Friday, January 8, 2010

Loving France ? Oh No, Not I -- #1

The first post in the Loving France thread -- How I Became a Card-Carrying Francophile

There was no way that I was ever going to become a silly person who fawned over any country, let alone France.  Famous last words.  Pride goeth before a fall, and all that.

It happened to me before I realized what was going on.  I started loving France.  Yes,  I became a Francophile.  Yikes. (or, rather, Mince!).

Just last week I finished reading a terrific first novel by Nancy Horan called Loving Frank.  This historical novel tells the story of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, an upper middle class wife and mother in Oak Park, Illinois who falls head over tea kettle for the married father (and famous architect) Frank Lloyd Wright.  She leaves her home, her husband (who was not a bad guy) and her two children to follow Frank to Europe, Japan, and back to his boyhood home in Wisconsin.   She is torn up by her obsession, but she cannot seem to help herself.  (Along the journey, which has a horrendous end, she discovers the new budding feminism in Europe and makes some interesting comparisons between that and the movement in the United States).  This book was a good read, and I recommend it highly.

Well, sometimes I think I am in the same boat as Mamah was when Frank Lloyd Wright swept over her like a tidal wave.  It started slowly, but then I became engulfed.

This enchantment did not happen to me in my youth.  It has come about in middle age.  Perhaps that makes it a bit embarassing.  Perhaps I should know better ... guard myself more.

Ok.  With a name like mine, you might think that France and things French were sure to be a part of things. Not so.  I grew up in New England (the northeastern part of the United States) where there were many families like mine with French, well Canadian French, roots.  Our town was filled with Frechettes and Dufresnes and Ethiers and Dupres.   My Nana grew up speaking French and she would use certain phrases that I still remember.

So I took French in high school.  Other than talking a bit with Nana and some of the other "mameres" (grandmothers),  I had little chance to practice.  There was no money in my family for trips to Paris or study abroad while in college.   Thoughts of French culture were as foreign to me as that of Albania.  We did take some trips to French Canada (La Belle Province, Quebec), and I tried to speak a bit without much success or joy.   

I stopped the French classes after two years.  I decided to take up the clarinet in the band instead.  I wish I had somehow found a way to do both.  I think I have a good ear and that I could have enjoyed becoming proficient in a language.   But we all know that hindsight is 20/20.  I was young and silly, and I thought I knew better than anyone else what was good for me. 

So what happened to put me on the road to Francophile City?  Stayed tuned.


Priscilla said...

I was the opposite of you - played clarinet till 7th grade and then took French in school. I was the same as you in that there was not money at our house to study abroad or take a trip to Europe. Our people just did not do that. Perhaps that's why we have a desire to climb this mountain - because we now can! Keep up your studies and keep the blog going!

Vivianne Leclaire said...

I think you are right about why we are so determined now. Let's keep enjoying this adventure. I cannot wait to read about your upcoming trip to Paris.

Djsteach said...

I just discovered your blog and I'm so pleased to meet another Francophile who discovered her passion in middle age. Just goes to show there's no time like the present to broaden your horizons. My next 8th (?) in the last four years in in two weeks! Can't wait!

Vivianne Leclaire said...

Thanks Djsteach.
I am so jealous that you will be there in two weeks. But I heard there is a train strike coming up in early Feb, so you might want to monitor that.

I hope you have a wonderful time and that you post about it.

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

Wow. I just about started crying when I read your recounting of the historical novel about Mamah Borthwick Cheney. That's my story, almost to a "T." I left everything in the US to be with a man I first met when I was 17 and then reconnected with later in life, while still married. He happens to be an American who has lived and worked in France for 20 years, so... Here I am. Not in France because of love of France, but for love. I should find that book.

This could sum it up for me, too: "There was no way that I was ever going to become a silly person who fawned over any country, let alone France. Famous last words."

LOL. In fact, I am still not in the complete "phile" part of "Francophile." I find a lot of things here downright annoying and pretentious, ha! So I blog about some of that. I also write about how I am *trying** to understand the wonders a lot of other people see in France, especially Paris. I'm beginning to catch it, some 20 months after moving here. :)

Thank you for commenting on my blog. I have you marked in Google Reader now, too, so we'll see you around! I'm off to catch the rest of your posts in this series. :)

(an alien parisienne)

Vivianne Leclaire said...

Dear Karin,

Yes, you must read Loving Frank. It was a great book, and it will speak to you on many levels, given your own situation.

Thanks for posting. I love reading your blog.

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

I *just* finished "Loving Frank" about an hour ago. *sob* I loved it. A sad, but fulfilling novel. I hope my ending is more like Mamah would have *wanted* her story to be like. I got online to read emails but then look up Taliesin online, too. I was born just to the southwest of Spring Green, WI. I could really picture the area, although I have never visited Taliesin. Now I hope I get to someday. :)

Thank you so much for the heads up on the story. I really did enjoy it very much!

Bon weekend!