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Friday, February 03, 2006

we can always talk about the weather

It's cold in Paris.

So cold, that all my conversations begin with me talking about how cold it is.

Waiting outside the school for the kids, I speak to Marilyn, a French au pair, our breath coming out in clouds. "C'est trop froid," we agree. Soon other au pairs and nannies show up and bisous are exchanged all around. We stand in a small circle, and I listen and laugh as they debate and joke about how heavily religion is drilled into these children. Their private Catholic school has them so engrossed with god, that even at home, all their drawings have "dieu" scribbled somewhere on them.

Later I'm at the little girl's ballet lessons, talking with a girl in the bathroom about the need for scarves these days. She tells me, as if admitting a dirty secret, that she wears two when she's at home alone.

The next morning I'm waiting for Monsieur to come out of the parking lot in the building beside ours so we can go to tennis. An old woman in a French cleaning dress asks me if I'm waiting for my husband. "No, no, their father, but not my husband," I laugh. She smiles and tells me it's warmer today, but still too cold. "Soon it will be summer," I tell her, "and we'll all be complaining it's too hot." Suddenly a woman in a bathrobe opens her window from above, and looks down to see a group of us staring at her, her morning face startled by her early audience.

In the evening I'm huddled against a heater in the family's apartment, and the Portugese cleaning woman, Alzira, tells me I need to find a man to keep me warm. Later the conversation becomes more serious, when she tells me about her 82-year-old mother with stomach cancer. Three years ago, when visiting Portugal, a doctor told her that her mother wouldn't last much longer. Alzira flew back to Paris for work the next day, crying the whole way, knowing her mother could die any day.

When her niece was married, her mother was in the hospital and couldn't go to the wedding. After the reception, the bride and her groom swept through the hospital, and caught the attention of every patient. The bride let her long white dress trail down the hospital hallway as she walked to her grandmother's room. The proud grandmother cried in her hospital bed, and they placed one of the bridesmaid's bouquets on her night table.

This week I seem to fall into conversation with everyone that crosses my path.

I love people. I'm fascinated by people. I want to know what they ate for dinner, how they met the love of their life, what town they were born in, and whether or not they're happy.

When I first came here I would go weeks without a real conversation, but these days no one feels like a stranger.

You can choose to shut out the world around you, or you can let it in, one person at a time.

All you have to do is bring up the weather.

just walk away


Blogger mamagrace said...

I always enjoy your blogs. They are so refreshing, and I feel as if I can experience Paris through your eyes. You have a wonderful way of writing which is so expressive, so descriptive and just plain interesting.

1:03 PM  
Blogger baylor said...

And I imagine the people love you as well!

7:51 PM  
Blogger Sky said...

I am in a land of strangers here in the Pacific NW having relocated from the south. Weather is surely a topic of introduction here as well. Recently it has been "What kind of boat did you float to the market in today?!"

Finally sunshine in Puget Sound after 2 months of rain!

Glad you are having such a fascinating life in Paris. These are the days which you will one day tell your children about with such glee!

2:26 PM  
Blogger Pandora said...

I meet my husband at work, he was very shy and didn't say much to me, but just the way he looked at me, it was like he was looking in to my soul and saw how sad I was and wanted to make it better. I knew in the first week we were friends, that this would be that man that I would marry. I did 1 year later, a year after that we had our first child. If you look in to my soul now it glows with happiness.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

Thanks for all the beautiful comments!

I'm so happy the sunshine finally came Sky, what a difference it can make. And I'm happy for you and your husband Liz, and that this man can make you so happy.

8:31 PM  

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