We have been here over three years and we have managed to miss every one. Last year was an exception - I was coming back from a business trip and I was trapped in the corridor between two building by a woman who handed me a glass of wine and convinced me to stay long enough to have a conversation or two.
This year I made a firm commitment to participate. I even brought cookies baked by the Frenchlings.
Imagine my surprise when the first gentlemen I talked with at length who, after hearing that I was American, explained to me that his son had studied in Seattle (my hometown) at the University of Washington (my alma mater) and had worked in California near San Francisco (my brother lives in Sacramento).
And the second person I spoke with, a woman with Spanish origins, talked about being born in Algeria before independence (like my husband), coming to France as a teenager to pass her Bac, and her child who is presently working in Shanghai (a city I worked in when I was living in Japan).
Finally, the couple living just above us who moved in just a few months ago. A Frenchman of North African origin who met a lovely Lithuanian woman in Sweden where they were both studying and now they live in France, have a son and they speak English at home and Arabic, Lithuanian and French. Much discussion about multi-lingual environments and how hard it is to live a language at home when the the people around you seem ambivalent about your efforts.
I left the party basking in the glow of one too many kir bretons feeling truly humbled. I had forced myself to attend thinking that I would finally meet more of my franco-French neighbors and discovered that: 1. they have as many (if not more) connections to the wider world as me and 2. our lives are like overlapping circles in a Venn diagram in spite of the fact that we were born thousands of kilometers apart.
Human beings don't only search for meanings, they are themselves units of meaning; but we can mean something only within the fabric of larger significations...
Starting so far apart, we have, through painstaking back and forth, forged a language in common. We keep describing the flow of experience to each other with the impetus to truth, and thus we keep creating new maps and tapestries of a shared reality.
Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation