Life’s Rich Tapestry

21 Aug

When I asked the kids what they liked best about their vacation in Normandy so far, they excitedly exclaimed: Astérix! And, the Bayeux Tapestry!

Wha’ the? I craned my neck around to peer at them quizzically: I’m sorry, guys. Whaaaat?

They rummaged around in the back seat to produce comic books (written entirely in French) to help me understand(?) what the former one was in the first place — an amusement park centered around the adventures of a time-and-world-travelling Gallic goofball named, naturally, Astérix, and why the latter one should elicit such glee in 12- and 9-year-old children: “You know it was kinda like the first comic book EVER and it tells some really cool stories about the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest!”

Ah. OK then. This makes sense — kids who dig comic books and history! I can relate to that. Maybe starting my post-R2R vacation by spending time with my former law firm partner/quasi-boss (she chaired the Pro Bono Committee that oversaw my position) and her kids in a far-flung French province that took 15 hours to get to by train (the first leg of which required me to unleash my Russian on a pair of attempted freeloaders so as to eject them from my couchette; score 1 for Zeisler!) wouldn’t be a total disaster.

And, in fact, their answers to my next question: So, what do you guys have planned for today? told me that this odd little vacation interlude would turn out to be pretty dang epic:

Well, Z, after we have lunch (do you like paté, by the way?), we were thinking about checking out a flea market and then doing a cheese tour. You know, like visiting a bunch of cheese farms? Here’s the guidebook with the map. Do you like cheese?

Had I died and gone to heaven?

Who were these brilliant, adorable children? Had their mother put them up to this? No. I was pretty sure that I’d never told Rebecca about my unnatural love for thrifting nor my obsession with cheese. Of course she knew about my bacon addiction (EVERYONE knows about my bacon obsession, courtesy of my ever-present “I love bacon and bicycles” necklace charm), but cheese and flea markets? No, there was no way that the kids’ suggestion for the day’s itinerary was a plant.

Uh, yeah, kids. I think I could be down with that.
[Read: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! THAT IS PRETTY MUCH THE. BEST. VACATION PLAN. EVER!!]

I underplayed it on the front end, but I could only sustain the “calm, cool, collected adult” act for so long. By the time we reached our first destination, I was just as giddy and silly as the kids were. We donned old clothes and animal skins, marveled at ugly art, speculated about the “value” of discarded dolls and dishes, and giggled when the Frenchies were taken aback by the kids’ ability to fluently respond to their (the Frenchies’) attempts to ridicule me for being a dumb, photo-taking American. Ha! There’s only 1 dumb American here, Frenchie, and she’s smart enough to keep her trap shut and let the kids do all the talking

We had so much fun at the flea market that we had little time to fully implement our cheese tour plan. Rebecca gunned it and got us to Livarot just as the shops started to close but before — to our great surprise and delight — before the town kicked off a street festival. Excellent!

The best part about the Livarot shopping/touring experience was watching the kids negotiate with shop keepers and vendors. We walked away with a half-kilo of thick-sliced bacon, a wheel of Livarot, a bottle of wine, 2cm of paté, and a fresh-baked baguette for less than €20. Score!

The kids again used their fantastic French fluency in Camembert: Although all the businesses were (officially) closed, the charming children earned us access to a lovely cheese production farm/sales property, where we photographed various young farm animals and purchased yet another wheel of stinky, yummy cheese, some carrot soup, and a couple baggies of freshly made salted caramels.

When we finally got to the house, I was exhausted … 15 hours on trains plus ~7 hours of touring under the blazing hot sun had wiped me out, but as soon as I saw the gorgeous gite and gardens, my spirits revived. And the sight of the outdoor hot tub was also rather enticing …

The kids and I enjoyed exploring the gardens (avoiding the swamp and a dark, gloomy, spidery place where we bemoaned the fact that 3 bicycles had been left to rust: It’s BICYCLE ABUSE we all shouted and agreed!), while Rebecca whipped up a beautiful, perfect dinner with all the delicacies that had been procured through the kids’ proficient French skills.

For dessert, we munched on cherries that the kids had picked while sitting on my shoulders, while a pair of donkeys surveilled us from the other side of the wood-post fence. 100% idyllic bliss.

As the sun (and wine — for the adults) went down, Rebecca confessed that she and the kids were writing a novel about an American family’s adventures in France. They encounter a character who’s on a mission to “save the pigeons.” The kids giggled when they said: You’re kind of the inspiration for her, Z! And then we all giggled when I suggested that perhaps the character could be motivated by the desire to End Bike Abuse, instead!

When I woke the next morning, I marveled at my place in this world:

  • Watching the sun come up over endlessly green French farmland;
  • The smell of fresh coffee and bacon wafting up from the kitchen;
  • My former (quasi) boss preparing these luxuries for me and providing the charming roof over my head;
  • Two children who considered me worthy of being memorialized in their debut novel as a savior of bicycles (or, perhaps, pigeons);
  • A sojourn to Paris on the immediate horizon…

How did I get here? Who’s miraculous life was this? I left the law firm. There was no “reason” for Rebecca (or her children) to extend such warmth and generosity to me. How could I, an aimless, jobless wanderer, come to possess such a lovely opportunity?

I still don’t know how I got to this place. Oh, fortuitous happenstance! If the Bayeux weavers could bear witness to my blundering, accident-prone, often-disastrous, occasionally triumphant life, they assuredly could craft a new tapestry to rival the old.

Parting Thought: We don’t accomplish anything in the world alone … whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that create something. ~Sandra Day O’Connor

vk_bayeux_tapestry_feast

PS: To see some photos from this portion of my trip, click THIS LINK, but you MUST PROMISE to stop looking once you get to the hot tub photo. The photos beyond the hot tub all relate to the next, not-yet-written installment of my Travel Tales series. So, please: No peeking!!

One Response to “Life’s Rich Tapestry”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. They don’t teach *that* in journalism school! | JustAdventures - August 29, 2013

    […] — The TdF /First-day-in-Paris pictures are mixed up in the album that accompanied last week’s blog post.  You can access them HERE — they start on the 7th row of the album. And if you’re an […]

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