Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Kiosk Man

Since we moved to France over 4 years ago I've watched my children grow from being babies to being children with minds of their own. Growing up in a different culture was difficult for my son because he was three when we moved here and still had fond memories of life in the US. The first year he spoke no French and understood very little. The second year he understood everything but still spoke very little French. The third year was a charm... he spoke and understood French. My daughter grew up in France and speaks fluent French at 4 years old.

I tell you this because as a parent I am always amazed, quite honestly shocked, when my young children can do things I can not or have not been able to. Speaking French has been difficult for me. My tongue gets twisted. My pronunciation is horrendous.

Yesterday I realized that, unlike me, my son has made a lot of French friends while in Paris. Of course, he has his classmates, but he has made other friends too. One particularly good example is the "friendship" he has with the man who runs the kiosk between our apartment and the school. It started with the yu-gi-oh phase when the kiosk man (KM) had the best prices for the cards. Then my son and his two best friends would spend their allowance on packages of Pokeman tabs -- 50 cents each! He would stop by the kiosk everyday and my son or one of his friends would buy the Pokeman tabs. The lucky boy, who bought a few packages that day, would sit on the ground with the other two boys and they would all share in the delight of opening up the packages and announcing which tabs were special or rare. They were all happy for each other and the lucky boy would give the other two boys the double tabs.

The kiosk man really got to know all the boys, but I think he had a special place in his heart for my son. I knew they were "friends" when my son started a line of credit. The KM was busy with another customer and my son wanted Pokeman tabs that particular day. The KM told him to grab a package of tabs and just pay him tomorrow. When my son was getting ready for school the next day, he made sure he had 50 cents in his pocket. When we reached the kiosk on the way to school, my son gave KM the money. After that, my son made a point of stopping by the kiosk to say "bonjour" to the man every day. Since he talks to the man everyday, he knows when a new shipment of cards comes into the kiosk. He also sometimes gets a free sample of the merchandise. One day when my son bought something and my daughter cried that she didn't get anything, KM gave her a Pokeman package too, for free.

My point? My son is a confident, outgoing, friendly child who has represented the family well. If all of us expats are ambassadors for our home country, then my son has represented the USA well. I've given you one example, but there are many more. My son has made a number of friends here in Paris, young and old, French and International and I'm really proud of him.

A picture of KM, my son and one of his friends buying yu-gi-oh cards this week.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:50 PM



*sighing* Your lucky kids-- they will always have beautiful, native French accents . .. . . what a treasure! ~bluepoppy

# posted by Anonymous : 11:04 PM  

That is a wonderful story! Bravo to your son. His personality will serve him throughout his life, and it sounds like he has a wonderful start!


# posted by Carrie : 3:38 AM  

Good for him! It's wonderful that your son is so outgoing and forthright... what's this? I'm turning green... is it...

No, but really, it goes to show you how well you have raised him, and how well-adjusted he is to not only his differences, but to what he has in common with his surroundings and the people in them.

# posted by mai : 2:34 PM  

I am thinking of a general idea presented in the book, "The Piano (?) On The Left Bank" by Carthart - something like that, where he mentions how hard it is to get over that "friendship barrier" with the French. I am not sure if it applies to children but if I were the kiosk person - KM, I certainly would see the sincerity and generosity of the group of friends and how special the "American" is.

This is an absolutely wonderful vignette of your everyday life!

from San Francisco

# posted by Anonymous : 2:59 PM  

Bluepoppy, Yes I think it's wonderful that my children are biligual, but it is the fear of every parent I know here that when we return to the US they will forget everything. Wouldn't that be a shame??
Carrie, Thank you. Hopefully he won't turn into a politician.
Mai, He was outgoing and forthright from the beginning. I'm no shrinking violet, but my son amazes me with his ability to stand up for himself.
SF, I really enjoyed The Piano book.. so much so I wanted to stalk the guy out, but I got a hold of myself. I was definitely envious of his relationship with the piano shop owners.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 5:14 PM  

Your son sounds like he has bloomed(not sure if this words for boys) into a real young man. I have a 5 yo and am also noticing how he is starting to have "outside" relationships. It's amazing.

# posted by BohemianMama : 5:53 PM  

I would love if you wanted to put a link. I love your blog.

# posted by BohemianMama : 10:11 PM  

AntieM, it's obvious to me you're a great mom. I too believe those of us who travel often or live abroad are ambassadors for our home country and as a fellow American I'm very proud to have your son represent us, he sounds like a terrific little boy.


# posted by Anonymous : 4:24 AM  

Hi Auntie !

A lot of the Kiosk People are good, and your son seems to have found a great one indeed.

You might want to find out more about the KM's feelings as to the coming tempest. The Paris Municipal Autorities have decided to "rationalize" and "improve" the management of the Parisian kiosks and some effects of the new plan(s) are being felt already. You might want to check with yout KM if - and how - he will be affected (or perhaps already has been ?).

You might even be on the cusp of those fine Parisian traditions of "petition time", followed by a "manif" at the Hôtel de Ville.


# posted by L'Amerloque : 8:05 PM  

How amazing that your kids will be fluent in another language. Wish America wasn't so convinced it was the orb the rest of the globe revolves around, or I might have learned another language young enough to be accent-free. Like you, I struggle with French. Found your blog through Jason Stone's -- really enjoy it. -Amy Alkon (advicegoddess.com/goddessblog.html)

# posted by Anonymous : 6:04 PM  

BM, My daughter is 5. My sister always said taht she thought 5 was the best age and I tend to agree when it comes to my daughter. Like your son, she is starting to have outside relationships and I find it a wonder to watch as she gets more confidence every day.
Barbara, Let me give credit where I should have in the first place, Mrs. Leach the wife of the American Ambassador in France always ends her speaches with "we are all ambassador's here to represent American" kind of thing. I should have given her credit in the first place. But I agree with what she says.
L'A, I'll ask my KM if he is affected by changes from the Paris Municipal. I hope not. Why do kiosks have to be managed better? I tried to do a little research on the issue and couldn't find much. Do you have a source?
Amy, Welcome and thank you. I agree, it's difficult that there is not a more global perspective, but I understand why too... America is huge and most people don't leave the country -- a very different perspective from the folks in Europe that can drive to many countries easily. I really wish that kids could take a second language in school earlier than in middle school.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 9:46 PM  

Hi Auntie !

re: Kiosks

The best sources of info for this would be the "Journal du Dimanche" (which is where I saw it some time ago). If I recall correctly, "Les Echos" picked it up (and if "Les Echos" ran it, so did "La Tribune": the papers are fighting it out to the death (smile.)) Info is available at the Paris City Hall, too.

The ostensible reason for "reorganization" of kiosks is that, quite simply, "la presse est en crise". Fewer and fewer people are reading newspapers and magazines, which means sales in kiosks are 'way, 'way down. It's a hard life, too: the hours are lousy and the daily deliveries (and repacking up of unsold items) can be wearing once the "kiosquier" has passed the age of, say, 50 or so.

The kiosks pay rent to the City: it's a source of income. So well-oganized kiosks could mean more money in the City coffers.

That's the theory, anyway.


# posted by L'Amerloque : 8:54 AM  

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