Madeline, the beginning of a Franco-American love affair


I’m not exactly sure at what age the fascination began, but I can figure that I was probably four or five when I was introduced to that very cute little écolière named Madeline. I loved her old house in Paris that was covered with vines. I loved the eleven other girls that walked along with her and Miss Clavel in two straight lines. In fact, my favorite characteristic of Madeline was a tie between her audacious poo-pooing of the tiger at the zoo and the awesome scar she retained as a result of an in-the-middle-of-the-night-Miss-Clavel-said-“Something is not right”-appendectomy. At some point in the middle of my childhood I even had a blue wool cape, carefully crafted by my maman, that reminded me of my own Madeline doll’s blue coat.

The countless readings of not only the original Madeline book by Ludwig Bemelmans (who isn’t even French at all, quel horreur!), but its subsequent sequels, in combination with perpetual screenings of the television cartoon nurtured an early devotion toward all things French in my nascent heart. Before I could even point out my native state on a map of the USA, I knew that France was just across the horizon at the Jersey Shore and that the center of this romantic place was Paris. It didn’t take long to daydream about wandering by the Seine, munching on a croissant, and most importantly visiting the Tour Eiffel.

What I find most peculiar about this fledgling attachment to the nation of baguettes, Victor Hugo, and Le Vache Qui Rit, was that I concocted in my imagination, pictures of a city and country I had only seen in illustrations. I probably didn’t see a photo or image on television of the Eiffel Tower until I was at least nine! Perhaps this is the reason that I still harbor incredibly romanticized images of France in my mind (images that have almost all but been brushed aside the night that I was nearly stranded in Paris because of a grève or the time I broke down into tears when I was followed by creepy men in Marseille). For nearly the entirety of my young life I have had an intense desire to invoke that joie de vivre, the je ne sais quoi, the incomparable Frenchness that will inevitably escape my American self no matter what I try. My honest efforts in my cause have led to two moderately long journeys, countless purchases of L’Occitane and Chanel beauty products, insisting on making my own salad dressing, wearing scarves in the summer, and interjecting des petits phrases en français into my everyday English conversation.

So while I have come to terms with the impossibility of actually becoming French, I will not seek a cure for my very serious case of Francophilia. Instead I will write about my past and future adventures feeding my passion, and humbly attempt to garner a bit of readership that will engage in a bit of reactive dialogue. And if no one comes along, well... c’est la vie!

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