While Sipping Pernod

Celebration. Hands holding the glasses of champagne  making a toOnce again, we gathered in the dining room in anticipation of what our new friends called a “light” Sunday night dinner. After an afternoon of getting better acquainted, everybody seemed comfortable together. Alex had made friends with Luic as well as Pierre, the next oldest boy. Luc poured Pernod for the adults and asked Alex if he wanted some. Alex looked toward Luic and with a daring smile asked: “Are you going to?” When both boys nodded, Alex held up his tiny glass to Luc’s bottle. “Sure.” He looked happier than a clam.

We collectively sipped the aperitif and snacked on puffy Cheetos and granola. The others were anxious to know what Donna and I thought of the sites Luc showed us. I told them how surprised I was to see how beautiful the battlefields were. That lead to a discussion about the recent Spain bombings. Pierre said his school cancelled an excursion to Barcelona that he’d been looking forward to. He rolled his eyes. I fought off a tiny jolt of panic pricking my gut. The topic changed to weapons of mass destruction and I felt myself cruising into my first political discussion with the French. Man, it suddenly felt like I was getting buckled up for a ride. Laurent brought up Saddam Hussein and I could almost hear the clickity-clack of the roller coaster car pulling me up the track. I’d been listening to enough AM radio to play, but was I ready for head-to-head confrontation on foreign turf? Not really. I’d rather have another pour of Pernod.

Which I got.

As it turned out, the discussion that followed was one of the most emotion-free, level-headed, and downright delightful conversations I’d ever had. We all agreed Saddam was an asshole. All hands were raised on that one. We also agreed that he should be removed from power and never allowed to rent Godfather movies again. High fives. I defended our reaction to 9-11 as necessary and Luc suggested that the WMD weren’t as much of an issue as the tyrant himself. More high fives. That’s where it was left.

“What’s for dinner?” Jill asked.

“Freedom Fries.” Luc delivered another one of his classic winks and amidst the laughter erupting in the room I realized I was smack dab in the middle of an epic moment – the winning touchdown, the rock star emerging into the white light, my favorite song blasting from the speakers at the climax of the party. The moment united the group and I felt elated.

We enjoyed an appetizer of fresh tomato soup with asparagus. The main course was a leek quiche. This food was nothing, nothing like anything I’d tasted at home. The conversation stayed lively. A nice looking young man – a friend of Pierre ’s –  showed up with a trumpet. He made the rounds, shaking our hands and kissing our cheeks. When Jill got hers, she turned a bright shade of pink. The two boys climbed the stairs to practice and for the remainder of the evening, we were treated to music.

Time came to retire to our chambers. I didn’t want the party to end. The five of us walked through the courtyard to our rooms, the chilly night air fragrant with simple and honest farm a aromas.

I could not wait for the next day.

NEXT: Stuffed Potatoes and Booze for Lunch


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