We got invited to a kinda fancy dinner thing last night.
Mathieu works sometimes with the mayor and his committee…which mostly just means occasional meetings and quite a lot of work for the reelection back at the end of March, wherein he and I would pull on boots and jackets at eleven or midnight and arm ourselves with backpacks full of pamphlets. We’d then wander through the deserted streets of Cournonterral, enjoying the silence and the stars, stuffing mailboxes with glossy brochures.
I don’t mind the meetings, really…Mathieu usually takes it as an opportunity to shave, and I can always tell there must be a meeting when I hear the sound of water running and can smell his shaving cream behind the closed door of the bathroom.
The mayor won reelection; so this dinner was organized as a sort of thank you to the community, I think. Mathieu reminded me this week, and we had our first debate about what to do with the crevette.
“I am not really ready for babysitters. To be away from him…” I announced.
“Well, no, so we bring him with us.”
“Uhhh, that could be bad too. He’s so little. French people smoke…and what about his immune system? And is it going to be late?”
To be fair – the crevette is a powerhouse with sleeping, is not easily disturbed by loud noises, is peaceful and mellow in public…he’s not prone to meltdowns in public yet. If he’s fed, changed, clean, and comfortable, he tends to settle back and regard the world with his huge eyes, or simply cuddle into a little French ball and fall asleep. Still.
After a flurry of texts with my American mama friend here in Cournonterral (she has four kids and good advice) we decided to try it. As Krista pointed out, it’ll be easier now than in a couple months, since the baby really just sleeps all the time…but we decided to stay flexible and be ready to change plans if Nolan showed any sign of stress or discomfort or fatigue.
I think Mathieu wanted to show off his new family…not just the little guy, but me as well, since I’m pretty shy and reclusive generally in this world. I’d never met a lot of these people, but it’s such a small village, everyone knows the Bousquets. And I think there’s been some curiosity about me, and especially the baby. Mathieu wanted to bring us all out as a family.
It’s so nice to have someone proud of you. So we decided to do it.
Second side benefit: getting to dress up! As you can imagine for someone just three weeks out from being pregnant: heels and dresses have not really been a thing for a long time. Most of my formal dresses and shoes burned in the house fire last year, and since then there hasn’t really been call for a pair of broke vineyard workers to go out much. I wore my sparkly sandal high heels for Valentine’s Day when we went into the city for Mexican food…but even then, mid February, I was pregnant enough that wobbling around on a pair of toothpicks (the French call these talons, or better yet, talon aiguille, or “needle heels”) was kind of ridiculous. But, I kinda needed to feel pretty for a night, after feeling huge and uncomfortable (all those people talking about how pregnant women “glow” are not remembering how awkward, elephantine, and unattractive you feel!) …so I bravely wobbled along the uneven cobblestone streets of old town Montpellier. Nothing sexier than loss of equilibrium, I say!
For the present: I had a bag of clothes that a friend donated after the fire – that mostly ran to sort of workout gear and hoodies, but down in the bottom was a white sundress with tiny black embroidery, knee length and flowy. I put on a pair of light grey sleeves and my sparkly sandals, some sage green eyeshadow, my silver Chinese dragon pendant…and spent twenty minutes alternating between putting my hair up or leaving it down in its usual curly catastrophe before deciding that I suck at being a girl and thus left it alone.
The baby wore his blue striped pajamas with the shark embroidered on the butt. Easy to be a baby and make a fashion splash since everything you wear is tiny and adorable.
We drove up to a stone building in the garrigue, where there was already a stage being set up, and a huge fire put where they were roasting a sheep on a spit. The sunshine of the day had given way to ominous clouds, and the wind whipped my skirt madly, leaving me to awkwardly balance the baby on one arm while attempting to flatten the fabric against my legs to prevent me from demonstrating my underwear choices to the entire village (which reminded me painfully of the last time I regularly wore dresses, crossing open deck while working on the cruise ship at sea.)
French people love babies, and I’ve learned the right words to fluently navigate these encounters in the language. Everyone basically asks the same questions: how old, does he sleep at night, are you breast feeding, etc. Then I retreated to a couch in the corner, holding the sleeping baby. The wind was cold and strong, and one end of this stone building was open to the elements. Mathieu socialized, a glass of rum punch in one hand…when suddenly, the sky darkened dramatically, save a sliver of gold light trapped in the trees from the late evening sunset, and rain drops began to darken the slate tiles.
First people rushed under cover, as tarps were thrown loosely over the stage. Then they began to mass at the dusty windows. Mathieu came over and took the baby from me, as a roll of thunder rumbled.
“Go outside! Go see!”
A full double rainbow arched across the vineyards. Where it touched down was luminous and alive.
The evening took on an air of magic as all of us marvelled at the arc-en-ciel. And shortly the tables were covered in mussels and couscous and sheep meat, in plates of bread and Roquefort and Camembert, in bottles of Clos d’Elle wine. People shouted across the table about politics, and eventually a cabaret performance began, as members of the mayor’s committee dressed in sequins and can can costumes, lip synching to Stromae and Abba, including an over the top pantomime tribute to Parisian dance halls. The baby slept peacefully, waking only to be fed upstairs on a little mezzanine loft, me looking down at the drunk happy French people as the baby snuggled against me.
Finally the hour came, and I headed home, Mathieu staying on to shout politics and dance and smoke, while I nestled under the dark blankets, content listening to the sound of the baby breathing in the crib next to my bed.