I was attempting to explain to someone this week the roots of my francophilia. My mother, having lived in France as a child, endued me with a childhood full of baguettes and café au lait, Edith Piaf and the smells of Roger Gallet and Guerlain. One of my earlier memories is singing along to "Sur la Pont d'Avignon" as it played on the record player. When I got a little older, I'd swoon over the cover of my mother's Sacha Distel album as he crooned, "Je vends des pommes, des poires, Et des scoubidoubi-ou ah!" (Even as a child, I knew just how risqué the lyrics were.) Every evening around six, my mother would holler up the stairs to me and my siblings, "Á la table, sil vous plait!"
I understand that baguettes and the occasional 'svp' thrown in do not make me French. And appreciation for 1950s French music doesn't either. But French things remind me of my mother, and grandmother and my childhood. Being in France feels familiar and comfortable to me, despite the language barrier.
Here is a picture of my aunt (L) and mother (R) in Chambley, France, where they lived. My grandfather won an award for this picture in 1959.