Kansas City in the rain

Florent at the fountainFlorent and I recently visited the Plaza in Kansas City. We decided to go at the last minute and left after my morning Lit class. Florent’s a good driver, so he took the keys; allowing me to sing, read, and snap pictures to my heart’s content, feet on the dashboard.

We drove along I-70, stopping for lunch at some middle-of-nowhere McDonald’s so that Florent could finally try a genuine American MacDo burger and fries. MacDo When we got to the Plaza, parking in a garage on a crazy-steep hill, it was rainy, chilly and beautifully gray, an in-between-seasons sort-of day.

open roadtheatergoosedropletsWe both bought new black coats at the first store we visited and shed our old ones in the car before continuing on in the rain. Early afternoon on a Friday, there wasn’t much of a crowd and it felt like we had the place almost to ourselves.

The Country Club Plaza’s a good place to go if you have money to spend, but it was more of a day for faire du lèche-vitrines (window shopping), and that was enough. We took the escalator at my favorite Barnes & Noble (four levels!) and Florent cracked up over a YA book called “Anna and the French Kiss,” calling it “so American.” We took pictures of statues and of the fountains, flowing with hyper-blue water. I pointed out the courts where I played district tennis in high-school and we walked to the Kemper museum, appreciating some of the pieces and laughing at others (used soap glued to the wall and a seven-minute video of a pigeon drinking water, for starters).

To end the afternoon, we shared a piece of pumpkin cheesecake at the ever-classic (overpriced) Cheesecake Factory. Florent declared his first experience with cheesecake super bon.

wood horsethrough the windshieldJess & Umbrelladark

Kemper spider

RegardingWarm, salty fries. Rain. Free art. Sometimes the simple things are the best. But it all depends on who you’re with. :)

Florent (beginnings)

Me and FloFlorent, my Lyonnais copain (boyfriend), has been visiting me here in Columbia for two weeks now.

We met this summer on my study abroad trip to France. We met through an app, something I never thought I would say. I was so nervous before our first date, not knowing if he spoke a word of English, not knowing if my French would be adequate. I took the bus and then the metro to our meeting spot in Bellecour that July evening, sweating all the while. I wore a black skirt from NafNaf and a nervous smile. I carried a French-English dictionary.

To my surprise and relief, I hit it off with Florent, a tall, easygoing Financier full of effortless charm and interesting stories. We spoke (and speak) almost exclusively in French, though he does speak English from time abroad. Finding an easy rapport, we managed to meet up several times in the two weeks I had left in Lyon. We ate late, light dinners of tartines or crepes, and once at a cozy bouchon, ducking out of the rain. We watched subtitled films and walked by the rivers at night. He drove me home in his Peugeot. He was incredibly patient, listening to my slow & stumbling French. He was funny, and kind.

Still, I was prepared to say goodbye. We hadn’t met under traditional circumstances, and it seemed unlikely that anything real could come of something like that. I knew I would miss Florent, but I was also realistic: once I returned home, we would talk a few times, the inside jokes fading more and more, until finally there were just memories.

Much to my surprise, though, it didn’t happen like that.

What can I say? Never underestimate the power of Skype. After all, if someone can make you laugh, can make you wanna stop what you’re doing to see their pixelated, thousands-of-miles-away face, you know you just might’ve found something worth holding on to.

 

Jessica

Summer, pt ii: home

flag&boatbook&drinkTruman

When I came home from France, I expected to be a little bit bored; restless. Clinton, Missouri is small and quiet. You won’t find things like ethnic food, indie concerts, or gourmet coffee here. It’s an hour drive to the mall and to Trader Joe’s where we like to buy groceries. In any case, quite a switch from the heart of the second-biggest city in France.

But I will always look back on this summer, both parts of it, very fondly. Partly due to the beautifying power of a good camera, capturing as it did the colors and details I missed the first time around. It was, quite simply, special.

After being surrounded by a culture so foreign, the little traditions and ways of life at home felt luxurious. All that free space and nature. Days framed by cerulean blue skies and fat clouds, bright nights lit by fireflies and stars. Cricket chirps and coyote howls and owl hoots. Walking around barefoot and bathing suit-ed, plucking sun-warmed cherry tomatoes off the vine and eating them like candy. Lemonade with ice and novel after novel.

Much more than that stuff though, I felt so content just to be with my family. What’s invaluable to me: Dad’s perspectives. Mom’s advice. Spencer’s humor. The way all three of them make me laugh like nothing and no one else.

But this summer our family of four (plus various quirky mammals of the four-legged variety) had another member. Bastien is 16, French, and the brother of Camille. He stayed with us for a month and a half, wanting to see a bit of the country and work on his English. He wouldn’t smile for my pictures, but in my mind’s eye he only has an ornery grin.

J&BinwatertomatoboatSubtle cobweb

He and I spoke largely in French which was all the better for inside jokes. We swam and played volleyball and tennis and endless games of Monopoly, which he always won. We rode around on the golf cart, which Bastien called his personal voiture. We shucked corn and went grocery shopping and once made carbonara, arguing over when to add the raw egg. We jumped on the trampoline and fought over who had to take out the trash. We watched Children of the Corn together, me cowering in terror; Bastien laughing. We had water fights; raw okra I-just-picked-this-but-I’m-going-to-throw-it-at-you fights.

I already know what it’s like to have a brother, how you sometimes want to give them a bear hug and other times would rather pour ice water on their head (ice bucket challenge or no). This felt a lot, a lot like that. 

He became a part of our family, everyone teasing him like we do and him dishing it right back, you’d better believe it, especially at dinner when we were all together. That became my favorite time of the day. Never in front of the TV, always at the table, with wine and baguettes and some terrine one of the boys brought back from France. Mom would make things like tagliatelle or roast chicken or salmon, and the table was always crowded with side dishes straight from our garden.

Provençal-inspired dinner Mom made

Provençal-inspired dinner Mom made

Julia Child said that people who love to eat are always the best people, and I think she was right. From the French to my family, the people who I find most interesting eat with fervor. Maybe because there’s much more to a true meal than just stuffing your face.

Dinner was the best time to talk, too, about anything and everything; subjects more varied than a Trivial Pursuit card deck.WaterskiAhlala, cet été…

Now I’m back at college again, doing the occasional reflecting on how good it was to be home, where people know you the best and love you the most.

xo,

j