For the most part, nobody noticed. There were no inquiries…
We started prepping my son, Eddie, for the arrival of our international exchange student a week ahead of time. We explained that a young man named Pierre would stay with us for three months. He understood the situation, but our boy insisted on saying, “France is coming!” over and over again.
He learned to find France on a map. We thought this was impressive since he’s only three years-old. It’s something that a few American adults might have trouble doing. But, he still referred to our incoming exchange student as “France.” Eddie has a friend named Francis, so calling someone France may be a natural conflation. Slowly, he started to distinguish between Pierre-the-student and France-the-country.
When Pierre actually arrived one evening just before bedtime, Eddie was excited. Typically, when meeting new people, Eddie will stand behind my legs and become uncharacteristically shy. I think because we gave him advance notice, he decided Pierre was already our friend. They shook hands and Eddie proceeded to chat him up, in that way three year-olds do.
Pierre was clearly exhausted, having had a three-hour flight delay and then an international journey from Paris to Dallas. However, he was a good sport and engaged with Eddie and his barrage of questions and statements. Eddie proceeded to show Pierre how to write the number eleven on an index card, concluding with “that’s how you do it.”
We didn’t treat Pierre differently, but somehow Eddie caught on that Pierre was from a far away place and that things were different there. Maybe he noticed that we were enunciating our words clearly, for Pierre’s benefit. That’s something that never happens, especially with Papa who is a known mumbler.
As Pierre ate a turkey sandwich, Eddie trotted out a series of toys to show him: an electric Elmo guitar, various cars, and a very vocal Buzz Lightyear. Pierre commented in excellent English on each as we all made small talk about school, his family and the journey. We didn’t want to pepper him with questions and information. Well, at least Papa and Daddy didn’t. Eddie was perfectly willing.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Pierre’s visit impacts Eddie. Will he learn a few words in French? (He’s already learned to say eleven.) Will he learn more European geography? Or will he just get used to meeting and hosting new people?
How do you say, “Time will tell” en Francais?