The month I graduated from high school, thirteen years ago, (I really need to stop reminiscing, by the way, it’s making me feel old), I took off to France to live with a family for a month as a sort of exchange student. I had taken four years of French in school and felt prepared to converse and immerse myself in the culture. I was excited to go to France and experience the mythical French life that I expected. I was told by the organization that coordinated the trip that I would be staying with a family in which the father was a chef and the mother was a teacher, and there was a daughter about my age and a baby girl. Funny how things translate. In actuality, the father was a cafeteria worker in a convalescent home, the mother worked part time with the elderly, the daughter truly was almost my age, but the “baby girl” was older than me making the gift I brought her of a children’s board book entirely inappropriate.
This was just the beginning of a series of misunderstandings which, at the time exhausted me, but now that I look back on them, make me feel a sweet nostalgia for the family who tried so hard to make this weepy American feel more at home. From the time my plane landed in France I was lost. I was told to get on the wrong train, no one knew where in the country Torcy was (the town I was headed to), and I was petrified. I managed to get on the right train and make it to the right station and meet my family, les Humblots. They were so nice from the start, welcoming me unconditionally and doing everything they could to make me happy.
I was in Torcy for the month of July and, man, was it hot. In the 40’s every day, (which I learned after returning home and converting Celsius to Fahrenheit), that it was in the 90’s. Thankfully, Torcy had a big lake that our house was only about a block away from. We spent every day at the lake and came home every night to sit out on the patio in the garden under a big umbrella and have dinner. We ate the most usual of things which seemed unusual to me to have for dinner. Bread, plain shredded carrots, and a lump of canned tuna for dinner. Cookies and creme fraiche for dessert, and then apricots. I had never eaten an apricot before but tried it because I was in France! Why not? I was in heaven.
Apricots have got to be the most sensual fruit, and not in the I-want-to-date-my-apricot way, just in that they appeal to all of the senses. They’re beautiful to look at, a wonderful color. They smell amazing. They feel nice in your hand, the skin is soft and lightly fuzzy, like the skin on your cheek. And have you tasted one? So delicious.
I love apricots and every summer when it’s hot and I don’t feel like cooking or eating anything, I buy them. I sit out in the sun and they take me back to France. This week we’re supposed to suffer a heat wave and so I picked up bag full of fuzzy, ripe apricots at the store. Which has put me in a reminiscing mood. Oddly enough, listening to the Greatful Dead’s What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been album also takes me back to steamy apricot-flavored Torcy. It was the only cassette I brought with me for the trip and I desperately listened to it at every chance I got. It was the only English I heard for a month. Jerry and the guys kept me company. One day in the car, Mr. Humblot asked if they could listen to “my music” so I handed over my tape and will forever have the image of two French teens and father enthusiastically attempting to sing Saint Stephen as we drove along the gorgeous rural countryside.
Sigh… I was so sad and homesick while I was there and I’m afraid I missed out on so much. I’ve been thinking of scanning all of my photos from the trip so I’ll have an archive of them, and maybe I’ll blog my travel diary just for fun, so I have a record of it. Maybe I’ll start tonight. While eating apricots and listening to the Dead.