lundi 23 mars 2009

Today, in the garden

the Saxifragia blooms

ps: saxifragia can grow on toits végétaux

Spring arrived, and the temperatures fell. 10° C this afternoon, partly overcast now, after some rather unexpected sunshine. Audouin pointed out as we drove home from the gym on Saturday morning that it is always this way; our spring comes in the month of March, and as soon as spring officially arrives, the weather craps out.

He's right.

"J'espère -- sans fond de raison, seulement l'espoir -- que le fait qu'on a eu un vrai hiver voudrait [note the use of the conditional tense here] dire qu'on va avoir un vrai été."

"Moi aussi." I resolved to appreciate the day, for as long as the blue skies beyond the brilliant yellow forsythia branches hold. Not long. That evening, having a dinner in the 15th arrondisement, we were all dressed to take a car, and I had a crisis of faith in our ability to find a parking space and arrive before desert.

"Il y a surement un parking dans le coin, non?" It's a lot to say that there is certainly a parking garage near her house (excuse me, that's how we talk here in Moosesucks, I meant building), more to say that it will be open when we'd need to recuperate the car after midnight. I have begged on interphones to be let in to get my car after closing at as early as 11 pm in parking garages in the 15th. The worst is that the interphones at McDonald's drive-thrus are nothing next to the clarity of communication with the (usually) immigrant (no offense intended; I am one) attendent on the other end of the line. Incomprehensible, and they get cranky about it! We decided to take the motorcycle, which turned out to be a very bad choice, apart from allowing 5 minutes of conversation upon our arrival. It's cool to arrive by motorcycle.

I knew that the chin strap on my helmet was too loose, but I thought it would be alright. As soon as we hit the highway, one hand was employed in pulling down on it under my chin to keep my helmet more or less in place. My eyes watered. It felt like I was receiving a particularly aggressive acupuncture treatment on my left cheek, and as though my head were being stretched up into the sky, pulled right off my shoulders. I could feel the tendons strained all the way down into my chest.

I bore up until I spied the first sign for the exit for the rest stop at Morainvilliers, and pointed in a very decided manner from the fast lane so that Audouin would understand that he was to get over and off there, in 2 km. 500 meters later, I repeated the gesture at the next sign. He signalled, shifted right and slipped into the exit lane. Relief. Pure and immediate relief.

"Qu'est-ce qu'il y a?" he asked. I never ask to stop.

"Mon casque. C'est pas assez serré, et il tire péniblement." That's when he explained that the problem with the windshield forced him to set it at its lowest position. It was creating turbulence I had never felt behind him. I couldn't even keep my lips closed. At least there was a reason. We struggled with my chin strap, which afforded some relief when we took off again, but I also had to ride with my head stuck out past his, turned like an Egyptian. The turbulence is less when you are not directly behind the pilot.

It was hell.

Home was worse. Far, far worse because to add insult to injury, the temperature had dropped from 8° to 2° C, or just above freezing, at speeds of up to 160 km per hour. My toes warmed up sometime around dawn. So much for not taking time to put on my thermal socks. Never, ever again will I be too hurried not to go retrieve them.

I felt fluish today. We leave for Morzine - Avoriaz Wednesday evening. I cannot be sick. I cannot be sick.

Yesterday was Audouin's birthday. His parents came to celebrate his advanced age (désolée, mon chéri!) and the most extraordinary thing happened.

I made him a fondant au chocolat to serve with a crème anglaise and chantilly (nicer than "whipped cream"), and then it occured to me that I might not have place on the cake for 54 candles, and one for good luck. Sam went and got the camera and joined me at the kitchen counter, where I listened to the conversation and crammed candles from the bowl of once- and twice-used birthday cake candles onto every centimeter square of cake surface available.

At least lighting them should be a cinch, I figured. There were so many they'd autocombust from the heat of those lit close by. At last, there wasn't the possibility of another and I started to light them. Sam took a match and helped finish. We didn't need a flash for the photo, although it occurred to me that we might need les pompiers.

I sang "Happy Birthday", lustily, in English, my in-laws joining in bravely, adding their French voices to my heartfelt song. The French love to sing "Happy Birthday" in English. It's the one bit of English they know.

Audouin tried to look brave, faced with such a lusty display of birthday fire, and puffing up his chest, he exhaled forcefully, achieving the exhaustion of a little more than half the candles and the dispersion of as much as half the powered sugar on the cake, disappearing behind a cloud of smoke and powdered sugar, while he took another breath to attack and Sam clicked away.

"Bon, je suppose que je peux compter les bougies en les enlevant maintenant," and I did, counting two by two. We got to about 38, and Audouin and his parents remarked that it looked like it might be pretty close to 54. I continued.

"40, 42, 44, 46... 48... 50 -- oh!" There was the silence of wonderment all around the table, and one after another face looked up at me in disbelief: 4 candles remained on the cake, next to the one I had gone to get for good luck. Everyone started to laugh at once.

"C'est pas possible."

"Mais ça alors là, je suis vraiment impressionné," dit Audouin, rising to take hold of my head and give me a kiss of recognition and gratitude from across the table, as I blushed in something resembling delight and pride for something undeserving of the latter.

How I did that, I will never know. That I did that, I will forever be grateful for a magic moment.
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