Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ma chère grandmère, c'est à ton tour...

Ma grandmaman Cosette fête ses 91 ans aujourd'hui. Elle fût née en 1916.

Birthday girl

Ceci est un photo d'elle dès son retour des Caraïbes en mars 2001, où elle est allée avec mes parents pour un séjour, mais je ne me souviens pas quelle île ils ont visiter.

One of my favourite stories that I like to tell about my grandmaman:* When I was a small child (like 5 or 6), she would speak to us in a mixture of French and English. As I grew older, she spoke less and less to me in English. By the time I was 14 or so, and consistently ever since then, I have never heard my grandmaman speak English. She would sometimes be in Toronto visiting us and would seem slightly perplexed upon meeting some of my unilingual anglophone friends. Or sometimes, since my parents and I always speak in English together, she would remark (in French) how she couldn't follow our conversations. And she has often said how proud she is that my older brother and I have worked so hard at learning and maintaining our French so that she can have good long conversations with us (Robert is a lost cause - he will dig out his French somewhat unwillingly only).

So. Two or three years ago, Randal and I were heading to Montreal for a visit. He had never met my grandmaman before. He also does not speak (much) French. I apologized multiple times before going that my grandmaman was a sweetheart and spoke beautiful French, and that she used to speak English (she did live in Ottawa for over 30 years) but that I was sure she had lost any English she used to know. Randal says OK, that's fine, he'll fumble through dinner, etc., in what little French he knows.

When we arrive at my grandmaman's place, I introduce them, and she asks Randal, "Est-ce que tu parles français?" With a sad face, he responds, "Ah, juste un petit peu." She then proceeds to spend the entire weekend yammering away with him in ENGLISH. Almost perfect English, just like I remember her speaking. She shows him everything - her stamp collections, her photo albums from way back when, her extensive library collection. All in English. I couldn't believe it. Randal couldn't stop laughing at me. I think my jaw spent the entire weekend on the floor. When I asked her about this, she replied simply that if she'd let me speak to her in English, she knew I wouldn't want to speak with her in French. And she was right. And I thank her for that.

Obaasan [grandmother] wa suki desu.

(Now, I just need a Japanese grandmother who will refuse to speak to me in English, and I'll learn Japanese in no time flat. ...Oh, wait. I have an entire COUNTRY of Japanese grandmothers! So why isn't it working? Gah.)

* As I am much wittier in English, and besides, not all of my readers know French (though, of course, they should), allow me to make the switch. I plan on taking classes to further improve my French (especially written) upon my return home, however.


Mark Reynolds said...

That is an awesome story and I am really wishing right now that I had a crafty French grandma as well. She looks a good fifteen years younger than her actual age in that photo by the way.

Freemount said...

Bon anniversaire, Mme. Cosette!