“Mommy, when I was a baby, did I go in your stomach?”
“Yes. Before you were born, you were in my stomach.”
“When I’m older, can you go in my stomach?”
“Huh… nope. Never going to happen. I mean, it doesn’t work like this. It’s only when two people—a mommy and a daddy—love each other that a baby can be in the mommy’s stomach.”
“But… but I LOVE YOU!”
Mark finds the family tree concept confusing. I’m not sure he fully understands that grand-maman and grand-papa are my parents—even though I call them “maman” and “papa”—and it’s even harder to explain that I also have grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins.
Actually, come to think of it, he never asked who is who. Now I’m wondering what he believes—that all the people in the family house are strangers crashing for the night? Friends? That the house came with a bunch of people we have to put up with?
Last week, it was just my parents, my brother and the three of us in the family house by the seaside. This long weekend—August 15 is a holiday in France—there are 11 of us. My parents, my sister, my uncle, aunt and one cousin plus my grandparents all came for a few days or weeks. There’s always someone in the bathroom, all the hot water is gone by the time I take a shower at night and the two small fridges are packed with twenty kinds of yogurts because for some reason, we can’t agree on one brand we all love.
I’m used to this chaotic family atmosphere. Every summer was like this when I was a kid, except the logistic was even more complicated when half of the house was children—life’s mundane moments, such as meals or bedtime routines, took forever, or least that’s how it felt to me because I was already a tween, the oldest of the generation. But nowadays, the 1990s babies all drink wine, no one fights to get the “best seat” at the dinner table and bedtime is “crash whenever you want, wherever you want” rather than “shhht! The kids are sleeping!”
The only kid around is Mark and I’m the one shushing my relatives (“he’s sleeping, folks!”) or enforcing bedtime.
Damn. I’ve just realized I’m probably the killjoy.
I checked the Canadian weather network on my phone to make sure we’d get some true August wetaher—Canadians don’t lie when it comes to weather forecasts, whereas the French météo stubbornly promises sunshine and rainbows for weekends and major holidays but fails to deliver. We’re having a pretty cold and rainy summer this year—c’est con.
It rained all day on Saturday so made the 45-minute trip in the evening, arriving just on time to buy enough for dinner at the Super U. This was the first one many trips—Feng jokes I should become an Amazon courier because I spend my time fetching stuff for everyone, from newspapers to fish, from bananas to soup, from fresh crêpes to loaves of bread. I walk to Saint Michel, then I walk to Tharon, then I walk on the beach just because. I’m bored sitting on the sand, anyway. After leafing through a magazine for thirty minutes, I’m ready for the next task.
I took Mark on the rocks at low tide to go look for crabs, then he made sandcastles with Feng and my dad. I played with my diabolo, Mark learned to say “j’aime les gateaux” and Feng ate mussels. Sounds cheesy as hell? Yeah, French holidays can be.