Suddenly, as though poured from the sky, people filled the streets of Louviers yesterday, mostly Mamans, scurrying with their progeny to pick up last-minute school clothes and supplies. I could see the anxiety as they hoped against hope they weren’t too late. The occasion? That most special of days, la rentrée, the first day of school.
When children are small, parents accompany them to school, waiting in the playground until the school director slowly calls the name of a teacher, then the name of each child who will be in that teacher’s class for the year. It is a day children live and die for, because whoever is in their class will be their friends for the year.
That happened this morning throughout France. For seniors in high school it happens tomorrow. The scene is different, though I don’t know what it looks like since my daughter – who will start Terminal this year, the equivalent of senior year – would die a thousand deaths if I was anywhere near her school tomorrow morning. She will get herself to school and I will find out sometime tomorrow evening what her year will shape up to be.
Today, the atmosphere at home is one of excitement and light tension, concern about a heavy backpack and upper level chemistry and physics, and what it will be like to study philosophy. Fiona has all her books, her stack of cahiers with thin and thick lines, big and small squares, notebooks of every hue, fountain pens, pencils, white-out pens, erasers, rulers, and more. What remains is planning breakfast.
But actually, that is done too because Fiona is organized. A vegetarian, she is devoted to eating locally, sustainably, and well. She wants everyone and everything to be treated properly, and questions the ethics of eating dairy products. She is French, however, and thus loves butter and cheese, making her choices difficult at times. Nonetheless, tomorrow’s menu is an easy one: fresh baguette, butter, quince jelly and pears from a friends’ garden, a small bowl of granola, and a big bowl of green tea. This, she has decided, will hold her until lunch, give her strength for that philosophy class she so dreads.
In our French/American home, we call a breakfast like this one “Le Petit Déjeuner des Champions.” Cornflakes, eat your heart out!