A thank you, 45 years late
Saturday November 18th 2017, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

She found me via the high school reunion messages and friended me and sent me a message: she was looking for my book. Turns out she’s a new knitter.

I promptly responded with, It’s yours. Happy Birthday.

And then I explained a little.

We were in French 2 class in junior high, stuck with the same teacher we’d had the year before for French 1: a woman I now see as terribly depressed, but in her classroom, we kids simply kept our heads down and tried to dodge being a target and there were a lot who did not continue on.

I remember a kid in Fr. 1 who, on being called to read aloud, made what to the rest of us was an obvious mistake, y’know, the kind of thing the other kids might tease him for–but what happened is that the woman demanded that he leave right now if he was going to be like that! “If you have been in my classroom six weeks and still don’t know that in French we…!” He was not misbehaving in any way. It was our first semester in a new language–what did we know? I just remember sitting there stunned. Way to make him want to learn, lady.

So here we were across the hall the next year and she called on me to read something aloud. Now, my folks had had a French couple come stay with us for several weeks when I was two, and I think again when their daughter was two so I would have been six? (Mom, Dad, am I getting that right?) And my parents talked to each other in French when they didn’t want us kids in on the conversation, making us keen to learn.

So I had a slight head start at least on accent on the other kids, and that teacher tended to see me as being less trouble than the others.

She called on me to read something out loud.

Now, there was this phrase that I’d seen a few times before but had never known what language it was in and there it was–it was French. Okay, that made sense. Having been immersed in phonics in elementary school, I dove right into it. The v came after the r.

English phonics. Just like that other kid had instinctively done.

Horse DOOvres. With an h, no less. There is no h sound in French.

The teacher roared in indignation, betrayed. The classroom was a mixture of loud relieved laughter that it wasn’t them and as much teasing as they dared say out loud in that classroom. This was the DC area and there were kids in that school whose parents attended embassy balls and political dinners and the like and were well familiar with such edibles, but not me at thirteen.

Charm, a desk or two over, whom I saw as one of the popular girls while I was not, rescued me with the quiet words: “Hors d’ouvres.”

Me, suddenly putting it all together, the sounds, the spelling–so that’s…! Oh! Then, brightly, helpfully, I echoed her. “Hors d’ouvres.”

The teacher grumbled.

I went on in French through my senior year in spite of her.

And horse doovres has been an in-joke with my husband for decades.

I’ve owed Charm a thank you for a long, long time now.

She marveled at my good memory as we typed, and I guffawed quietly and thought oh honey if you only knew. But on that one? I had been the target. And she had saved me from it. She was nice when she didn’t have to be, even risking bringing the wrath of that teacher on her own head for my sake back when we were all bratty insecure adolescents.

I owed her.

2 Comments so far
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Sweet. Lovely. No problem. I remember the tension that pervaded sometimes in the class to be correct. Ha ha. I am glad that I helped you!! ?

Comment by Charm 11.19.17 @ 5:06 am

The first visit was in summer 65, so you were 6. Wasn’t the time you went traveling with them after this little scene? Mom

Comment by mom 11.19.17 @ 4:52 pm

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