (we could buy frozen confectionary treats in a store run by the eighth graders) and took the entire school year to build an Eiffel Tower. The next year, he built a guillotine and even added a little piece of copper for the blade. He used to threaten that he would cut off our tongues if our pronunciation did not improve.  Oddly enough, he did not return the next year.

That was where the eighth and ninth graders in my school got lucky. Mr. Dupuis was replaced by Miss Fitzgerald. She had plans. Big plans. She decided to put together a trip to France during spring vacation. I asked my parents to let me go. They cited the fact that my confirmation was to take place in the middle of the trip as the reason to say no. They argued that I could go always go the following year. I hardly ever asked my parents for anything, but I begged and pleaded and made a general nuisance of myself. They relented. Good thing, too, since there was never another trip. Another teacher took over the French program the following year.

Pont Neuf and Notre Dame Cathedrale - 1974
And so I went. We flew to France in April of 1974 with my French teacher, my wonderful and beloved homeroom teacher and my classmates. We saw all of Paris. We saw the chateaux of the Loire Valley. We saw the beaches and cemeteries of Normandy. We visited what I consider the most beautiful place on earth - Mont St. Michel. Each graduate from that particular school had to create what was called a copper plaque that was hung on the walls of the school. Mine hangs there still.  

This trip created a monster. I became someone who loved to travel. I became a francophile. I continued studying French through high school and into college. After graduating, a friend and I went to England, Ireland and France, visiting all the places I did not see in 1974. I have been back with my husband, three times. I bought a pair of shoes that last time in 1996 without uttering a single word in English. I have them still.

Mont St. Michel - 1974
It has been more than 17 years since I last saw Paris. I miss my favorite place on this planet.

Let me digress. I sing with a regional chorus here in northern New Jersey.  In 1989, we went on a horrible cut-rate tour of Italy that was absolutely awesome. Thereafter, children came along and those wonderful trips were no longer a possibility. In the last twelve years, members of my chorus have gone on tours of Prague, the Czech Republic, Austria, China and Australia - twice. I stayed home, seething with jealousy because I could not visit places I had yet to explore.

This summer - in just six weeks - the chorus venturing off on a tour of my beloved France. My children are now 18 and 20. They really do not need me for much of anything anymore except car keys and cash. So, I have been brushing up on my rusty French, buying black clothes and comfortable sandals, airing out the luggage and making plans. I am going back to France. One woman from that fateful trip to Italy is coming as well. We will celebrate the 25th anniversary of that trip (and of my 29th birthday) in Rouen, France.

Vivre-Live (Art Journal Page)
Many years ago, my mother gave me a fairly plain silver bangle bracelet. Engraved on this bracelet are the words, "Il faut vivre and non pas seulement exister."  We must live and not merely exist. I am definitely in favor of living.

And that bracelet is coming with me to France. I plan on wearing it - every day.

Art Journal Page Notes

I created this page in anticipation of the trip to France coming in July in my Smash/Art Journal.

Supplies: Smash Book - EK Success; paint - Plaid, Ranger Paint Dabbers, Liquitex Acrylic Color; ink - Ranger Archival Ink, Ranger Distress Ink; embossing powder - Ranger, Sparkle and Sprinkle; stencils - Simon Says Stamp, Stampers Anonymous, unknown; modeling paste - Liquitex Basics, Dreamweaver Translucent Emobssing Paste; letter stamps - My Sentiments Exactly; stamps - Stampers Anonymous/Tim Holtz, unknown (Paris postmark, fleur-de-lis); mica pieces - unknown; images - downloaded from the internet (altered in Photoshop).