December 17, 2016

Colette (4), Romy (almost 3)

A December update on the two little girls (Marguerite arrives this evening for the Christmas holiday).

We keep exploring Provence - lured by trees and light. Chums - these two really love each other now.

We were out exploring a little Christmas market in our town the other day. Colette looked thoughtful and asked me, “Did baby Jesus go down in history?” I told her, yes, certainly, he went down in history. “Will I go down in history?” she wondered and then went on: “Maybe at the end of my life because I am pretty smart.”

The fascination with ‘going down in history’ has lingered. When I put her to bed at night she has been asking me questions about the topic. “But how does someone go down in history?” (I told her they do interesting things - or wonderful things for other people - or they come up with unique ideas - or they make beautiful artwork - many different ways). After my list of things, she insisted, “What can I do to go down in history?” thinking aloud to herself in an impatient key.

Then, “Mom, will you go down in history?” (didn’t let me respond and was clearly sizing me up), “Hmm…no, maybe not you.” I was cracking up as I left the room.

A parent of one of the students in her class recently accompanied the children on a field trip and told me that when the maitresse of Colette’s class wanted everyone to quiet down, she would say, “Be calm everyone, like Colette, please.” The mother also said that Colette was in her group on the outing. When she would speak, Colette would look directly in her eyes and “drink her words” (“Elle boit les paroles”). Totally cracked me up. Apparently, Colette knuckles down in school settings.

We are all staggered by her progress in French. It is well known that children at this age pick up languages very easily, but to watch a child become bilingual before your eyes is really an impressive event. When I pick her up from school and watch her interact with the other children, she uses the language of French 4-year olds - lingo I will never know. She sometimes misses the correct gender or makes a funny verb conjugation, but I think within a few more months, there may be no discernible difference between Colette and the other French children.

This week, I volunteered to walk to the sports field (10 minutes from her school) with the class. They make the trek on Thursdays and need parent volunteers to herd the children on the way. Colette’s classmates were full of questions for me. Do I always speak to Colette in English? Could I hold this one’s hand and that one’s hand please? (Colette had a jealousy breakdown at some point, insisting that I was no longer her mother and that I had abandoned her for the other children).
All sorts of translation questions on the walk back to the school:

Comment dire stade en anglais?
Comment dire voiture en anglais?
Comment dire sport en anglais?
Comment dire chaussure en anglais?
Comment dire Renault en anglais?
Comment dire cigarette en anglais? (!)

Some of the children have a sweet little accent from this region of the southeast of France. It is almost a twang - chemin becomes chemaign, demain becomes demaign, pain is paign. They pronounce more of the letters at the end of words than their Parisian counterparts.

Little Romy is obstinate. I pick her up from her school and she refuses to put on a sweater, a coat, anything. She is a hot box. Judgement from all of the parents here in the south, who make certain their children wear a scarf when it is 60 degrees outside. They look at me like I am nuts. I shrug and say that it snows a lot in New York. To us, this is perfectly balmy. (They don’t know snow here).

Then Romy runs out of the school and refuses to hold hands across the street. I have to pick her up kicking and screaming. I’ve tried to convince her that I am afraid of cars, after my taxi run-in in New York, and that it would really help me if she could please hold my hand. Sometimes that works. Most of the time, she just runs, heedless.

She is naked as much of the time as possible at home. Just strips. She talks about being a big girl a lot and asks if I can believe how much she is growing, as she looks down admiring her rotund, bare belly. It is hard to believe. She is right.

If Colette is meticulous and pensive, Romy is fun. She is ‘yellow,’ as my mom would say - on the color personality chart. She wakes up in the morning, pops up and starts playing immediately. There is no grumpiness or waking period. (Colette takes about 10 minutes to stop groaning and sloshing about in her bed, as if she is being tortured).

This week we were all sitting in December sun outside the house. The sun is glorious here, even in December. It might be a 58 degree day, but if you sit right in a patch of sun it is pure therapy. I was leaning my head back to take it in and I pulled the straps of my tank top off my shoulders. Romy cried out, ”your wings! Put them back on!"

Romy is a singer. Her voice rings like a little bell. Elle chante juste, as the French say - on pitch. Just before bed this month, we all sing Christmas songs. Xavier, Colette and Romy all sing in unison “Petit Papa Noël” - the famous French carol. They’ve both learned it at school and Romy sings out the loudest: “N’oublie pas mon petit soulier”!

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