An unusual cold spell and snowfall in France have not deterred us from our weekend social calendar. “Party on!” is the holiday mantra. We even ventured out of our arrondissement to attend a brunch hosted by friends who live just outside Paris. When the suburban-line RER train emerged from the tunnel we were surprised with a white cover of snow blanketing the ground. Our bravery – going beyond the city limits – was rewarded with this classic Christmas vista.
Our hostess, a friend, colleague and maman créative, also blogs about mothering. Her forte is inspiring creativity in her children. She practices what she preaches; just behind the Christmas tree was a mind-map she made with her children, a group exercise in deferring judgment as they brainstormed on their decorations for Noël. She and her partner have a family recomposée with four children, so adding Short-pants and Buddy-roo made for six kids. It was a big crew. Talk about bravery.
Except they all got on marvelously. It helps that their new apartment as a “kids wing” so there were two rooms down a long hall where they could tumble into private play. When the first course was served, they all came when called and seated themselves around the “kids table.” After devouring their servings of foie gras in oven-baked brioche (oui, ahem) they scrambled back into the bedrooms and picked up where they’d left off. We took our time finishing the sauterne.
While the second course was being dished up, one of the children was made envoy to the main room, touring our table and placing a ticket in front of each adult, pronouncing proudly the upcoming event, “Un spectacle!”
Un spectacle. Words that every parent receives with pride and horror. Great! There’s going to be a show. Shit! There’s going to be a show.
Even the most creative mothers (and fathers) harbor a deep hidden dread of the never-ending spectacle. My parents once sat through a laborious production of Christmas Around The World, a two-plus hour exposé of holiday customs in something like 56 countries. This must be a parental rite of passage.
Somebody taller than five feet suggested that the show should start after dessert. That gave us the main course, the cheese and the tarte tartin – and all accompanying beverages – to fortify us for the performance.
I tried to be discreet. When the kids joined us for the next course, I called Short-pants over to the table to remind her of something we’ve learned to practice in our spectacles at home. “Don’t forget,” I told her, “A good spectacle has a beginning, a middle, and an end.” De-facto agreed, “And you want it to be short. Always leave people wanting more.”
“And don’t forget the Salut!” Wisdom from the maman créative, “that’s the most important part.” Of course. Play up the taking of bows at the end. That is why she’s a creative mother.
The production, we could tell from the title, was the story of a discouraged caterpillar and a mocking butterfly. At least there would be some tension, necessary in good theater. The challenge was it had to be performed in the dark, which meant being staged in the only room in the apartment that had no window, the bathroom. After dessert, we four adults were squeezed in the shower and beside the washing machine, hoping that our advice about theatrical structure and brevity had been taken into consideration.
The spectacle involved puppets and flashlights and softly spoken snippets of French I could neither hear nor understand. But when the final lines were pronounced and bows were taken, I applauded wildly. As one does.
That was yesterday. Today Ricky’s in our kitchen cooking the Christmas goose (you have to say it with a British accent). In a rare Martha-Stewart moment, Lucy made knife-rests out of cinnamon sticks for the table. The girls are holed-up upstairs, cooking up something of their own; perhaps there’s a spectacle is in the making? No sign – yet – of that big doll, but I’m sure she’s gonna show.