I remember the first time I saw French like it was yesterday.
It was very early in the morning when I cautiously tip-toed down the hallway. The highly polished hardwood floors creaked gently as I made my way to the half opened door, where the smell of coffee lingered, tempting me toward maturity. I was nine years old.
I pressed my hand up against the ornately carved white wood of the door frame, the other hand lightly touching the brass pull. I peeked around the corner to see Joan propped up on fat, white, downy pillows. Her silk robe was pulled up around her collarbone, glasses perched on her nose.
"Well, come on up then!"
I jumped, literally, onto the multi-layered mattresses and snuggled up next to my aunt. Joan was always my favourite, even if I hadn't told her so. It was one of those things I didn't dare say out loud for fear of loosing some specialness that existed between us, so tenuous that the mere suggestion of it would cause it to lessen somehow.
"Here, read this."
The newspaper before me was written with letters I recognized, but in a way I could not understand. The next hour was filled with French language, history, geography, and most importantly, stories of her time in Paris. I fell head over heels in love.
Many years later I am still in love with France. Now, however when I pick up un journal I can understand not only what is being said, but the beauty with which it is expressed. I have heard it said that when you turn 30, you turn French. After my trip to Paris this coming spring - a trip I have been dreaming of since I realized it as a possibility almost 20 years ago - my 'French Decade' will begin.
Joan recently told my dad she is going 'a bit gaga'. The dementia that ate away at her mother is now the same disease robbing her of those once vibrant memories of strolls down the Champs Elysee and the little girl who hung onto every word. Those memories, like so many others, will live on in my heart. I am so grateful to her for sharing a part of her life that has become a thing beloved by us both.