Saturday, 27 December 2008

On the Third Day of Christmas my True Love Gave to me...Three French Hens.

By Guest Writer: Rebecca Ramsey

Rebecca S. Ramsey was a frustrated high school Chemistry teacher until she moved to France. Suddenly she found herself surrounded by people living their passions—the neighbor who played the trumpet in his yard every afternoon, the old woman who dyed her hair a different color of the rainbow every month, and a man who regularly put on a duck suit and walked the streets of Clermont Ferrand, hawking his paté. What else could she do? She set her soul free and started writing! French By Heart, the story of her family’s four years in Clermont Ferrand, France, was published in April 2007, by Broadway Books. She and her family have now returned home, where she spends her days writing and searching upstate South Carolina for a good café au lait.

Rebecca is published in the US by Broadway Books (Under the Tuscan Sun) and is represented by her agent Nathan Bransford.

I sing the words Three French hens, and instantly I am pushing Baby Sam in his stroller through the dimly lit aisles of a restaurant supply store in the middle of the French countryside.

I examine a hand-painted bucket, wondering at how the French make the most ordinary things beautiful, when the door opens. An old man enters, dressed in les bleus, the typical blue coveralls worn by men all over France for physical labor. His worn jacket has a squiggle of chicken poop on the shoulder. Hmm, I wonder. How did that get there?
“Bonjour, Madame,” he says to me and my baby gasps. Under his right arm he is carrying a live chicken.

“Do you like chickens, my little man?” the old man says in garbled French. He grins, showing us his rotten teeth and lowers the chicken to Sam’s eye level. The chicken bobs its head and scratches its claws against his jacket, struggling to make a break for it. It was a beautiful bird, all auburn and white, with bead eyes and a bright red wattle and comb. As it darts its head, Sam looks up to me for a cue. Is this chicken good or bad?

I smile at Sammy, trying to pretend I am Calm Mommy—the kind of mother who encourages her children to delight in the discovery of their natural world—not Paranoid Mommy, the mother who stands frozen in the aisle, envisioning tragic chicken calamities.
The man laughs and stands up and the bird makes a break for it, leaping into a nearby quiche pan.

“Non!” the man shouts, wrestling the chicken back under his arm and tightening his hold. “No you stupid bird,” he says and walks to the cashier.
“Bonjour, Madame,” he says. “I would like to buy a knife.”

She takes his money and hands him a knife from under the counter, and I watch him let himself out a side door. There in the sunshine is the flutter of wings and the noise of other chickens. Since it is Christmas now and I’m all aglow with love, hope, and peace, I’d like to think that this was not The Chicken Pen of Death, but instead a chicken retirement center, his Christmas present to the bird. And as for the knife? I’m hoping his wife was a whittler.

French By Heart
Format: Paperback 320 pages
Date of Publication: 4/24/2007
Publisher: Broadway Books
ISBN-10: 076792522X

Rebecca's inspirational blog, Wonders of the World and
Rebecca's website

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