Sunday, November 27, 2011

Une semaine de vacances

Tomorrow, I go back to class, after a week's vacation.

Despite the title, and the French movie trailer below, you will find no French in this post - at least not any good French.  This is simply because I don't speak any, although I wish I did.

I have under my belt three quarters of French I took at Berkeley, 1973-74, seated close beside my then-budding antagonist, who stars in the novel blogged below; that's it.  Didn't use it, lost it.  C'est dommage.

In spite of this fact, toward the end of this past week's vacation from teaching, I began dreaming in a kind-of French (I think it's French) that I don't understand.  Is it real French?  Peut etre!  I hope so.  Still, I don't understand it.

I think I may know why this is happening.

In 1980 or so, at the end of a perfect summer, I saw a French film with my first husband, "Une Semaine de Vacances."  That's the film's name, not my first husband's - curse of an English teacher, to notice those things.

He was a musician, a trumpet player, and had the most alarmingly deep green eyes flecked with hazel and blue any living woman has ever seen.  We were happy, my husband and I, in those brief days.  We were in LA for a while so he could play his horn, and we both taught school:  I junior high English and photography; and he elementary music, traveling from place to place like the Pied Piper, packing clarinets and saxophones and flutes and trombones as he went.

The sadness of it, that we didn't know how happy we were back then.

Anyway, we were coming on to the end of one of those long lazy summers that teachers enjoy when they still don't have the encumbrances of house payments or credit debt or bad health.  No summer school to worry about, just the endless summer and each other, year after year after year.

That summer we had spent a lot of time at the beach, and at the zoo taking photographs, and at Brand Library on the glorious front lawn thumbing through art books.  Brand Library is the legacy of Leslie C. Brand, built in his sprawling estate El Miradero, and features the most magnificent collection of arts materials, including monographs, I have seen anywhere, among other treasures.  A virtual paradise for a musician and his artist bride.

That summer in particular was a hard one to let go of, to go underground again for awhile, out of the sunshine, back to the here and now.  Maybe somewhere inside I knew what we had right then wouldn't last forever, that it wouldn't weather the dry steady wind of daily family living.

Somewhere around the last day of that summer, we wandered into a little French film at the multiplex cinema in the Encino Galleria.  There were no more than 50 chairs in the hall, and we were two of maybe ten people in the whole place, huddled together with our lattes and butter cookies, to go with the subtitles.  "Une Semaine de Vacances."

In the musty dank of the theater, Nathalie Baye was in the car with her husband, about to be dropped off at the junior high where she taught French (her equivalent of English, comme moi).  Real film, on the reel.  You could hear it.  Clickety-click.

With her through her car window, we could feel the familiar cacophany only made possible by the very young, bristling with their junior high-ness, bumping and slapping up against one another, creating heat ripples of naive life-blooded energy in the air as they passed.  Their gutteral Frenchisms gave them a certain extra-ness, sharpening their edge somehow, making them - more.

The warm pressure of his arm bolstered me, deep in our huddle against the AC.

Together with her, we made a break for it, jumped out of the car and ran for our lives.  Free!  A week's vacation - voila.  Almost to be equalled later by Albert Brooks quitting his job in "Lost in America," but not quite, since it was teachers.

God bless her husband.  He covered for her.

That ninety minutes or so, we hid in the French countryside with our heroine, wondering what it would be like to run off and change our names and travel the continent and never be seen or heard from again.  There was a bliss in this wondering that I can't quite conjure now in the practicality of my advancing age, even embracing the gentle rocking of welcome life changes I'll blog about sometime in the future.

In the end, she remembered who she was, our heroine.  Like resting on the beach after surfing, she was ready for the board again, her feet knowing exactly where to go, how to shift her weight to stay abreast for a long ride.  A natural.  She loved the white-hot brilliance of her students, just as I do mine.  Ils sont epatants, she said.  Oui.  Je suis d'accord.

So after this week, une semaine de vacances, I'm ready to roll, in love again, at least till Christmas.  Being a solitary soul for the time being, they are my only love, only second to my own grown babies and my dogs.  They have been the iron strand that has tied my life together through everything, always different, but always somehow the same.


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