Vive La France
By Darlene Franklin ~
The storming of the Bastille prison sparked the French Revolution on July 14, 1789, a fitting partner to America’s Independence Day on July 4th. What better time to consider all the reason I love all things French?
Here are a few reasons why I love France. If I fail to mention your favorite memory (the wine, perhaps?), take no offense. This is a personal list that I hope will trigger happy memories for you.
These fictional characters taught me a lot about French history. The French Revolution “was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Madame Dufarge’s knitting needles and Sidney Carlton’s self-sacrifice star in Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities.
LeClerc, the spunky Frenchman on Hogan’s Heroes, introduced me to the lure of the French accent.
Star Trek’s Captain Jean Luc Picard once compared our countries’ flags: “America’s flag is red, white, and blue. The French flag is, more properly, blue, white, and red.
The Three Musketeers brought Versailles to life and Richard Chamberlain made me swoon as The Count of Monte Cristo.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame brought that magnificent cathedral—and the concept of sanctuary—to poignant life.
Paris, home in exile
A group of as-yet unknown American writers lived in Paris during the 1920s—Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Kathryn Mansfield, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and John dos Passos, among others. Some of America’s best literature would not exist without those years: A Farewell to Arms (Hemingway), Ethan Frome (Wharton), The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald).
My literary world would be a lot poorer without the Americans living in Paris.
What would the impressionist movement be with musicians like Debussy and Ravel and artists like Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, and Degas? Even Van Gogh might be considered French, since he moved there from his native Holland.
Imagine visiting a museum without one of Degas’ ballerinas or Monet’s water lilies. I personally engage with impressionist music by performing it. My senior piano recital included two compositions from Debussy’s “Estampes”: Gardens in the Rain and Evenings in Granada. The music paints a picture without words or color. Ravel’s Bolero spellbinds me.
Scientists and Thinkers
A children’s book introduced me to Louis Pasteur and Madame Curie. Pasteur not only developed the process whereby we “pasteurize” milk but also discovered a treatment for anthrax. The Curies explored radium and radiology. More recently, how about oceanographer Jacques Cousteau? He made the ocean accessible to the world.
Rene Descartes deserves mention. He taught us, “It is not enough to have a good mind; the main t hing is to use it well,” and “I think; therefore I am.”
Food and Language
No homage to France would be complete without mentioning food and language. I’m not talking about fancy French cuisine. Beef “au jus” makes my mouth water. Omelets, quiche, souffle, and crepes are all improvements over scrambled eggs. What salad is complete without croutons? A croissant is so much tastier than a slice of white bread. Sweets are my special downfall: eclairs, sorbets, petit fours, bon bons, crème brulee, macarons. Is everyone else hungry by now?
The language I love would be incomplete without the French. They ruled England for several hundred years, so it’s no surprise we share a lot of words, even if we pronounce them differently. French continues to enrich the English language: chic, mystique, a la carte, cliché, carte blanche, bon voyage, R.S.V.P. (respondez-vous sil vou plais)
Of all the reasons I love France, one stands above them all: The Statue of Liberty, their gift to America.
Vive La France!
Darlene Franklin continues to write from her home in a nursing home. You can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/Poet.Darlene.Franklin/.