This was our first day of good-byes, as by next Saturday we will unbelievably be on the road to Switzerland. The kids had made cards for our two most valiant merchants: "Merci pour les fromages" went to monsieur le Fromagier who did indeed look refreshed from his California sojourn, and who provided us this week with half a Reblochon, which is just soooo ready to give itself up to us, and a Darley Fermier au cumin (a bold move for us, as usually just great cheese taste is all we require - no ups and extras like cumin) - and guess what? it's fantastic! We had a nice good-bye chat and he (and everyone else we talked to today, by the way) said "you ought to find a way to live here, people are doing it all the time." You hear that enough times and the daydreaming gets pretty extreme. But our skill set is pretty small (the world doesn't need that many art history, though the world desperately needs art - at least since the Paleolithic period), and though I do love the idea of Mac working at the Bar le Alzey, and me consulting for medieval cultural events at the castle, that market is pretty saturated.
"Merci pour les lasagnes" was the card for the butcher, and though I've been asked to provide a photo of said Cute Butcher, I just couldn't do it. You'll have to know that his lasagna was so great that the kids were prompted to draw pictures of themselves eating it (and Oliver put in a drawing of his new little adventure character, a duck incongruously named Boxy (which he spelled "Boxie" in French!) eating lasagna for good measure). The image here is actually of the saucisson sec man (the one who provided us with boar saucisson sec last week). This week, we bought fig, deer, and hazelnut saucisson sec, and then, as a good-bye, good-travels gift, he gave us an ostrich saucisson sec - wow!
We also said good-bye to the Fruit Guy and the Chicken Man, and the Vegetable People (all named by the children, I'd like to add). And yes, I'll miss the food so very much, how it structured our week, how good it tasted, how it emerged from musings and conversations with both Mac and the kids, and the merchants. And I think that it's those conversations that I'll miss the most; I think that's the loss I felt the most today when, unbelievably, I shed tears while fixing lunch. (How silly I felt, crying over the last market, but I resolutely pushed aside my Protestant prissiness over pleasure, and let myself cry for the loss of pleasure in food, and the loss of connection about food). When we first went to the market, the list was made beforehand, and I knew exactly what I wanted and it took about half an hour. And then at some point, we started bumping into people we knew, and forgetting about the list (or just forgetting the list entirely, in our anticipation at being Out There at the market), and then it took longer to decide what to get. And I'd have to talk to the merchant more: what do you recommend this week? what would be good with the fennel I just bought? would this new cheese you have work after a chicken dish? My efficiency decreased, but my pleasure increased. (Does it always have to be that way? What is "efficient pleasure"? Don't answer that - it's too absurd and weird sounding, no?). So that today's market outing, with the good-byes and the questions took nearly two hours.
I fear sounding pious and self-satisfied in saying that it felt really great to know where my food came from (a mantra of the local-eating movement) - but it did; or rather, I will miss that aspect of our eating. That the kids could understand (albeit grudgingly because they love it so) that the butcher had not had time to make lasagna a particular week because of the Ascension holiday (he has two kids); or that our Fruit Guy was one of the first to have the Strawberries of Plougastel at the market (made him a hero once the kids had tasted the gorgeous fruit). That was pretty cool when you think about it.
What was also pretty, very, wonderfully cool was the Kermesse, end of the year fun fair party, at the École Suzanne Bourquin. The term is religious in origin (ker - church; messe - mass) and I think Dutch, but it's come into secular parlance as a once-a-year bash, now with a fundraiser element. But never mind the etymology! The joy was in moments like these: Oliver playing with the water pistols that were winnable at every single stand (everyone was glad, it was hot hot hot today) with his good friend Clementine who is a fantastic kid. She spoke to me a little bit about Oliver (between dueling bouts) and just said over and over how "gentil" (kind) he is - my favorite phrase of her was "il ne fera pas de mal à une mouche" (he wouldn't hurt a fly). Oliver's friends talk about his kindness a lot which just makes me still with wonder and that aching love when you see your kid out in the world through others' eyes.
There was this moment, too, when Iris and Eleanor, in playing with the spiky green ball that Eleanor won (and loves), showed me where they play together "under the shed" (a covered play space so that the kids can still play outside even when it rains - yea, Brittany!). They played and played and laughed and again it was that glimpse into the word they've built for themselves. A stylishly decorated world, complete with Elmer!
We had signed up to volunteer, but, of course, had no idea what to expect. In the end, I wasn't needed at the "restaurant," which was a crêpe stand (every Breton woman knows how to wield a crêpe ladle and spreader and I'm truly glad that I was spared the humiliation and that the good people of Josselin were spared the disappointment of what would have been abysmal crêpes produced by my inept handling of the instruments). But Mac was very much needed at the "Caisse Boîte" stand which entailed he and our friend Christophe (father of Simon in Eleanor's class) setting up empty tin cans so that people could knock them down. It was loud, hot work, and the beer was non-alcoholic (apparently no alcohol on school grounds), but Oliver decided to help out at some point, and he loved running around the picking up the rolling cans. :-)
So the girls and I walked all over the school grounds, and they showed me the "Petite Maison Bleue" (the little blue house) where they have apparently also spent many a happy moment with their friends. They are both grateful for the shade here, and the opportunity to lay out just a few of their winnings. There was a little space for me to squeeze in next to them and we had ourselves a nice little chat. I realize now (I have before, but really now) just how lucky we were to fall into this fantastic little school. That Sarkozy wants to abolish the Maternelle system and start kids at the CP (Cours Préparatoire -preparatory course) level when they're between 6-7 years old is deeply depressing. Hopefully he will be out of office before any such awful idea can take place. For now, funding is getting cut drastically, and today was, after all, a fundraiser. So we bought raffle tickets and lots of game tickets and had an absolute blast.
The prizes were amazing! Iris hit "Super Bingo" on the spinning wheel and not only got to blow a horn signaling her good fortune, but also won this beautiful little jewelry set - not plastic, my friends! Oliver scored an official soccer ball (yes, my packing heart stopped for a second) of excellent quality...
Eleanor's favorite score turned out to be a dog chew toy, the wittily named "Doggy News" - you can see her here stylishly carrying it while relaxing atop her dad's shoulders. The kids were just amazed by it all - more gifts from Brittany! - and loved all the running around with their buds. We were stunned to discover that one of our raffle tickets won something: a perfect sports backpack into which we will undoubtedly stuff as much as possible come July 31st. Considering that most of the other raffle prizes were things like blenders and tool kits, this worked out rather beautifully! :-)
But the sweetest surprise came at the end of the day - and no, it wasn't Eleanor's collapse-of-a-nap. Mac and Christophe had bemoaned the state of the non-alcoholic beer (warm) during their hours in the Caisse Boîte stand and so Mac had invited him for a beer afterwards (big move!). Christophe had basically demurred and said they'd have to probably get the kids home, etc., but really nice and friendly, as ever. And then, about halfway through our much-welcomed beers (Blanche Hermine) for us and ice cream for the kids at the Taverne, we saw all four of them come strolling up! They said they were hoping that we'd still be here, and there we were. And so there we sat, on this day of endings and beginnings, with our French friends while the kids ran around the church and up and around the terrace. And a great time was had by all.
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