Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Things I forget to remember

So much to say, today.

The girls are both at "camp." Camp is a euphemism for daycare. I like to think of it as total French immersion.

Isla is going to an African village to make masks. Esther is off to Tonnere to watch a stage of the Tour de France. She's probably yelling "allez, allez, allez!" right now, and waving one of those giant foam fingers, as I write this.

I'm sitting here, in the kitchen of the farmhouse, alone, listening to the ticking, and regular chiming, of the kitchen wall clock. The clock, made of lovely carved wood, belongs to the woman next door. She grew up in this house, and her mother was born in this house.

I'm also listening to the incessant trickling of the leaky old toilet which hides in the corner behind a shower curtain. Have I mentioned the French habit of always locating their one and only toilet directly off the kitchen? No need to leave the dinner conversation behind just because you have to wee, or whatever.

I'm struggling to make the best possible use of my free time when all I really want to do is go out back, lie down in the reclining lawn chair, and feel the warm sun on my face and listen to the crickets and birds and occasional, loud, conversation of the neighbors.

They aren't really shouting. Not all of them. It just sounds that way. Especially since I don't really understand what they are saying. But the farmer, a huge man, seems to be hard of hearing so he technically is shouting. For a while I thought he had Tourette's or something, but I'm pretty sure he's just deaf from years of driving tractors. He comes over to visit with our neighbor every morning, has a cup of coffee and shouts at her for fifteen minutes or so, then walks back to his barn.

I love hearing him yell at his cows at milking time.

The neighborhood boy, Theo, isn't hear to pester me since he's at the same camp as Isla. I hope he's being nice.

Ian has gone to Avallon, a nearby town, which I would call a city, but folks around here are very picky about nomenclature--there's hamlet, village, town and city--in Vermont they're all towns, no matter how few or how many people live in them. He's there to find out about insurance. It seems he's always trying to find out about insurance.

It's probably a good thing since I seem to be dying of strep throat. Okay, so I'm not dying, but I've had a debilitating sore throat, and accompanying ear ache, for 10 days now. I've been to the doctor twice and twice have I been instructed to "take ibuprofen and aspirin together, stay away from drafts, and wait it out."

The fact that the doctor actually takes time to chat, despite our language problems, he often consults his French-English dictionary, then only asks for 20 Euros, makes me want to trust him. I told him that in America, I would be charged close to 70 Euros, or is it more, once all was said and done. He put his hands over his ears.

But I'm getting tired of waiting. And I'm tired of wondering how much ibuprofen I can take before my kidneys fail. Anyone know?

In the meantime, you can read about my recent nasty bout with the grass- is- greener syndrome, or was it just your basic case of whinitis?

And, just to prove I am indeed enjoying the moment, or each moment as it comes, I've included some snippets.

One of my favorite views.

You go first.

On the school steps at the end-of-year Kermesse.

Pink roses and pink peeling paint.

Bouquets from Esther.

Yes, they do still make, sell, and wear house dresses in France.

We don't care if it's bedtime. We're not ready to go.

Little girls at the big-kid school.

Ridiculous views.

At the cafe in Auxerre.

Ceramic lettuce head.

A girl and her bear.

Monday, July 06, 2009

soap opera

Every time I see another lovely, forgotten lavoir (communal washing place) here in rural France I can't help but wonder if there was a time when women might possibly have looked forward to laundry day simply because it offered a chance to get together with the girls and chat.

These places ooze history. Walking into them, I feel as if I'm entering a museum or cathedral. A place of worship. A place to worship women and mothers.

Oh how I would love to go back in time and sit in a cool, shady corner of one of these gorgeous structures -- listening to the trickling water, the rubbing of fabric against stone, and the running mouths of women.

And where were the children? Strapped to their backs? Lying in baskets in the shade? Splashing about in the waste water?

I hear so much about how vacuum cleaners, dishwashers and washing machines have served to liberate women-- shaving hours off our workday-- yet I when I see the lavoirs, I have to wonder: What exactly are we doing with that free time and how come I still feel so disconnected?

Why is it that I am at my worst when doing laundry or pushing a vacuum around my house? It's the isolation of the task. It's the reality of tedium. It's the imagining that everyone else in the world is doing something more interesting, more worthwhile, than I am that very moment in time.

While communal housecleaning isn't really an option, getting together to do laundry could be the solution. Book clubs be damned. Perhaps it's time for me to find a laundromat?

"As running water and modern appliances became standard in French homes after World War II, the lavoirs were abandoned, and with them three hundred years of women’s gathering and conversation."

From a description of the book, Lavoirs: Washouses of Rural France, by Mireille Roddier.

Anyhow............. none of this makes a lick of difference when it comes to getting my kids to bed before midnight.