*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*
First, a bit of context: for those of you who don’t know, my family are French (as, obviously, am I), but we lived in England. The extended family however was and still is in France. So my siblings and I grew up grew up speaking French at home but English to anyone who wasn’t our family. When this story takes place, my little sister was still young enough never to have been out and about in France (or at least if she had been, she didn’t remember / couldn’t speak.)
Being the eldest, every summer when we went to stay with our grandparents, I organised various means for us to make a few francs. This was nothing groundbreaking: we’d make magazines by drawing and writing on two sheets of A4 that we bound together, or we’d make necklaces out of twine and dead, sun bleached snail shells found in the garden. (It is, by the way, a testament to grandparental love that my grandmother was happy to pay for dead snail shells from her own garden year after year). So on the day of our tale, my sister was recently flush with a couple of francs, and she was eager to go play the big spender at the village sweet shop.
Being the kindly big sister that I am, I took her along. The walk over was mainly over little used roads, so we didn’t come across anyone else. In fact, it wasn’t until we had gone into the shop, and selected our respective sweets, and lined up to queue for the till, that we heard other people speaking French.
My sister’s mouth opened in an ‘o’ of shock. She grabbed my sleeve and exclaimed very loudly (and in perfect French) “Celine! Ils parlent Français comme nous!!” (Celine, they speak French like us) to the surprise and confusion of everyone else in the shop.
It turned out that until that point, she had believed French to be a special language only spoken by members of our family, as if we were some secret society, while the rest of the world spoke English. It took the whole walk home (and then some) to explain that, sadly, that was not the case.