Sunday, 13 April 2008
Au revoir les enfants!
French students start at a young age to go on trips with their schools. Each year, for a week or more, the students go on a spring trip. Sometimes kids as young as six years old will go on a weeklong trip away from their families, but with their teachers and classmates.
This is a big deal for my son, a nine year old, who has been away from us for three days maximum, and that was at the very familiar and comfortable home of my good friend Shelly, with some time also at my parent’s house. He’s been looking forward to the trip for months, and weeks ago he urged us to begin gathering the items needed for the trip: a laundry bag, big boots for fishing, and a disposable camera, among others.
The week before the trip he was a little anxious about the various details. Was our address written in his hat? Had we turned in the luggage tag? Did we get the big notebook? Sometimes I wonder what our children think of our mental and parental capacity. They often worry about deadlines and details when they should trust that we are handling everything, or at least most of the time we are.
So Friday was the big send-off. I’m surprised that our boy slept at all on Thursday night, but between a long day at school and a trip to the park after, he slept with no problem.
We woke up an hour early on Friday, packed a lunch in Q’s backpack, zipped up his suitcase and headed for the bus. The good old bus 92 took us all the way to Gare Montparnasse where the students were all to meet. As we rode up the escalator, we heard some little voices calling, “Hi, Q!” Q turned and saw his buddies and classmates all donning their white caps which identify them, and not liking to be different, he hurriedly put his white cap on with all the addresses inside.
The kids were excited, and the parents were taking care of last minute details. “Do we mail the letter to our kids or hand it to the teacher?” was one of the questions. Some parents had forgotten cameras; others made a mad dash at the station to look for chapstick. There were parents who were a little weepy (myself included) and others who were looking forward to a getaway with their spouse while the kids were away.
We headed toward the TGV which would bring the kids partway to their destination of La Bretagne, or Brittany. They would then board a bus that will take them the rest of the way. My son boarded the bus seated next to his best buddy M, and his buddy S was across the aisle. They all looked very excited. I blew my boy a kiss from the window, and he actually blew me a kiss back! There were some little seven year olds who were bawling and waving tearful goodbyes to their parents. As the train took off, I got teary eyed and waved once more to my boy, who I believe also had a little tear in his eye. But only for a moment, as he is bound to have a wonderful adventure on the coast of Brittany- lucky dude!