Sunday, September 18, 2022

Where Have You Been?

 Lately everyone I bump into asks, “ Where have you been?” 

To be honest I’ve been asking myself the same question.

There has been plenty going on: traveling to the States, gardening, biking, chauffeuring, helping out a little family. I’ve been keeping busy, but not with the same engagement that keeps me connected to life in our small village.

Re-engaging got a little push the other day when I was asked to help with making sandwiches for the village “vide de grenier” -  literally a day to empty one’s attic. This the French version of a yard sale, but here the entire village is out in the same place on the same day. It’s a very social event. Instead of selling junk from our attic, I was going to help the festival committee that provides coffee, sandwiches and drinks, including beer and, of course, wine.

At 8:30 I was still poking around in my pajamas. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about heading out. Lately a certain cloud of apathy has set in and I just wanted to stay put in my bubble. But, I had said I’d help and I know they are always short-handed. I threw on a happy shirt, laced up comfortable shoes and pointed my feet up the hill. 

The morning sky was beautiful and expansive. The sun glowed around the medieval buildings and the river sparkled under the arched bridge. I was slipping into my French village.

You would have thought nothing was going on in the village. It was so quiet. But as I rounded the churchyard onto the promenade the world was bustling. The food stand was already set up and the gang I was going to work with was already bickering about how to arrange the work tables. I said good morning and stood back to watch how things organize themselves.

Bickering being the building blocks of French volunteer work, things finally started to fall in place. I was assigned to slice open the baguette halves. Work came to a screeching halt when one of the boss ladies noticed that some halves were much longer than others. (Not my fault. I was only slicing them open!) They worried that the difference in size was going to cause trouble later on. We had to stop and sort the long from the short.  And then later sell them all at the same price anyway! I quietly listened and did as I was told. What a joy to realize that unlike years ago I now understood right away what is going on and what is being said. I could feel  the pride rising in my bones.

There were new types of sandwiches this year. Gone the traditional sausages or a tough slab of beef. But, because these new fangled sandwiches were not familiar to the committee, there was a lot of discussion about how to layer the ingredients. As a sandwich-eating American I take slathering things on a sandwich for granted - not so my very food particular French friends. It was good to laugh at ourselves as we tried to keep the lettuce and tomatoes stuffed in the sandwich. I kept forgetting that humus is pronounced oomus and had to translate the word to make any sense of what was being said. What a silly word to have trouble with. Throwing myself back into the gang was having a good effect on my spirits.

As things got rolling along I was able to add a few little comments, ask some general questions and answer some uncharacteristically personal questions ( the French feel it is impolite to ask personal questions - this makes it mighty hard to have a conversation - and remain polite)

There was talk of children starting back to school, how the school cafeteria was doing. We talked about how vegetarian meals are being or not being accepted by the students. They explained to me that no student ever brings lunch from home. Even on field trip days the cafeteria has to produce bag lunches for everyone. It’s amazing to hear some of the four course menus the children are offered. Today was the first time I heard that there is a rotation of 10 types of cheeses to cultivate the children's pallets. And on and on we went with womanly gossip about husbands and grand children and aging.

By 2:00 all the sandwiches were sold. The bar was going to stay open but I was worn out. I headed back down the hill feeling tired, but happily mindful how I love making the effort to be a part of this small village. 


Anonymous said...

Wow—that was a lot to handle and in French!! You should be very proud — the social rules are so interesting and tricky .

Anonymous said...

C’etait evidement trés agreable!!💙😎

Kathie K said...

I loved the vide de grenier in the village I lived in. It was such fun. You are making me "homesick" for it. I have missed your blog and appreciate you "coming back on-line." Thanks for bringing some warmth to the day.