March 20, 2008

Youth is wasted on the young.

I’m not talking about Oscar, I am talking about my own wasted youth. The horse is still in the barn for him, mine is out to pasture. There is no blaming my poor choices on “youth” anymore. We wonder what part of this adventure in Europe will ever rise to the surface in Oscar?? Tangible stuff like, will he remember that he visited Strasbourg?, and less so (more so) will he remember the slow walk around an Alsatian townhouse and the mindless musing of his parents on the architectural idiosyncrasies and patterns of the art nouveau movement. What French patterns will be etched into Oscars being? When he longs for “home” what language will they be speaking there?


When we were twice Oscar’s age we spun through the same circles we spin through today, and I’m not certain we were ready for it even then. Those were the salad days of youth and we wandered around Europe with still other priorities, unable to spend more on a meal than on a place to sleep, weighing the value of entrance to a museum against a train ticket. In Strasbourg there were young adults in the town square, milling about holding small signs that said “colin gratuit” (free hugs). My French aunt took/gave a hearty hug and explained that this is a new thing in France and that it originated in America, unbeknownst to us. This is apparently an effort to share something positive, something easy, something of no and incredible value. An energy of youth, focused, and a wonderful lesson.

Older, wiser and with considerably greater baggage, our adventures now take us to new corners of France, or the old corners cast in a new light. We discovered a new Paris, with friends we lived among the Royals, in a rental apartment in the Palais Royal, one block from the Louvre in the 1st arrondisment, a treasure around each corner. Then we went on to Nancy to visit our ‘French Family’ Francine and Ann Marie, and the expanding cote francaise as we come to know the extended family. We toured Corbusier’s incredible church at Ronchamp, then the hillside villages along the “wine route” of Alsace and then back home and back to school. What gets remembered??? Fortunately Oscar comes up with gems, like “remember that funny door in Venice?” or “this is just like that street in Mont St Michel” just to prove he was paying attention. And like any child, when they seem otherwise engaged, there is always an ear open to what the grown-ups around him are saying, and it usually comes back to haunt us…. “well you said…” but it all makes for absorption and gives greater value to each kilometer and every new roadshow.


Every 6 years France holds local elections, so we got to watch if not participate in this spectacle. Martel has 1300 registered voters and 80% showed up to seat 15 town council members from the four political parties that are the strongest of the 18 parties (ranging from Workers' Struggle to Hunt, Fish, Nature, Traditions parties). Everyone gets to vote for their choice of 15 to run the town and the greater sub-county. Once the 15 are chosen they select among themselves who should be the Mayor. The four parties that fielded candidates could be summed up as the “leftists”, the “left of leftists”, “the very left” and the “too left”. This is a wonderful corner of France! Our mayor of 24 years was re-elected, along with the baker, the butcher’s wife, the realtor and the candle stick maker, local politics are wonderful and everyone genuinely expects change (sound familiar). We attended the vote count, along with about 200 locals, where the town officials read aloud every ballot and a tally is taken until victors were announced at 2 am. Everyone asked us if we voted for Hillary or Obama as we expressed frustration at being kept out of the Martel process (only EU citizens can vote and we are EU residents). The level of political knowledge and participation here is a thing of beauty, everyone seems informed and interested, everyone is an historian and a pundit, and there are no “un-decideds”. We had several friends running for office, some made it, most didn’t but it does make the process interesting, we will watch to see what happens next.
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1 comment:

Seth said...

Oh to be faced with the choice between lefties! What a fun sounding electoral process. My vote is forthe candlestick maker :)

I loved the stories and if I were anywhere within a hundred miles I would come find you all right now and give you each a colin gratuit!