Last week, I started taking a French class.
I’ve always wanted to learn French. A thousand years ago, I went to college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I transferred there as a sophomore and didn’t have the option of preregistering for classes beforehand.
During the normal registration period, I signed up for the classes I needed. If one was unavailable, I had to start over and rebuild my schedule from scratch, trying to fit the classes together like a Tetris puzzle. I’d already done this twice, which meant running around the entire campus, from department to department, getting approval for admittance.
With my schedule dotted with main subjects, I had one more slot to fill–foreign language. I dragged all my books and paperwork across campus to Pete’s Palace, the basketball arena that bore “Pistol” Pete Maravich’s name, to sign up for French.
I approached the table of foreign language professors and announced to the one with the wild hair and glasses that I needed French on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 1:00pm.
“That class is full,” he told me.
“Full?” It had never occurred to me that the Cajun college students in southern Louisiana needed a foreign language, too, and they’d all preregistered for French the year before.
“We have one class open at 3:30. That’s the only available French class.”
I looked down at my schedule card. To squeeze in the 3:30 French class, I would have to rework my entire schedule again. Too tired to start over a third time, I asked him, “What class is open at 1:00pm?”
He shuffled through some papers. “We have a beginning German class open at that time.”
“Sign me up,” I said. And so began my study of German, and later, Spanish at LSU. I never did manage to get into a French class there, but my desire to learn French never waned.
Last week, I finally began my French studies. The teacher is a native speaker, a young woman from Paris. I’d thought that the class would be beginners, but there are varying levels. The majority of the students are already familiar with basic French.
In the first class, I was paired with a woman who has a good grasp of basic conversational French. Of course, I was completely lost. No knowledge of the grammar; no idea how to pronounce things; no vocabulary.
Using a list of “getting-to-know-you” questions, we were supposed to interview and then introduce each other to the class. She helped me with the questions, and we muddled through in Frenglish.
What’s your name?
Where are you from?
How old are you?
Do you have children?
Hiccup in conversation. My partner was distressed when I told her my son had passed away last year. “So when I present you, should I say ‘No?'”
“No. That’s like denying he ever existed. Tell them ‘Yes,’ and go on to the next question.” I knew that, if she tried to explain, the class would not know how to respond. She followed my suggestion and nobody blinked an eye.
The following Sunday was Mother’s Day. Many people didn’t know what to say to me, so they didn’t acknowledge me at all. I don’t blame them. It’s awkward.
My friend, Eileen Smith from Bearshapedsphere, wrote this:
For those of you for whom mother’s day is a mixed bag, emotionally, whether by loss, separation, or something else, know that I see you, and I am thinking of you.
She “gets” it, and others “got” it, too. Some said “Have a good day” or “Thinking of you.” Most people are afraid to actually say “Happy Mother’s Day.”
If my mother passes away, am I no longer her daughter? Of course, I am. My son passed away, but that doesn’t negate my being his mother. I was his mother. I am his mother.
Everyone is different, but for me, wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day, even though he is gone, or maybe especially because he is gone, makes me feel more “normal.” I appreciate that. Phillip is no longer here to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day. I’m grateful for those who are.