12.2.13

The color blue and red candies too.

<<Aujourd'hui, maman est morte.>> 
That's the first line from the Stranger, one of my favorite books on our high school's curriculum and the basis of everything I would learn about Existentialism. I'm reading it now, in French and even though I'm seeing a lot of the vocabulary for the first time, I heard it used frequently, last week.
Sebastien's grandmother passed away and his parents came from the US to attend the funeral.
I had only seen her once, prior to her death--Sebastien took  me to Strasbourg to meet his Uncle and cousins and during that visit I only heard her speak a single time which was prompted by Sebastien's Uncle telling her that Seb's father was on the phone. He asked if she would like to speak with him. 
<< Oh, yes ! >> she had replied warmly. That was in 2009.
Sebastien and his parents visited her in Alsace last summer. I stayed in Paris because the trip interfered with my work schedule. As a result last week was the first time I had seen most of Seb's family in 4 years. I was hesitant to go in some ways, as if doing so would make a promise I was scared to keep. And anyway, funerals are personal, family affairs-- Sebastien's own sister couldn't even make it, and as I am merely the wife of a grandson...I didn't want to intrude.
But reluctant as I was, I knew it was my duty to attend. Sebastien has held my hand through both my brother and my father's death, in effect making that same promise I was scared to make, twice.
Am I being clear enough, dear reader?
It means something to meet your lover's parents. It means something else to accompany them to a wedding where you might interact with their family in a time of joy...it means quite another thing to stand beside them during tragedy.

My French has improved greatly since my first vacation to France. I was a little disappointed that nobody mentioned that at first, or slowed down when they spoke, or even asked me where I was from, but acceptance is it's own kind of compliment.
Interestingly enough, the whole affair was a joyful event punctuated by deep feelings and tears. Moving as those moments were I found they were overshadowed by droll stories and beautiful pictures. People had amazing tales of his grandmother. My favorite involved his great-Aunt and how she met her husband.
Sebastien's Grandmother was quite an accomplished seamstress. I've seen pictures of the Batman costume she made him as a child. 
Apparently she had  fashioned a blue velvet dress with a white collar for her younger sister, Sebastien's great-Aunt.
She told her little sister to put it on to go out to lunch. Her sister complied but leaned out the window to see what the weather would be like. It was raining and she was not looking forward to getting the new garment wet. She looked good in blue--this was never  mentioned but even now, in her mid 80's blue is her color.
While she's thinking about the weather a young man leans out his own window, across the street.
<< It's raining. >> He remarked.
<< Yes, it is. >> She agrees. << It's too bad because I was just about to go to a restaurant. >> She told this story more than once and she paused every time right here to say that she was too poor to eat at a restaurant, she was going to a cafe to buy a sandwich, but she didn't want him to know that.
<<You're going to eat some place? Well, I'm hungry too. Why don't we go together ? >> the young engineer leaning out his window proposed.
She agreed. Less than a year later, they were married. Fifty years ago now.
Any romantic anywhere would want to have a love story brought to you in part by the inconvenience of weather and a beautiful blue dress. C'est magique, ca !

I know Valentine's day is coming up and people are going to talk about what love is or isn't. How the holiday is manufactured and stupid and I get all of that, I really do.
But admit it--Valentines day was so awesome when we were in grade school. I don't know how they do things in France, but trading candy and paper puns was a textbook amazing afternoon for me. Red candies ranging from cherry to fire-flavored were front and center and somebody's mom inevitable brought in chocolate cupcakes. 
Pft, whatever. That holiday ruled.

This year Sebastien and I are dead broke. Both the trip to Rome and the visit to the US really put the breaks on our spending. 4 weeks of cumulative vacation does not come cheaply and the translation work he's had lately is enough to cover his half of the rent and little else. For my part, I was told I wouldn't be needed at the Local Bio until April and I had to take a day off from teaching for the funeral. So there won't be costly ingredients for our dinner nor the gifts I couldn't afford for him at Christmas. But there will be love, and I mean the blue dress kind.
Something he probably doesn't remember about when we got together, we had made it official on Valentine's day, yes. But two days later,  somebody's dad left three trays of cupcakes in my common room at college. I selected one with a plastic ring on the top and brought it over to Seb in his room, presenting it with a grin. I knew what I was doing, but I told myself I was only playing at promises and commitment. 
Later that night when the fire alarm got us out of our beds, I found him in the crowd and I handed him a Hershey's hug with the paper that said "I love you." I did so knowing that maybe it was too soon for such hints and insinuations. But why not romance someone if you have the chance? It's only candy and plastic promise rings anyway, right? 8 years later, I'm not sure if that's true. Why not ask us about it in 50 years.



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