Friday, January 29, 2010

Someone mentioned foie gras.

When BigGirl was 10 months old, I left her for the first time.  I spent a week in Baltimore for corporate training.  I sat in the airport, waiting for my plane, crying.  The novel I had borrowed from a friend was unable to distract me or lift my spirits.  I carried in my purse a piece of paper with four inkjet printed pictures of FireDaddy, BigGirl, Bo and I smiling together in the warm spring sunshine of my parents’ back porch.  paris park bench

My week in Baltimore was mentally exhausting and emotionally draining, but good, nonetheless.  I met people from all over, laughed till my sides ached, collected expense receipts, explored the Inner Harbor area, shopped for souvenirs and frequented the hotel lounge with my new girlfriends.  At night, I would call home and miss my baby more and more with each day that passed.  I slept hard every night, a nice escape from the loneliness bottled up inside that hotel room.

That’s when I met Jane.  Jane had just moved to the States from France, where she was formerly employed by the French division of our company.  Amidst an international company conference, she met the American man who would be her husband.  He quickly swept her off her feet and ushered her across the Atlantic to a new life as his wife. 

Jane wore her French nationality like a feather in her bonnet.  Her jet black eyeliner extended beyond the corner of her eye just slightly, and angled up towards her brow, à la Cleopatra.  She kept her mocha hair neatly tied at the nape of her neck in a bun or simple ponytail.  The way she wore her Land’s End company logo button-downs made them look not only feminine, but sexy.  Her black heels flaunted toes that reached a sharp point and industrial-sized buckles and grommets.  They looked like pure couture beside my Mossimo heeled sandals.  Everything she said was music – a beautiful love song, whispered between sheets.

I suppose I had a bit of a “girl crush” on Jane.  I was completely enamored with her.  I hung onto her every word.  I found myself wanting to ask her to tell me everything – tell me again how you met your husband, about your family, about school.  What of the French division of the company? What does your home look like?  I wanted to know it all. 

At the time, my brother lived in Silver Spring and worked in Baltimore.  Sometime midweek, after being dismissed for the day, I left my room at the Hilton Garden Inn, hopped into his Murano waiting at the curb, and headed to dinner.  He took me to a French restaurant he and his wife enjoyed on occasion.

We sat at a cafe table outside, just within the low wrought iron fence.  As my eyes surveyed the menu, early French vocabulary lessons replayed in my mind…poisson, haricots, les frites, jambon… Finally, I chose a lovely skate with capers and brown butter.  It was magnifique.

The night was wonderfully delicious.  The spring night air was cool and helped me stay awake, despite wine and fatigue.  We laughed and had a wonderful visit before I collapsed in their downstairs guest bedroom. 

The next day, surrounded once again by the neutral corporate classroom, I couldn’t wait to tell Jane about my dinner.  I couldn’t remember the French word for skate, and the English name had no meaning to her….which is actually quite funny.  A skate is closely related to a ray…and the French word for skate is “raie”.  I struggled to define the fish with my words and hands until, finally, our minds connected again.  She smiled and reminisced about her mother’s cooking and meals with her family at home.  And, again, I listened with envy and admiration.

I never saw or spoke to Jane again after that week.  But, I’ll never forget her.  She is filed neatly away in a beautiful drawer in my mind marked “France” – alongside images of the Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre, L’Arc de Triomphe, fields of lavender in Provence, charming boulangeries, and bridges crossing the Seine. 

I bought a French guidebook last week.  It was on clearance at a bookstore going out of business.  Someday, hopefully not too far away, that will come in handy.


Photo credit: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


  1. Beautifully written, Jen. You can borrow my beret when you go. And you will. Go.

  2. ::chills:: What a wonderful memory! And beautifully expressed.


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