I asked my old friend Shari (old in years, not in age), who is also known as Dusty Earth Mother, to provide my blog with some interesting reading material while I’m away. And she graciously obliged.
Shari and I both got engaged in the same month to a man we swore we would never marry, and attended each other’s wedding to that very same man three weeks apart. I mean … it was a different man, of course. We’re not, like, ranking wives of a polygamist or anything. Although if we were ranking wives, it would be a toss-up as to which one of us was on bottom considering our sad cleaning skills.
Anyway Shari’s husband is a Filipino and mine is a Frenchie. And they’re friends too even though they’re as wildly different as Shari and I are the same. To continue our shared story, we had our daughters three months apart and our sons three months apart (in random particular order), and we all played together happily planning out kids’ best friended-ness. Well, that is until life sent us careening off to France where Young Lady sends The Pistol berets and we descend upon their unsuspecting pugs (and family) once every two years.
But to more credit than Shari being my friend is that she can be yours too for the mere price of … no just kidding .. it’s that Shari is funny. And she brings out the funny in me, although I don’t tend to get as many laughs. And without further ado, I hope you’ll enjoy her story and then be overwhelmed with the desire to check out her blog and become her fan:
Heidi and Her Evil French Grandfather
First of all, I would like to thank the wonderful and talented Lady Jennie for asking me to guest today. And I would also like to thank her for resurrecting my memories of France.
I went backpacking for two months through Europe at the tender age of 21. That was back in the Year Of Our Lord 19— cough. I can’t even bring myself to type the year, because some of you weren’t born yet. And that fact makes my fingers hurt.
I was roped into this adventure by my crazy friend M. Pacelli. She was a buxom Italian girl, very unlike my skinny fair self, and yet I do recall that we had a leg-hair-growing contest while in Europe and I won.
But I digress.
We began our journey in Sweden because we had a friend there. A Swedish friend. Who spoke the language. Unlike our next destination. France. Where we had no friends. And only my two years of high school French (“Ca va?” “Ca va bien!”) to back us up.
To make sure that our French entry was smooth, we took a train from Denmark that theoretically would get us into Paris at 2 in the afternoon, with plenty of time to exchange our money and get a place to stay.
Except there was a train strike in Germany.
A ten-hour train strike.
Did I mention that we didn’t speak German and had no idea why we were sitting on the track for ten hours and why uniformed police with enormous German Shepherds (what did you expect, English bulldogs?) kept coming into our compartment and yelling things at us?
If you ever want to cry, have someone yell at you in German. All those guttural “ach” sounds are like knives to the heart.
We pulled into Paris at midnight. With no French money. And nowhere to stay. And in the absolute worst part of town. I think it was the Satan Quarter.
“Ca va?” “Ca va terrified.”
I don’t completely recall how I managed to phone youth hostels with my shaky fingers and quivering voice, but somehow we ended up in a place that would let us pay demain (tomorrow). And we held each other on the bed and cried and fell asleep, exhausted.
Only to be wakened in the morning by Heidi’s Evil French Grandfather.
The banging on the door woke us up. I ran to the door, half asleep and still dreaming of elephant-sized German Shepherds, and opened it.
An old man stood there. An old man with a looooonnnnnng white beard. And twinkly blue eyes. And, I swear, he was wearing lederhosen.
In The Year Of Our Lord, 19—cough.
And any notion that he was like Heidi’s kindly grandfather in any way other than his physical appearance was dispelled the moment he opened his mouth.
It was the meanest, nastiest, surliest French I had ever been privy to. I had not a clue what he was saying but was pretty certain it was something like “It’s demain already and If you don’t pay me I’m going to have Heidi’s goats Schwanli and Barli rip off your flesh and eat your intestines.”
We immediately went and exchanged our money and paid up. And moved to another hostel, right? Nope. For some reason we stayed in that Maison of the Damned for a whole week. We started to amuse (and scare) ourselves by “translating” what Heidi’s Evil Grandfather might be saying. One of us would answer the door and while he hissed his virulent French, the other would whisper the “translation”:
“”We ran out of omelettes for breakfast, so I’m going to hack you into tiny bits and scramble you with eggs.”
“Your parents were very brave to let you come to France. I hope they will be brave enough to visit your graves here.”
I would like to touch your pretty blond hair. Then I would like to peel it from your scalp and wear it on my chest.”
And on and on.
You know, we did a lot of sight-seeing in France. We saw the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe. But honestly, when I think of Paris, I think of that evil old man.
Poor Heidi. No wonder she moved to Switzerland.