Wednesday, September 10, 2008

C'est la vie

I paid another trip to the librairie this morning, to see if the Guide du francais that the girls' French teacher requires has come in. This was visit number three or four and the answer was: non, pas encore, maybe Friday. It's a mystery to my American brain why the store--the only bookstore in the area that caters to the Collège des Vignes--cannot stock the necessary number of basic French grammar books. But as a French friend shrugs, translating directly from French into English, it's like that. C'est comme ca.

What's not yet completely comme ca for me is that when I went to ask after the grammar books this morning, I asked for them under E's name. The first time we went to buy the books and supplies for school this year, I had sent the girls up to ask for help and took myself off to the travel section to peruse the maps. Last year I couldn't have done that because they didn't speak enough French. Our trips to the bookstore were fraught with anxiety, as they stayed at my elbows while I showed the store clerks the liste des fournitures scolaires and used equal parts French and charm to communicate. This year, we hardly even spoke about it: off they went with their list, and when they needed my wallet, they came and found me.

It wasn't til we were in the parking lot that I found out that we didn't, in fact, have everything required and would have to go back again. E explained: not enough grammar books had come in, so she'd given the clerk her name and reserved two copies for when they did. That's why, this morning, I asked for the books under her name. Marron, E. Two copies.

When E was three days old, one of her tear ducts was blocked. C and I bundled her off to Urgent Care, and the pediatrician on call gave us a prescription for a tube of something to rub on her eyelid. Still a little panicked, we rushed to the pharmacy and handed in the prescription to be filled. We browsed the baby products aisle while we waited, C lugging E around in her baby bucket carseat. Why didn't we just carry her? I can't remember. What I do remember is that after a few minutes there was a voice over the store loudspeaker: Prescription ready for E Marron, it said. C and I looked at each other. It was the first time a stranger had ever used E's name. This tiny creature with the rheumy eye, slumped over in her onesie, this was E Marron. We had come up with this name--we who routinely forgot where we had parked the car, or whether we had paid that month's phone bill--and now this little creature was being called by it.

And now she's ordering books under that name, in a foreign language in a foreign country, and I am just the person who picks them up. It is a wondrous thing, this life.

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