Can I Get a Connection

If at some point I thought that my years in France and my years in the U.S. were separate, compartmentalized chapters of my life, I certainly don’t think that now. Last night it hit me that those years “away” expanded my circle and that the lines crisscross all the time.

That evening, I attended a friend’s dinner party to celebrate her birthday. She and I first met in Paris. She now studies in the northeast U.S., and she was back in her hometown of Long Island, New York, for winter break. It not my first time to Long Island, but it was my first time on the LIRR (Long Island Railroad), a fact I announced to everyone I met. I had heard about this train line from colleagues and friends for years but never had to take it. It wasn’t that different from traveling on the Metro-North, which I have now ridden to Connecticut a number of times over the past few years, but in my mind it had a mythical quality. It was practically empty on that Sunday night.

I thought I wouldn’t know anyone at her party, but her brother said we had met when he visited Paris, and she said I had met her mom at that time too. I have a good memory, and it is unusual for people to remember meeting me and not vice versa.

On top of that, her younger brother had invited one friend to the party, and it was someone that I interviewed in Paris six years ago. I am a volunteer interviewer for my American alma mater, which involves meeting high school seniors who are applying to the school I graduated from. Six winters ago, I evaluated five candidates, most of whom were studying at international high schools in Paris. Well, that “kid” I met with for coffee happened to be my friend’s brother’s childhood friend, and he was now working in New York! Apparently we had both been warned ahead of time that the other would be at the party, as my friend’s dad said to this guy as I approached them, “Here’s your interviewer!” Way to establish the dynamic off the bat.

Also, did I mention that my friend’s mom is on the mailing list of the organization I work for?

A similar discovery happened recently when I was having dinner with this same friend and our other friend. The other friend was talking about how our mutual acquaintance works at an exercise studio in the area, and I said, Oh, you mean the studio that my colleague goes to almost every day and is having her birthday party at tomorrow that I’m going to!? I had met that mutual acquaintance in Paris when she was visiting our friend, and I’d interacted with her at a couple of parties in New York since then. I messaged my colleague after dinner, and she confirmed that she does know that girl.

If you didn’t follow all the connections, I don’t blame you. My point is, it is a small world, and we probably all walk past people every day who are connected with other people in our lives. No matter where we travel, we’re all living on this planet. I find that quite fun and somewhat comforting.

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An American Baby Shower

Earlier this year, while it was still winter, I went to a close friend’s baby shower. It was her and her husband’s first baby, and my first time attending a baby shower.

The weekend included:

  • A hawk killing one of their chickens… while my pregnant friend was trying to chase it away… and the eight of us at her party sat around the table inside, chatting without a care in the world. Some friends we are, I know.
  • Detailed discussion about how to pump and store breastmilk and assemble reusable diapers
  • A list of due date guesses- one woman declared that the winner would get to name the second child
  • Love- it’s lovely to see someone surrounded by people who love them
  • Lots of food
  • Dog cuddles
  • Post-shower, a cold but refreshing walk with just my friend and her other friend who like me, wasn’t local and was staying overnight

It did not include:

  • A game where we smelled different kinds of chocolate in diapers and guessed what kind they were
  • A game where we tasted baby food, including meat-flavored ones, and guessed what flavors they were
  • Tossing a baby bouquet to predict who would be next to have a baby

The first two are real games that my friend witnessed at other baby showers and that initially made her not want to have one. It was her husband who ultimately convinced her to take her sister and friends up on their offers to throw one (though she ended up doing the hosting and organizing, really). The third does not exist, as far as I know, but please give me credit if you incorporate it in the next baby shower you attend.

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J’aime me déguiser

This past weekend my friend (who is Californian) and her friend (who is French) had a costume party to celebrate their birthdays. The theme was dessins animés: cartoons.

Now, I love costume parties. One thing I know about attending them in France is that you can bet there will be a number of people who do not dress up. Tant pis. Fortunately, a bunch do get into the spirit. It’s always funny seeing the range from store bought to homemade costumes. I always put something together from items I own and supplementary pieces I make or buy.

The hostesses of this party were minions from the movie “Despicable Me.” In attendance were Bugs Bunny, Dora the Explorer (in boy form), Cruella de Vil, Woody from “Toy Story,” Alice in Wonderland, and, adorned with a platinum blond wig and sunglasses, Johnny Bravo from the channel Cartoon Network. In black-rimmed glasses and a matching red and white bonnet and striped shirt was Charlie, or Wally if you’re from the U.K., or Waldo if you’re from the U.S. It’s funny, I just realized that all of these characters come from American movies or TV shows.

I wore a blue dress with a slight flounce at the bottom and blue ballet flats with ankle socks. I had strung two silver mardi gras necklaces together on which I attached one sign in front and another at the back:

“PSYCHIATRIC HELP 5₵ / THE DOCTOR IS IN”
“ASSISTANCE PSYHIATRIQUE 5₵ / LE DOCTEUR EST LÀ”

I was Lucy Van Pelt from “Peanuts,” of course, or “Snoopy,” as it’s called in France.

I took the metro home around 1:30am. The cars filled up as the train approached the center of Paris. Weekend night rush hour before the last metro: it’s always an interesting ride. You have your inebriated passengers swaying and talking loudly about who knows what, your groups dressed up in flashy skirts and high heels that are probably from out of town, your nuzzling couples, your vagabonds with their tattoos and hefty backpacks and tall short-haired dogs, sometimes an older lady and you wonder where she’s coming from, and the other night, your group of international professional musicians who obviously gave a concert earlier that evening and are speaking English because it is their one common language.

Then, as I’ve done many times before, I come out of the metro station into the cool night air. People are mingling around, and I pass the bars where the last few people linger and pedestrians heading home before the streets become quieter and I enter the codes to my building, climb the stairs to my apartment, take a shower, and maybe have a ‘midnight’ snack and write in my diary before slipping under the covers and into Sunday morning.