Thursday, September 14, 2006

My Summer Vacation, Part 2
As I mentioned in a previous post, we rented an old farmhouse while we were in the north of France near my MIL. We stayed there two years ago and it was lovely. Whenever I’m in Petit Xivry, I fantasize about buying a farm in Lorraine and raising a herd of sweet-faced dairy cows. The fact that I know nothing about farming or cattle doesn’t stand in my way. In my imagination they are fly and manure-free. They mostly just eat grass and look pictuesque.
For those two weeks, we visited my MIL every lunch time and stayed until the night.
She lives alone in a small rose-covered house in the village of Saulnes. It’s the house my FIL grew up in with his two brothers and a sister, but it must have been a tight fit. When JP and I arrive there with our four kids, the place seems to shrink to the size of a shoebox. So, in the interests of everyone’s sanity, we never stay there. Not that I don’t get along with my MIL. Au contraire, she thinks I’m fabulous. When JP and I got married, he was 40 years old. She had long before given up all hope of ever seeing him wed and getting a few grandbabies out of the deal. Imagine her surprise and delight at JP bringing me home: I turned out cute babies like nobody’s business AND I drive, a big plus. My MIL doesn’t drive, but loves to shop. When my FIL was alive, he took her shopping every week, but now she depends on friends or her grandson that lives nearby. So, one of my jobs while we visited was SHOPPING. Which was just fine by me. I spent hours hypnotised by the French “hypermarchés”. All that STUFF!
The kids had a great time. They spent their mornings on the farm, running after the cat and jumping off hay bales. In the afternoon, they played with the children that live on my MIL’s street. The first day it looked like there was going to be a problem. The twins and Severin came in the house, saying that kids were throwing rocks at them and insulting them when they went in the front garden. I think being called “Americans” was the principle insult of choice. Instead of going out to tell them off, I went out and said “Hi! We’re here visiting from Africa”. As I predicted, they weren’t rotten kids, just bored. They were thrilled to have “Africans” to play with and question rigorously (“Do you have any food there? Why aren’t you black?, et al) The kids ended up being great friends and did lots together.
Mallory’s favourite activity was going up to the park and riding the fat pony in residence there. Lulu was a spoiled little thing that could barely be coaxed into a trot, but Mallory adored her. (Valentine took some fabulous pictures of the two of them. Do check out the Photobucket Album link at right and go to the French Vacation sub-album)
When I wasn’t shopping for groceries, school clothes, Xmas gifts, etc, I was cleaning house. My MIL is getting near to 80 now and her hip replacement had about worn out. The whole place needed a thorough scrubbing. I cannot describe the state of the shower, oven, walls, etc. I spent lots of time trying out miracle cleaning products. It was entertaining (in a sick way), as all we have in Burkina is plain old bleach, soap and Ajax powdered cleanser, if you’re lucky. In France, you can find a cleaning spray called “Cillit Bang”. Is that a cool name, or what? I think it really resonates to the fact that after two weeks of constant housecleaning, you just want to blow the whole damn place up.

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