Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chloe, hockey, the French, and other interesting tidbits

Chloe loves France, or so she tells us. Virtually every day she says to us, "I really like France." And so she should. She's gone from 15-30 minute stints outside in minus 20 degree weather (just to prove we can spend time outside in winter - it's a right of passage for a Canadian kid) to spending most of her waking hours in the sun. Sure, it's not hot, and sometimes her hands get a bit cold first thing in the morning. But she's no dummy. She knows it beats the hell out of putting on hats, mitts and boots and still coming back with numb ears, fingers and toes. Yes, Chloe is aging well in France.

And I haven't heard another word about hockey since we left our few acres of snow. Hockey is born of a need to survive and thrive in a harsh and inhospitable environment, a sort of "take that," to the elements. Kids in our neighborhood spend hours shooting pucks in makeshift rinks as a way of getting out, staying warm, and having a blast in spite of where they are. It's beautiful to see, and crystallizes for me certain unique Canadian attributes. Our character is built from and in spite of that cold ground and ice we must endure for so much of the year. But for now, I'm enjoying being an ex-pat in Nice.

One of the best parts about being away is gaining a new appreciation for your own home. By the time I travel away from Canada, I'm usually so frustrated with the place that I've forgotten what there is to love. Going away reminds me, and it's wonderful. I understand why so many authors write from away. It really lends perspective.

Nice is beautiful, and I love the French - those bombastic, stubborn, opinionated, lovely people. I always have. Anyone who doesn't like the French is, in my humble opinion, unable to see the beauty of what makes them who they are. Those same attributes we hate to encounter when we ask to make a change to an order at a restaurant in Paris are the ones that make them so passionate and warm when they offer you a seat on the tram, or engage you in a conversation about global politics. They will not hold back their feelings, and they expect no less in return. One can never truly become French, but one can certainly appreciate what incredible culture they exude. They have beliefs, ideals, a sense of fraternity that most of us in cynical North America lack. Often it blinds them to certain realities, but oh what I'd give to have a little passion and idealism in our society and in our politics. Stephen, Michael are you listening... Please God, save us from the dreariness of peddling "ordinary Tim Horton's sipping Canadians." We can do better.

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