Spotting Mark at the playground is easy: he is the only kid who shouts “Oh, my GOD!” when he is annoyed, and “Oh, my GOODNESS!” when he is amazed. Yes, at 3.5 years old, Mark is breaking the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols. Désolée. Fortunately, he has yet to learn the French translation, “oh mon Dieu!”, which is used by virtually no one in France because it’s old fashioned—French are more likely to shout “merde“, “zut” ou “putain“.
Mark didn’t learn the phrase from me (I’m a “putain” or “fuck” person), he probably pick it up at daycare. I find it kind of cute, and considering Mark’s love for churches, angels, and various saints, it fit just fine.
But these days, Mark isn’t so much into churches anymore. He’d rather go to the manège (carousel), the playground, and supermarkets (as long as he gets to buy a cake or juice). If anything, his church addiction turned into a museum addiction: he remembers the location of the various museums we visited in Nantes and begs us to “go check them out” every time we walk by. Gosh, I hope he isn’t into modern art. Visiting all these churches as an atheist was hard enough, if now I have to explain him art I don’t get in the first place…
The end of the church addiction became clear when we visited the Parc des Oblates, an unexpected green oasis hidden in Sainte-Anne, close to the city centre. It is actually a former Sisters’ convent’s garden. For years, the nuns were self-sufficient: cows, sheep, and poultry were raised on the small farm and they also grew fruits and vegetables.
There are still 45 Sisters living in the building atop the hill, but a few years ago, they sold the land to the city. It was turned into a public park with a community garden and it’s open to the public.
Despite the church-like building, the Nuns’ cemetery and a few religious statues, Mark didn’t even utter the word “church”. Instead, he chased monsters with a stick, ran after butterflies and insisted on taking pictures of “so cute!” flowers.
Sorry God, I’m afraid this one will be an atheist too…