Friday, March 20, 2009

In praise of aunts

E and G -- along with every other student their age in France -- have to do a stage d'entreprise, an internship in which they learn about a business or a profession. Every 13 year old in French school will spend a week going to work every day--in a stable, on a golf course, in a boulangerie, with a veterinarian--seeing what it's like and thinking about whether it's the kind of work they might like to do someday. Then each one will write a report (12 to 20 pages, illustrated).

It's a big deal. We've known it was in the offing for over a year. The other kids talk about it, and the teachers started talking about it in the fall. We wondered what to do. Our connections here fall into three categories: C's colleagues, our village friends who are nearly all retired, and our shopkeeper friends. Sending the girls to do an internship at C's office seemed uninspired, and asking Gilbert if one of them, at least, could come along to work at the boulangerie would mean waking up awfully early.

That's where the girls' Aunt A comes in to the story. I was talking to her one day about what we might do--thinking about sending them back to Washington for a week--and she listened. Then she called me back. What if we took the girls to London, to work with A's museum colleagues there for a week? They'd have a tour of the museum profession, see the other side of exhibition galleries, find out a little bit about the kind of work that A does and that I used to do. A would come along, of course, and we'd have a week together in London.

We said yes, please, and thank you. And we're going next week.

Now, here's the thing you need to know. A is not really their aunt. By which I mean, she's not my sister, or C's. But she's watched them and enjoyed them and cut out valentines with them and gone to movies with them--she's loved them--since they were small. Now she's drawn up a week long internship with her museumy friends, and is taking a week of vacation and flying across the ocean, to hang out with them and help them out. Aunt-like behavior if I've ever seen aunt-like behavior.

A few weeks ago I read this and it reminded me of all the women who've looked out for me--my family aunts, my extended family aunts, my aunty friends--and it made me think, too, of the girls' aunts--family, extended, and otherwise. The kindness and generosity of A and her consoeurs makes me catch my breath with gratitude. We are some lucky girls, E and G and I.


We'll be away, but I'll still be posting thanks to the miracle of writing ahead. À très bientôt!


  1. That's just fabulous! Congratulations on having such a wonderful quasiAunt and friend. I am positively green with envy. I hope that you all have a great time and that the girls are suitably inspired by their internships.

    Have fun!

  2. I discovered "Life at La Bastiole" a few weeks or a couple of months ago, and I've been enjoying your writing very much!
    I now find that my family and I are possibly about to move to France for a period, just as I discover you may be leaving.
    I've lived in France before, so I know that your observations reflect the subtle but significant differences between cultures. I'll continue reading your tales as long as I can!

  3. I love reading your blog! Thanks for writing.