Returning to France: A series of 8 articles

October 2018


My trip began sixty years ago, in a very different generation and place, when my mother found me a French tutor in Los Gatos, the northern California town where I grew up. (I don’t know why she did this, but in 1960’s America, French was still considered the language of high culture, and perhaps she had already divined my slim chances as an athlete.)

Mlle. Simenon was from Lille, a sweet older woman, and she taught me a few songs and a few words, in brief sessions at the table of her dark, curtain-drawn, 19th century Victorian apartment. Then there was Mme. Small, at the Singapore American School in the late 1960’s, who mimicked a monkey to teach us the correct pronunciation of the difficult letter “u” and later, Mr. Keplinger, another fabulous and serious teacher at the Los Gatos High School. (Some years later, at a party in Marin County, I told a woman that she reminded me of my former teacher. “I am Mme. Small”, she replied. In writing this, I am thanking her again for everything. . . )

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