Le retour

Paris, au revoir. On quitte la France on the 4th of July. Admittedly, I haven’t thought about the holiday at all since Rich wished me a joyeux quatrième this morning over breakfast. We laughed over three French words in particular:

Liberté. Oui.

Fraternité. Non.

Égalité. Certainement pas.

Of course, I have never been much for patriotism. I have never felt like I belonged in the United States, least of all in the decade when I was born.

It has been a surprise to me how many French words have magically rolled off of my tongue, appearing just as I needed them.

L’addition

Plat

Equipe

le decollage horaire

Being a child of the 80s, I imagined that most of my memory space had already been taken up with lyrics from Tiffany, Madonna, The Bangles, etc.

Where were all of these French words hiding and how did they know to make themselves known at just the right moment? I may never know, but I was thankful for their presence.

Perhaps, I am destined to be an anachronism. At this time in my life, I have grown more comfortable with this destiny. I am more at peace with who I am, and I no longer try to hide.

I spent so many years trying desperately to fit in, to be delicate like the other girls, straighten my hair and wear little skirts and tiny shoes. It wasn’t me, and it did not work.

The things that set me apart are those that/also make me who I am. I do not wish to be anyone else. And my futile attempts at homogeneity did not bring happiness or fulfillment to my life.

I am not delicate. I walk into things. My hair is as wild as my personality. I feel things intensely. I cry easily. I am sensitive. I love to eat, and I feel a sense of obligation to eat without guilt to make for so many years of going without and controlling every single object I put in my mouth.

I bite my fingernails when I am nervous and pick at my cuticles.

I am a snob.

From our gate at the airport, I was intrigued to hear the sound of music being played on a piano.

A piano at the airport? Comment ça?

I went in search of the origin of those sounds. Classical Piano music still affects me more deeply than any other instrument. The cello comes close, but it cannot touch the connection I have with the piano. It began when I was very young.

I remember my first piano lesson. My father and I walked into my teacher’s home. I was holding his hand. To the right, there was a narrow staircase. On the left, a narrow hallway.

The woman asked me to let my arm fall at my side.

“Oh yes,” she said with confidence. “You were meant to play the piano.” She told me that the way my hand naturally fell in a cupped arc was how she knew. As an adult, I wondered if she told all new pupils this story, but I never questioned it as a child.

After so many years of strict classical instruction, I have very little patience for pop music and poor form on this instrument. At the airport, I should have been thrilled to see a young person playing. How many teenagers play piano? Much less, how many have the nerve to play in an airport?

But I was tired, hungry, and cranky. And the young woman played nonstop pop music in the vein of Philip Glass with the form of a robot.

Finally, she stopped. Dieux merci.

Had there been a ukulele to play, now that would have been something, though I imagine I would have been too shy to pick it up.

And then we lined up to board. AirFrance has the strangest system for boarding I have ever experienced. In the beginning, it was entirely a free for all. Then, we waited. There seemed to be little organization to the process. And we were tired.

In the distance, I heard the twinkling sounds of classical piano. A voice inside me sighed contentedly. Enfin, la vrai musique!

Now, I sit above the Atlantic. There are icebergs in the ocean below. We are not far from Iceland.

Tomorrow, I return to work. I will trade a part of myself for green and grey. I will choose the earrings I wear. I will watch the clock and try to stay awake before the jetlag hits.

On Jewish holidays, we toast and say, “Next year in Israel.”

Today, I wish for the next year à l’étrangère. Maybe even in France.

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