After the kids’ naps, we brought them outside to lounge with us four adults outside on this spectacular October afternoon in the Vallée Verte. My parents, Tall Mountain and I pretended that we were going to get some reading done.
Tall mountain, recovering from long hours of a film shoot, was technically “on duty” with the kids. You would never have known based on his distinct light-hearted smile, on the verge of a giggle, always a tell-tale sign he is relaxing. “Don’t worry! Mum won’t let anything happen to the kids” he whispered.
He was right, mum busied herself to help everyone unwind. Her trademark autumnal tartiflette was sizzling in the oven. This was TM’s comfort food of choice; a fresh reblochon cheese from the village dairy, sliced length-wise, begging to melt all over the potatoes and crispy lardons below it. Dad had selected the best regional wine in his cellar for the occasion – more lush fruit of the land, as it were, to accompany the dish. It was a Gamay varietal with a distinct brick red hue, showing off gorgeous notes of vanilla, ripe blackcurrant and a bouquet of spices bursting out from the mineral undertones, in its absolute prime.
Scurrying out from the kitchen into the garden, mum made sure no one was eating grass or rocks and she assured us she was “weeding” too. Délice was content for once, gumming on metal cars and plastic train tracks as the slight breeze caressed her darling fluffy hair. Ayo was in high heaven, lining up cars, sending crayons down a toy car garage ramp and what not. My father’s hearty laugh echoed throughout the valley as he gladly divided his attention between ‘reading’ a novel and interacting with his two grandchildren.
As much as it pained me, I willfully chose to extract myself from the glorious scene unfolding beyond my book, in my parents’ front garden. I just had to take a step back to allow my mind to remember this serene but fleeting moment forever and ever and ever and ever. To allow my body to relax into the Sabbath. To let my soul soak in the wonder of this Sunday. To remind myself that life with young children isn’t just chaotic and stressful. To realize that, believe it or not, I was inside the picture frame for once.
Bright rays of sun illuminated my parents’ “friendship garden”, a marvelous assortment of clippings collected over time from family and friends’ gardens and the city’s end of season ‘waste’. Intense light shone pierced right though the crimson leaves of the cotinus grace, illuminating its veins far better than the most ornate of stained glass windows.
The slightest breeze tickled its leaves like a paper chandelier. Grass under toe was sponge-like and gentle. While our own grass back “home” in America mirrors the chaos of the season we are in, weeds have no chance to grow here. Each neighbor in my folk’s hamlet takes great pride in caring for their garden. Everyone knows the one neighbor who doesn’t have a green thumb. It was also the end of the main harvest. The raspberry bush had clearly been pillaged by an unattended Ayo, free to roam…
My eyes returned to the French book I had borrowed on a whim from the neighboring village library. I certainly didn’t need to start another book, but I had been pulled into the back cover. Jean-Christophe Ruffin, a member of the famous French language authority, the Académie Française, recounted his journey along the Camino de Santiago. The breeze and the beauty around me enabled me to pay special attention to the rich French descriptives popping out of each page. I scribbled down those gorgeous sensory adjectives that make my life richer.
In that rare moment back home in France, I wasn’t the tyrant of the “kids bottoms need to be changed” or the “kids need to be fed” or “the dishes need to be cleaned” police. Giving a morsel of dark chocolate the chance to melt in my mouth and admiring the crema of my espresso, I was along for the ride.
I was inside the scene rather than observing it from the audience and missing out on all the fun. What a treat to cherish for many years. Being inside the picture frame is what I desire for my day today, even far away from the help of my parents or a papa on his day off. I choose to embrace life with my children over [briefly] clean floors today. I long to be inside the picture frame today, rather than just capture the scene from the sidelines.