This week Jack, Daphne, and I have been unpacking and settling while taking various field trips with what the kids have been calling Camp Maman while Michael gets back to work in earnest. They have been doing a little self-orienting, realizing with amazement how few steps it takes to get to the extraordinary Jardin des Plantes. During our first venture out, we began playing an Eewok game where we were required to collect different species of flowers. Daphne was a few steps behind Jack and me when we suddenly heard, “Mama, it came out!” The first tooth that had been threatening to come out in Berkeley, then in Copenhagen, finally came out in Paris. We put it safely in my purse and continued with our day, with Daphne finding any window or mirror she could to get a sense of her new toothless look. Throughout the day, she kept saying, “It really happened. I can’t believe it really happened.” Before we left Berkeley, our Grandpa Harvey had told the kids that he thought that they would be receiving croissants rather than money for their teeth, so the children had been on the alert to learn what was going to happen. In France, children actually put their lost teeth under their pillows, and a petite souris (Little Mouse) comes to retrieve it and leave a treat. I was worried that Daphne might be worried to hear about a mouse on her pillow, so I didn’t tell her about it. Instead, she dictated a note for the Tooth Fairy, telling it that we are in Paris and asking “Can you find us?” Whether it was the Tooth Fairy or a little mouse, Daphne woke the next morning to find a one Euro coin under her pillow. She was thrilled and, invoking her deep knowledge of international finance, said: “You know, a euro is better than a dollar.”
Later the same day, the three of us walked over to the Jardin du Luxembourg which the children knew quite well from our vacation in Paris last year. They played for two hours in its sequestered playground area with its fabulous climbing structures. Daphne challenged herself by climbing quite high on a large spider web structure. Jack went on all the over-7ans structures, and at the end, was included in some kind of imaginary adventure game with two other French boys. Since Jack had been scared that he wouldn’t be able to play in French, this was a nice moment for him. At one point, the boys “paused” the game to make sure he knew what an “ordinateur” was, and Jack responded with a “bien sur” that impressed them. At another point in the midst of the game, Jack shouted out “Couvert moi!” I think that Jack was gratified to learn that French imaginary play turns out not to be that different after all.
A few days later, we returned to the Jardin du Luxembourg to meet the lovely Professor Jean-Marie Pradier from Paris VIII and Le Maisons des Sciences de l’Homme Nord who had arranged for my invitation to France (I still find it odd that my visa says I am a “research scientist”). Jean-Marie brought his two children, Emile (10) and Hortense (8) from Saint-Denis. It took a little while for the children to get used to each other, especially since Daphne and Jack wanted to go on a merry-go-round that understandably seemed a little young to Emile and Hortense. Eventually, Hortense decided she was interested after all, and both she and Jack delighted in playing a little game where you insert a baton inside a ring every time you go around on the carousel. When we all returned to Le Bassin, the huge pond where crowds gather and float little boats, everyone seemed to find their groove. Emile and Jack shared a boat to sail, and Hortense and Daphne shared a boat, with all of them running to all parts of the pond to re-launch their boats, watch it catch their wind, and laugh when a duck mounted one of them. Jack was once again proud that he could keep up with a ten-year old in French; Daphne did not speak much in French but found a role as a kind of mascot in the group.