My French Brain


This was the “TV room” in the house we lived in in France. Here’s the sofa where we snuggled together and watched French talk shows, improving both our language skills and our understanding of the culture. I didn’t realize how much I’ve been missing that.

Last night I decided to listen to my favorite French album, one by Gérard Darmon. I’ve probably listened to it 100 times, maybe many more. The whole year before Shel died I played it regularly, and the year after I still wanted to hear it a lot. But since I’ve moved here, I’ve been too busy for music a lot of the time, and not thinking much about France because school has overtaken my life.

Last night, though, as soon as French entered my ears, my brain said a long, relieved aaahh. All of a sudden my head felt clear and freshly washed, clean clothes snapping in the breeze on the laundry line. The words of the songs seemed to go directly to my heart, and because it’s an album of love songs, my tears slicked down like the afternoon’s rain. It felt indescribably good, like coming home after a long absence, but it hurt so sharply that I gasped out loud. And I’m no masochist.

I remember how the French prize emotion, and I miss that so much. The sensibility that lead four or five grown men to break into tears when they spoke at the memorial I had for Shel, in the town where we lived, elle me manque. I’ve always felt like a different person when French is my daily language, and I want to be that person again. How could I have forgotten how much I love that?

I’m working up to saying goodbye to a lot of things on April 6, which will be the second anniversary of Shel’s death. Before you ask, I don’t know why I’ve set myself that goal, to say goodbye, on that day. I’m trying to figure that out now, and I’ll probably be thinking out loud right here.

But last night I saw that it’s linked to France, somehow. I saw someone carrying a white pizza box today, and immediately I thought of how Shel and I used to go to the Serrebonnet, and I’d always get pizza with Corsican figatelle. Friends came over unexpectedly for a drink yesterday  and I realized that my cupboards were embarrassingly bare of treats, a state I’d never have let myself get into in France. I think about friends in France and I want to feel their kisses on my salty, wet cheeks.

Explore posts in the same categories: French Letters Visits America, Wish I Were There

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9 Comments on “My French Brain”

  1. Chuck Says:

    Abra, I loved this. Chuck

  2. Chitra parpia Says:

    School ? Teaching or learning. Or both together ?
    All he best

  3. Barry Twyman Says:

    Spooky…turned on my old computer and watched Shel and the Band yesterday …I wondered why ….now I know … Love from La France Abra xx

  4. Catanea Says:

    One seldom or never sees the ads on one’s own WordPress blog(s), & it seems I seldom or never see them on anyone else’s. This time, WP offers me ads in French to rent a BMW or Audi!
    I’m a little glad you’re sad. I’m sure you’re sad more than you tell US (the readers) but sometimes I am aghast at your apparent stoicism.
    Yes, we are all someone a little different in other languages. I miss your cooking; all these wine related skills! What will be eaten with the stunning wines?
    Spring is coming.

  5. Liz Bier Says:

    I hope you’re not saying goodbye to French Letters, Abra!

  6. Barbara Jacquin Says:

    France will always be a part of you…and you a part of France. Oh, what, where is Serrebonnet?

  7. Katherine Says:

    I just wondered last week if you watch C dans l’air from time to time. There was no reason for : it just came to my mind. And now I see the sofa where you must have watched it so often. Yes France, the lanquage our beloved town , the friends over there: it Always feels like coming home. Miss you. Thanks for sharing this post with us. Love

  8. Abra Bennett Says:

    Catanea – I’m anything but stoic. Just realistic, and trying to have a better-than-decent rest of my life!

    Barbara – Le Serrebonnet, unless it’s closed, is on that funny triangular corner on the way out of town towards Alès. Really good pizza.

    Chitra – learning how to grow grapes and make wine.

  9. Barbara Jacquin Says:

    Tanks Abra

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