November 5, 2012
I am asked that question A LOT.
I understand why.
I mean really, why would a girl who grew up in a half Italian, half Anglo-Saxon family in Spokane, Washington be drawn to a country in Europe that she had absolutely no connections to, family or otherwise?
Why not Greece...the place I longed to visit from the moment I learned about Greek mythology in 5th grade and had, for the next 6 years or so, decorated my bedroom walls with posters and maps of the Cycladic Islands and ancient ruins? (tucked into spaces that weren't already occupied by posters of Abba, U2, Echo and the Bunnymen and David Bowie, of course)
Or why not Italy...a country I was more familiar with, whose food I loved beyond words and where half of my family came from?
The answer: My High School French Class
I fell in love with France at the age of 16, in Mlle Patricia O'Grady's French class. She wasn't just any high school foreign language teacher. Yes, we had the requisite grammar and vocabulary exams, papers to write, etc., but she didn't just leave it at that. She taught us about the people, the life, the country.
Her combination of geography tests on the important monuments of Paris and descriptions of long lunches in the French countryside with the family she spent her summers with, combined with the opportunity to earn extra credit for making croissants from scratch and seeing French films at the only little art house movie theater in town, meant that I quickly became smitten with everything and anything to do with France.
Due to Mlle O'Grady, I came to France at the age of 21 to be an au pair. Because of her, I am a francophile. Thanks to her stories and her passion, I longed to live in France.
And now I do.
I owe it all to her.
Sadly, though, I never got the chance to thank her.
She passed away in her early 40's due to an aggressive and incurable type of cancer. She was so vivacious and so positive, and then suddenly, she was gone. When I heard the news it broke my heart. I cried my eyes out and then cried some more.
And now my eyes are welling up just thinking about her.
If I could, I would go back and let her know how much she influenced my life, and how much I appreciated her.
She is my "Why France?" reason.