"Bonjour," mumbled the man behind the glass as he took my passport from my hand. I searched my mind frantically for the French I had studied just a few hours ago on the plane. Nothing came to mind.
"Uh... pardon?" I returned, not understanding what he had said. The man looked up at me, and, realizing I was not French, said,
That was enough to make me slap myself. This was the beginning of what would be the best Christmas I had ever had. My mom and I were embarking on a two-week journey into Northern France to visit some friends at their farm. As we walked through the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, we marvelled at the foreignness of the place. We followed the signs to get our bags and soon met up with our friends, Veronique and Louise. The snow outside the terminal was deep – deeper than it had been in years for the French people. Our friends joked that Mom and I were the ones who brought the snow from our native New Mexico. We went straight north from the airport to the farm near Lille. The roads off the freeway were lined on both sides with tall trees and wide grass pastures.
At the farm, we were met immediately with the rest of the Cannesson family. The farm dogs ran up to us to say "hello," and we were then escorted into the warm kitchen. There were other members of the family already inside, such as grandparents, and the oldest sister, Caroline, was home from school for the holidays. We all exchanged greetings and the traditional french kisses before sitting down to eat. Veronique, the woman of the house, was a marvelous cook. There was always a wonderful aroma of chicken, bread, lamb, or quiche wafting from the kitchen throughout the house. After dinner, we sat around in the coffee table in the salon with wine and cheese. Comments and laughter and pieces of conversation hit my brain from all sides like bees catapulting a flower. Much of what was said, I didn't understand. Occasionally I would be tranquilly sitting on the couch, staring off into space, and would hear my name said. Then I would look up to find every face in the room looking at me.
"Ehh, pardon?" I would say, sitting up and speaking with as much grace as I could muster. Little bits of laughter would errupt every time I did this, but I didn't mind. I laughed, too. As bedtime neared, people would begin to leave one-by-one, parting with a kiss.
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