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.