Le petit prince
A little Frenchman was born this morning, 1:40 a.m. Paris time. His mother was recovering well after delivering by Cesarean. His father was stressed then relieved, ultimately proud.
Across the world, I learned about the birth from an e-mail. Sent mes féliciations via Facebook.
Sometimes it’s amazing how small the world can be.
In 1994-95, I spent a year in Dijon, France, as an exchange student with Rotary International. I was 18 years old, and it was a big thing for a girl from a small town to do. With four years of high school French under my belt and three bags full of clothes, I set off across the world on my own. On my own. As a mother, the idea of my own children leaving on their own makes my stomach knot.
To let me go, my mother must have been very brave. I suppose that going made me brave, too.
It was a hard year in a lot of ways. We didn’t have e-mail or Facebook back then. I spoke to my parents once a month on the phone (and it cost them a fortune). Correspondence with other friends and family was all via snail mail. My French wasn’t that strong and I didn’t know a soul, at least at first. The experience was both amazing and, frequently, quite isolating. And I’d absolutely do it all over again.
Through the years, I’ve managed to keep in touch with several people I knew in Dijon. I’ve been back to Europe three times since my exchange, including one trip where I was able to show my husband where I lived and introduce him to the families who hosted me. Mostly, we keep in touch with Christmas cards and wedding photos. But when I think of France, I know real people, not stereotypes or caricatures. And when I look at that photo of my host sister holding her newborn baby, she looks like any other mother I know. Absolutely in love with that little prince. Day 1.
A couple weeks ago, I had the amazing experience of being able to spend an evening with one of my old classmates from Dijon. Maëlle was a French girl in my class, almost three years younger than me but one of my better buds while I was there. A year after I came home, she came and spent a month with me in Grants Pass, Ore., my hometown. It wasn’t anything formal, just something we’d worked out so she could visit the U.S. and work on her English.
After that summer, we lost touch for at least a decade, then found each other on Facebook about a year ago. She works in international business these days and, in September, her job brought her over to Seattle. I made the two-hour drive over the mountains to see her. Thankfully, Maëlle’s English is much better than my rusty French these days, so we had a really nice visit. She doesn’t have kids yet and she had a lot of questions about how becoming a mother had changed my life. It’s a lot like traveling to a foreign country, I told her. It’s an amazing adventure. Sometimes isolating. Really, you just can’t know how different it’s going to be until you get there. And I’d absolutely do it all over again.
Congratulations, Stéphanie and Fréderic. Enjoy your new adventure!
Filed under Mama Says