I woke up around eight am, jumped out of my bed and into the cold, and set the kettle to brew some Saturday morning coffee. I was leaving Verdun for the day! Or so I thought. I couldn’t help pushing C out the door, I was just so excited to visit Metz! But, much to my dismay, I arrived at the train station and alas, there were no trains to Metz because of the strikes. Foiled again! Those persistent compatriots have really got it in for us!
Yet for some reason, I was more than disappointed about this particular snafu in my weekend plan. Sometimes it’s a weird trigger that reminds you, hey toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Except I wanted to take my sparkle-y red heels and chuck them at the ticket agent’s face.
Even when C bought my favorite, pain au chocolat, I could not get out of my funk. Even worse was a particularly upsetting phone call “reminding me” of my part-time work constrictions under my visa status. As I ran along the Meuse, watching the rowers glide through the water, a sadness came over me that can only be understood by fellow expats, that question inside of me doubting my own abilities (despite all the encouragement of family and friends). I hated my own negativity.
This morning, I woke up, a little less energetic, to brew my Sunday morning coffee. I trekked up the big hill to the Cathedral, in an attempt to bring myself to the one place that is constant no matter where in the world I am. During mass in the elegant, dignified, old crypt church, I watched as children played jokes during the sign of peace, smacking each other on the back and getting scolded by their parents. Ah…there’s no place like home.
I spotted one of my little students, D, after mass, and went to say hello to her. Her eyes lit up when she saw me – a teacher outside of school? – and I nodded a Bonne Dimanche to her mother. When I headed to pick up a baguette after mass, D’s mother saw me and asked me to lunch at her house. Even as my jaw dropped (has a stranger really just invited me into their home? In France?), I joyfully jumped into the car.
D’s parents introduced me to each little smiling, beautiful, daughter – five in total – as we headed to their house. I slowly took off my shoes and followed the sounds of giggling girls up the stairs, the smell of pot roast simmering in the oven. D’s dad a militaire, he took out a map and taught me a little about the history of Verdun, and soon we settled down to a deliciously French lunch. Homemade terrine de campagne with fresh baguette, boiled potatoes with pot roast and mustard, a fabulous cheese plate with a side of Merlot, yogurt, fruit, and of course, café. As the sun beamed in from the windows, we sat in the salon as I watched the girls color and play with their loving parents. D’s family offered more than a delectable and blissful Sunday afternoon. Their kind gesture to invite me into their home completely changed my outlook, and as I walked home I saw Verdun in a completely new (shiny) light. I am constantly amazed by life’s funny timings, by the fact that everything happens for a reason. As my friend L tells me, ca va aller, it will be alright. Thanks to my experience today, for once I can finally listen to her.