Saturday, 5 April 2008

Desperately seeking the "boy"

This week, Suzanne continued her fascination with the "boy" : clutching her nana (stuffed animal) close at night so the boy doesn't get it, not wanting the boy to take her cup, looking out for him in the elevator. And yet...

When I first started taking Suzanne to the park last spring - and she first began interacting with other kids - I was wary of speaking English. I was (over)conscious of how people looked at me and worried about how my daughter would make contact with other kids if 1) they couldn't understand me or her and 2)their parents thought I didn't understand them. As Suzanne's gotten older, I've grown less and less conscious of what language I speak to her since, as soon as I see her, my not-really bilingual brain clicks into English. Sometimes people listen to me speak to her, sometimes people ask me why I'm speaking to her in English but no one really seems to care.

That said, yesterday at the park was like any ordinary day - except it was sunny so all the kids were in the new park outside the Wazemmes neighborhood city hall (the only park in town with swings, two of which are now broken, and the park has possibly the dumbest conceived equipment I've ever seen). We were avoiding the slide having just had a near catastrophe with a 10 year old practically jumping on Suzanne, when a little girl started trailing us, gazing into Suzanne's eyes and touching Suzanne's cheeks. After about 20 minutes (mostly of me wondering why this little girl was stalking us) she asked what I was saying to Suzanne so I explained that I was speaking in English but that Suzanne speaks French and English. The girl seemed satisfied with my answer until Suzanne opened her mouth. The girl looked at me and said, "elle dit n'importe quoi" (that doesn't mean anything).

I saw that the hoodlums-in-training had finally left the slide area and also saw a little head about the size of Suzanne's on the slide so I knew the coast was clear. I made some small talk with the mother as our two toddlers went down the slide - and we stood by praying they wouldn't fall off the terrible equipment. After a couple minutes, she asked me if Suzanne was bilingual and then told me that her husband was English, etc, etc. I knew we had an instant connection over our children's bilingual status. Suzanne and the boy flirted a little, pretending not to care, but watching each other's every move. Then it was time to go. I really wanted to get their names and number, but how? Is that too American? Do French people do that? Would she think I was crazy if I asked? Anyway, she was on the phone and I figured we'd see each other again since she must live in the neighborhood because no one would go out of their way to go to this park. But still, I balked as always and just left.

Today, as Suzanne and I walked down the street in the pouring rain, who should we see? Suzanne saw the boy instantly and got very excited (also because he had a lollypop). I got the mother's number and was glad she didn't think I was crazy.

And just like that, Suzanne is no longer plagued by the boy but the girl is another story...

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