mercredi 8 juillet 2009

The first day, Frimeur

Cleaning the shoes


Yesterday was the first session of Capucine's summer riding camp. I picked her up at 2:49, only 4 minutes late (I cannot tell a lie; I was not there on the stroke of a quarter to the hour.), and she appeared in her riding pants, boots, and chaps, her helmet in the bag on her back.

"Bonjour, Jacqueline!" She was grinning.

"Salut, Capucine. T'es prête?" She nodded yes; she was ready and eager. The clouds had been scudding overhead all morning, issuing sudden bursts of downpour. I looked up through the windshield.

"Je ne sais pas si vous allez avoir un temps convenable, mais je suis certaine qu'ils ont prévu quelque chose dans le cas des intemperies." Surely, they would, I thought, have something planned in the event of downpour. There is an indoor riding ring, but maybe, I thought, they keep that for the more experienced riders? I hoped they would. We talked on the way to the stables, a 15-minute drive across the boucle de la Seine to the ridge above Bonnières sur Seine, and arrived only a couple of minutes past 2 pm. The place seemed deserted, until we approached the stables, and there were riders, horses and smaller children looking a little nervous on their first day everywhere.

"Salut, Capucine," Julie welcomed her.

"Vous avez une très bonne memoire," I said. One of those stupid things you say to be nice and fade into the woodwork all at once. Of course she remembered Capucine.

"C'est parce que je l'attends avec impatience." Of course she was waiting for Capucine. She expected her in class. I assumed my place of invisibility, somewhere behind the only other parental figure still present. My cue to go ahead and leave, but not before I had shown Capucine that I wasn't dumping her, but leaving her confident that she'd have a good session. I snapped pictures, and the children learned to groom their ponies, Julie handing Capucine a too small anorak to protect her from the rain that had begun to fall again.

Mental note: stop at Decathlon before taking her home and get her an anorak.

After what felt like a decent period, I gathered my things and sidled past the kids, Julie and the ponies with a glance at Capucine to say, "I'm leaving, and you'll be fine. I'll be back." She nodded back, imperceptibly.

It poured while I sat at home and tried to work on my entry addition drawings, mostly letting myself get sidetracked with variously amusing threads on Facebook, daydreaming about horses and jumping, how I'd feel starting from scratch and learning from women half my age. Your sister is the natural, our mother said. It's funny how you believe your parents. Forever. Best not to listen to them when it isn't life-threatening, or academic record-threatening, either. Maybe we'll get to that. Maybe we won't.

When I returned, they were still in the smaller paddock, working on turning in the saddle to face backwards and then front again. Capucine had switched and was mounted on the very slightly taller Frimeur. Much littler Paul was on Bambina, and 10-year-old-going-on-11-year-old Anne, a head taller than Capucine, who is not a size 12 but more like a size 10 we learned trying on anoraks at Decathlon afterwards, was mounted on the sleek dark pony. Paul looked a little consternated. He was having listening and instruction following issues, but he was managing and Julie was manifesting infinite patience while demonstrating focus.

I watched and took more pictures.

"C'est un bridge?" a voice asked me. I turned and saw the mother standing nearby, a pocket-sized digital camera in her hand. She was slipping it into her pocket.

"Excusez-moi?"

"Un brigde. Votre appareil de photo, c'est un compact, un réflexe ou un bridge?" I thought that was what she was getting at. I felt my vocabulary suddenly dry up just when it was clear that I was about to have a conversation with a digital camera connaisseuse. Damn.

"Oui, c'est un bridge." How odd, I thought, that she isn't starting in with the 'And is this your daughter's first time, too?' line of questioning.

"C'est bien. J'ai mon compact, mais le zoom n'est pas très bon." Alright I thought. Let's go, and I'll do my best.

"C'est quoi comme zoom? 3x?" She nodded.

"Oui, est ce n'est pas très bien comme le votre l'est pour prendre les photos d'elle de loin." The conversation ranged from the digital SLRs in the amateur enthusiast range that interest us to the possibility of using les objectifs from our old appareil photo argentiques. It was nearing time to approach the topic of the children. I started first, and when she answered me, I realized that was what she had been artfully setting up all along. I admired her skill.

"C'est la première seance pour votre fille aussi?" I asked.

"Oui," she confirmed. "Elle fait un essai pour voir si ça lui plait vraiment. Elle a fait de golf avant."

"Ah, c'est autre chose le poney. Ce n'est pas ma fille, mais celle de mon mari, mais je lui ai proposé de faire de poney parce que j'ai eu le sentiment que ça lui plairait beaucoup et je pense que de monter peut donner beaucoup de confiance et d'aissance à un enfant. Elle en manque un peu, pas dans toutes les circonstances, mais souvent dans les situations sociales qu'elle ne maîtrise pas facilement --" I let it drift. You know my line of thinking if you have read this from the other day.

"Oui," she nodded, "est la relation avec l'animal est très important."

"C'est exactement ce que j'allais dire."

"Capucine --" she started to say, and I understood then that she knew her.

"Mais, vous connaissez déjà Capucine?"

"Oui, j'ai été sa maîtresse en CP," she smiled and introduced herself.

"Alors, vous connaissez également mon mari, son père?"

"Pas vraiment. J'ai eu beaucoup plus affaire avec sa mère." I nodded. That was my first year of marriage. The first year I knew Capucine.

"Oui, j'imagine. Son père est médecin hospitalier et travaille beaucoup." She nodded understandingly.

"C'est un métier très prenant." With her help, we had learned who we were and gotten through it with ease. It's not easy when you perhaps know more about the person with whom you have affaire than they can possibly know you do, and it isn't likely very nice. We talked on about her son, her work, my son, and the children finished cleaning their ponies' shoes and joined us.

"Alors, ça t'a plu encore, je vois, Capucine." She nodded, her face and arms still flushed a little red, and a band from the front pad of her helmet pressed into her high forehead. "La bombe n'est pas trop petite, j'espère?" She nodded no.

"Ca va." The teacher turned to her daughter, seated on the bench in front of us.

"Tu veux venir encore?"

"Oui!" she replied, adding, "Quand Capucine viendra encore."

"Capucine," I said to her.

"Vendredi," she supplied.

"Allez, à vendredi," said her old teacher.

"Et nous allons chercher un anorak, si tu penses que ce ne gênerait pas Maman, Capucine. Tu peux l'appeler, si tu veux."

"Ca ne posera pas de problème," dit elle. Smiling.


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