Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Chauffeur

Sometimes I think about how different my experience of being an expat in France would be if.... I lived outside of the 16th, I lived in a suburb of Paris, I live in the countryside, if I wasn't an American (there is a bit of a fascination with us, as I'm sure the French find when the live in the US), and perhaps most of all if I wasn't a mother. But I am an American expat mother in the 16th, and it never ceases to amaze me what doors it opens.

Today when I picked my daughter up for lunch a mother of a classmate asked if she wanted to have lunch at their house. My daughter was very shy but eventually whispered 'yes' to my surprise -- on the condition that we walk home to get candy to bring to the girl's home.

My daughter has known this girl for three years. They were in half-day class together two years ago, were not in class together last year, but are again together this year.

Quick side story.. two years ago my daughter was invited to this girl's house for a birthday party. It was on a Spring Wednesday afternoon, so she was dropped off at the party after being at the Jardin D'Acclimatation for a couple of hours. She looked warm and winded. She was dressed in typical American jean cut off shorts and a cheerleader type shirt. She was cute enough for me (although I could have brought a brush for her hair). Boy did I receive a shock. The maid answers the door and there were only 8 kids all dressed in these beautiful princess or pirate costumes. My daughter didn't care, I'm sure. Later a French friend told me that people who live on that street are generally rich and that I should expect the parties to be formal (can you really say that about a party for three year olds??).

Anyway, when we arrive home today to choose the candy, my daughter informs me of the other condition. She will go for lunch at her friend's home and will stay without me, but I must pick her up to return her to school. I consider this a step toward her independence and agree to her condition. I drop her off for lunch and the mother says she'll bring the girls back to school. I tell her that my daughter has asked me to bring her back. The mother says, well.... we will be taking my chauffeured car back to the school. We will take you too.

I think I've taken a chauffeured car three times in my life.. twice for funerals and once for my wedding. When I return for my daughter an hour later, we all get into the car and get driven to the school ... approximately .3 miles away... less than a 5 minute walk. The fur-coated mother says to me, I know it seems strange to take the car, but I have to go somewhere else afterward (I notice the chauffeur came to pick up her daughter alone this afternoon.. it was cold out...).

Once at the school I open the door to get out of the car and notice that the chauffeur's hair is almost standing on end. He jumps out of the car to hold the door open for me (what were you thinking?? his eyes are saying). The mother and I bring our girls into the school. I tell her I need to talk to my son (who always refuses to have lunch with us... "what, and leave my friends??") as an excuse. I was worried they might offer to drive me home. Once was enough.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:20 PM



Wow - life in the 16th!! Nothing like that happens over here in Ivry! :-( Life is definitely a lot different for us "common" folk in the 'burbs. LOL

# posted by Pat : 11:32 PM  

Wow - life in the 16th!! Nothing like that happens over here in Ivry! :-( Life is definitely a lot different for us "common" folk in the 'burbs. LOL

# posted by Pat : 11:32 PM  

WOW! I'm with you, I've been chauffered maybe 3 times. I always feel weird having people do things for me. I am capable.

# posted by BohemianMama : 1:26 AM  

haha excellent story! when i lived in france, i attended the american school of paris and many of my classmates were the children of american diplomats, captains of industry, etc., and quite a few lived in the 16th and other chic neighborhoods. although i was never chauffeured around, i do remember going to rolland garros for the french open in the company of a friend, her family, and an armed body guard.

# posted by maryse : 2:34 AM  

Hmm, wait unitl the Bar/Bat Mitzvahs happen - that should be quite elegant too. Gee maybe you weren't supposed to touch the car(kidding!)....I would have done the same - excusing myself in case I were to be offered a return ride. And, your daughter probably didn't notice the unusual aspect of the ride.

The people my son knows from school have been interesting and has opened many kinds of friendships/events that otherwise would not have happened - I guess this is that (in your case).

Terry in SF

# posted by Anonymous : 3:01 AM  

Uh, yeah, life in Issy was very different! I didn't even know many Americans, since my dh is French, though I went to Message for a while when I was pregnant. Was this woman French or American? Here in Kyrgyzstan is where I've run into all the chauffeurs and maids and nannies.

# posted by RighteousBiche : 7:09 AM  

The one time I was able to ride in a limo about 20 other people piled in with me. It wasn't quite as glamorous and exciting as it would have been if I had been the only passenger.


# posted by Anonymous : 9:50 AM  

Don't quite know what to say. Chauffeur driven cars and formal parties for 3 year olds. It spins my head about. As long as the people are friendly and human enough, hey.

# posted by Daniel : 11:20 AM  

What a stunning weblog! Thanks for visiting my plain "Views from Hillside Hermitage": http://nirvaneans.blogspot.com

I've bookmarked your blog as an example of how things can be in an ideal world :-)

Kind regards,

# posted by John M Evans : 2:29 PM  

That sure is a whole different world!

# posted by Margie : 4:07 PM  

Pat, My point exactly. We could tell two very different stories about life as an American expat in the Paris area.
BH, I feel the same way -- with the exception that I would have liked to have dated a couple of guys along the way that paid for dinner instead of half/half... that never seemed to happen while I was in college or grad school.
Maryse, An armed boyguard? That might have flipped me out a bit at that age!
Terry, So does your son keep in touch with a lot of his French friends? I heard that the French are really great about keeping in touch with their friends.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 5:58 PM  

RB, Thank you for checking out my blog and commenting. Looks from your blog that you lead a pretty interesting life.
Jason, Fitting 20 friends in a car might not be glamorous, but it certainly sounds like it could have been fun!
Daniel, Believe me, my head spins around with this stuff too.
John, Welcome to the blog. Thank you for the compliment.
Margie, It's not my world, but it is fun to get a glimpse.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 6:03 PM  

Hi auntie, this is the king. What did you expect ? You live in the 16th !!! eheh !!! if you want to check out the people your girl will be with in a few years : http://www.mynappy.net/ . Click in the upper left corner ("dans Nappy") and read the quotes... that's interesting...

But do not worry, she will be fine !!!

# posted by negrito : 6:12 PM  

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