Nov 15 2010

End Pieces

In the world of mots doux, the plot thickens as Short-pants attempts to discreetly verify the source of her mysterious love note. Last week she reported seeing the alleged scribe, Jean-luc, using a notebook with pink paper, the same paper as the little note she received last month. “He really had a pink-paged notebook?” It’s unusual, she agreed, but she’d seen it with her own eyes.

“Does this make you think he wrote the note, then?” She squinted one eye, displaying her suspicion. “First I need to see if there’s a page with the corner ripped out. Then I have to see if the handwriting matches.” She ran upstairs to her room and returned with a copy of Encyclopedia Brown, holding it up like a shingle she was about to mount above our door. “I’m in detective mode.”

I don’t bring it up too often but I want to stay plugged-in to how she’s feeling about the whole saga. Every once in a while I ask, as nonchalantly as possible, “Any further developments in the case of the pink love note?” No, she says, supplying me with the same status report as before, or musing about the stealth ways she might obtain more clues to solve the mystery. For now, she seems more engaged in the curiosity of the puzzle than the romance.

I suppose I’ve made peace with the maitresse after our appointment, and Buddy-roo’s struggles with the schoolwork seem to have (mostly) subsided. Reluctantly I must admit that it was probably just a period of adjustment for my little one, a passage in scholastic responsibility, leaving behind the days of symbolic homework and entering the world of the real deal. She seems to have accepted (sort of) the fact that there’s something (a lot) to do every night, so doing homework is no longer a three-hour procedure (usually). The defiant fits and helpless tears have diminished from nightly to weekly. Her flash-quiz scores have upped from twos and threes (out of ten) to sevens and eights. Her teacher still writes attention au soins! in red ink; it takes all the restraint I have not to write back that of course Buddy-roo’s work would be clean and neat and without messy smudges if she wasn’t required to use a fountain pen. Fortunately (for Buddy-roo) my capacity to be snarky in French is not yet fully developed.

The 10-day Toussaint vacation helped, giving her a break from the grind, and a chance to catch up. De-facto quizzed her daily on the 130 spelling words she’s been asked to memorize (so far) this fall, in anticipation of the full-on first trimester bilan – two weeks of daily tests on all the work they’ve covered since school started. It still feels like a lot of work for a second-grader to tackle, or for me to help her manage. In the end, it’s an adjustment for all of us, isn’t it?

The chilly, gray days of November have settled in and wrapped around us. There are some good aspects: it’s an R month of oysters and the approaching holiday season, though not without its drawbacks, at least offers the promise of warmth, cheer and well-spiked egg-nog. But the mornings are far too dim, night falls way before suppertime and the cold drafts slip too easily through our ancient dormer windows. The courtyard seems especially somber these days; summer’s laughter barely an echo as we hunker down for the winter, bracing ourselves for the end of another year and all the changes that a new one will bring.

Mar 29 2010

End Pieces

Just as quickly as Buddy-roo’s black-eye ballooned into a swollen mess, it began to heal. For a few days, she looked like she’d rather fight than switch, but now there is only a faint bluish-yellow bruise that is about to vanish. Kids heal fast. At first she didn’t like all the fuss, but it soon became a badge of honor. She strutted around the school courtyard, and nobody messed with her.

De-facto pointed out a small discrepancy in my account of the accident: I wrote that buddy-roo “grabbed on to the railing, a good instinct except for the railing on a moving walkway is perpetually in motion.” This implies that the ground was stationary. He reminds me that the floor of the moving walkway is always moving in sync with the railing. So my reasoning (she stopped and the railing didn’t) can’t be the why she fell.

Listen, I’m a writer not an engineer. I saw her go down and it wasn’t pretty.

Short-pants and I passed that fateful ramp this afternoon when we made our way to the Conservatory. Long before we got to the ramp, she announced, “Mama, when we get to that dangerous part on the walkway, you shouldn’t run down it. I’ve decided from now on, we should always walk on it.”

Speaking of good decisions, you can imagine I was dying to hear what happened when Short-pants declined the invitation to join the Group.

“Well, I was nice about it,” she said. “I told them no, thank you.”

Apparently her answer was met with some resistance, but they were unable to persuade her to change her mind. I probed for more information, hoping to get a little more detail about who were these friends and what was their collective purpose. “It’s called the G-group,” she said, “for girls only. And anyway, I don’t want to be part of a group that doesn’t have boys in it. It’s not interesting enough.”

One of my good gal-friends, a pastry chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant (and award winning truffle-maker to boot), stopped by the apartment last week to say hello and was shocked to see the laundry rack in our living room, laden with clothes hung out to air dry.

She admitted that when she read about our broken dryer and how we weren’t going to replace it for environmental reasons, she thought, “we’ll see how long that lasts.” I’m happy to report, in case there are any other doubting readers out there, that yes, we continue to dry most of our clothes on the drying rack.

It should be noted, however, that just a month after the dryer broke, our washing machine died as well. (Oddly, we’ve had to replace every single major electrical appliance in our home in the last year.) We opted to purchase combo washer-dryer; that is to say it’s one machine in which you can wash the clothes, and then you change the dial and it dries them. So we do have a dryer now. Though use of this drying function has been designated for towels and jeans, only. Everything else goes on the rack. We’re trying, at least a little, to change our carbon footprint.

The weeks seems fuller than ever before. The constant motion of getting everybody everywhere with everything they need, while juggling a self-regenerating to do list leaves no time to rest, little time to grieve, just barely enough time to notice that spring has arrived here in Paris.

But it has, and that’s worth an Alleluia.

Apr 14 2009

End Pieces

The second term report card came home last week with the grade of A- for the exposé that Short-pants and her schoolmates prepared, with a little help from the mothers. (Back-story on the assignment here and here.) Her part of the oral presentation, I’m told, was fairly smooth. She went first, because she’s a girl (a suggestion by one of the boys). Apparently the class had a lot of questions, though the only one she could remember is “Why are the buildings in Paris so old?” One slight glitch in the overall presentation: the end-of-the-day bell went off in the middle of the second part of the three-part presentation, so the report we worked so hard to choreograph together ended up happening in separate chunks. Short-pants said she did her very best to support the boys when they had to start again the next day.
The morning malaise that plagued Buddy-roo for several weeks in a row seems to have subsided. Or perhaps our absence (De-facto was also away on business while I was in Italy) made her heart grow fonder. This last week she’s been either quiet or cheerful as she slides into our bed for that first cuddle of the day. This morning, we even got a song: “Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird…” This makes the mornings much easier to take. Touch wood.

Short-pants had anything but a lonely lunch last week, as the mother-in-love and I met her outside of school at noon on Wednesday, went to a nearby café for lunch and delivered her back in time for theater class. She was thrilled. In a rare moment of lucidity, it occurred to me Buddy-roo might feel left out so I invited her to lunch the next day, just the two of us. I picked her up at school and we went for sandwiches at our favorite café, where her preferred drink (Grenadine and water, on the rocks) is served up automatically whenever she makes an entrance. Sitting on the bar stool next to me, eating her baguette and sausisson, she beamed. After lunch, when I let her loose in the courtyard at school, her friends circled around her and I heard her say, “it was my day to have lunch with my mother.”

Yet another school vacation brings us back to the country house, where the air is fresh, wood burns fast, children are wild and the internet is sporadic.