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Quiet Years

Mom worked harder for us, sometimes having to stay out of town for a few days. She always made sure our tutor had something more to bring to us than just cooking and taxiing. Ceramics, sculpture, dance, chess, theatre, she wasn't short of ideas. This year that I was going to turn 7, someone somewhere tried to make up for all the snowless years we had had for a long time. Maybe a meter of snow had accumulated in the few hours preceding this morning: magical land of the unbelievable to my eyes, if you know anything about Southern France. This land I had known for all my life had changed costumes and played in a different act. I got to meet the new characters, hectically running around to see them all. Yet that day we had a plan. Jean got the barrow out of the garage and ran it down the slope, filling it with fresh, immaculate snow. That day, we were building an igloo. In the end, the snowman family and the igloo enjoyed our fresh winter for a few weeks, to the amazement of our friends. Still as fresh as this memory.

Several years went by, and a couple of other snowy days. As a general rule, my sisters and I liked our different tutors, especially Ivo, now an emblematic figure of our house. The Czech comedian stayed with us for ten years, bearing our unsupportable fights and moods. He brought with him laughter and a fascinating accent that inspired my love for a foreign language. As a matter of fact, we had been surrounded by many a foreigner: English, German, Russian, South African, American, Moroccan, and visitors from another pleiad of countries. Now Ivo enjoys the real quietness of the coast of Corsica, a paradisiacal island in the Mediterranean, and we sure miss his presence on the domain.

The rest of the time, life seemed to be endlessly repeating every week for quite a while: same town, same faces, same landscape, and same droughts. Even though our springs and falls were generously splattered with considerable amounts of water, causing floods just about everywhere every other year, our summers resembled a plain in the deep recess of Africa. Barely taller than the wild oats, I enjoyed watching our tabby cats, acting like some feline hunter, king of the dried valley, savage and proud. Yet they were not pretending; they did indeed bring to us so many trophies, helpless creatures caught by their instinctive claws. When the game was over and the sun set, we often had to drive to town in order to fill up our tanks with water from the fountain. Saving water was a priority, and we appreciated bathing here and there at our friend's houses. But the dryness of Provence was a luxury in itself for its richness in sensations, and the spectacle it presented.

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