|Our Little Girls|
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Aeron and I walk hand and hand down the street past a bake house, dollar stores, and hair cutteries. We have many errands to run. The priority is to get new printer cartridges so that we can print our passport photos, but it would also be nice if we could swing by the hardware store for a bunch DrC requests, the little art shop for felt, and into a dollar store for fold up umbrellas.
However, we are both brought to a halt by a glorious odor wafting across the street. Noses go up, eyes brighten, tails wag. The Conger girls have the scent.
Aeron is the first on point, “Over there!” Arm up, finger out, the baying begins.
Getting closer, the tone of the call changes, “Pastry!!!”
“Ooo…. French pastry. It’s FRENCH!”
Now we are both on point, every fibre of our bodies vibrating in tune to the scent. This isn’t just any bread shop. This is advertising itself as an Authentic French Patisserie. Aeron and I stand quivering on the threshold. We are not allowed in. The rules are that we are not allowed in. The Rules say that we can find places like this but to both reduce expenditure and the probability that we both balloon into fin whales, we are to refrain from patronizing stores of this sort unless the entire family is out on parade together.
So now the rationalization begins. It is an authentic French pastry shop. I spot the signs in front of the pastries. “Aeron, c’est une patisserie.”
Aeron is wise to my ways. She looks up and nods thoughtfully. “Wee, mam on. Ill yah dez bag its.”
I repeat correctly, “Oui, il ya des baguettes.”
Aeron tugs my hands. She doesn’t like to speak French in front of people. It’s obvious, however, that she wants to practice her French in the shop.
I ask, “Aeron, parlez-vous francaise?”
She frowns, “Oui. Je parle francaise.”
Heh, now we have a path to yes. I allow her to drag me into the shop. Pointing to the placard in front of one of the glorious pastries I tell her the New Rules, “Translate the names of these pastries, and we can have one. Translate at least three.”
She starts with the obvious, “Éclair is an éclair.” Of course, it is.
“Bien!” I’ll take it. At this point, I will take anything. The aroma in the shop is an intoxicating blend of fresh bread, sweet French pastry, and newly ground coffee.
Aeron peers at another – the pasty in question looks like a double-decker cream puff drizzled in fudge – and sounds it out, “Rel-ig-eh-ah-sit-ee choclat.” She ponders this for a moment before the light dawns, “Religious chocolate!”
We both laugh in delight. She has not only translated a second placard taking us that much closer to heaven, but we might also have found our treat. What could possibly taste better than religious chocolate?
Now comes the moment of truth, the challenge which actually makes this lesson a true educational experience. “Mille feuilles,” I say. It’s hard. It’s really hard. On the up side, she studied numbers last week and today we had read a short story about Clouchette (Tinkerbell) making a net out of feuilles cerne (oak leaves) and tigues bamboo (bamboo twigs). It’s possible she’ll get it.
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Frowns, sighs, and frustrated little looks, however, throw doubt on the question. Aeron doesn’t look like she remembers any of the morning’s story. In the meantime, I am salivating, eyes glazing over as a Napoleon and mocha head off towards the back table. I can’t stand it and a hint pops out, “Mille is a number, remember?”
Aeron rapidly runs through all the easy number, “Un deux trois” then forges into the more challenging ones “vinght, trente…” before stumbling desperately. I intervene before disaster can strike, “Math… remember your math!!!” Please remember… And “Cent mille” trips off her tongue.
We are both hopping a little in place now. We can both feel it, victory just out of reach. The tension is high, the stakes higher. One word. One word! “I don’t know this one do I?” she asks me.
“You do,” I assure her. “You learned it this morning!”
A light dawns, her clever little wheels spin greased by the hint, “Not a twig. Not a net. Not a fish. Not a rock. It’s a leaf!... Leaves! Thousand leaves!”
Even, the ladies behind the counter cheer as I order our café au lait and religeuse chocolat. They speak French themselves and were delightfully aware of our bumbling attempts to justify our presence. The marchande leans across the counter as I pay and suggests, “Maybe she could write us a letter next time…”