I had the pleasure to live with the most wonderful host family; a couple in their eighties who called each other “mon/ma chéri(e)” (my dearie) and called me “mon mignon” (my cutie) or “ma petite” (my little one). Everyone joked that the Thibaults and I were the perfect match because I was the first student they’ve had who hasn’t been taller than them.
The best parts about living with the Thibaults were the simple things. I would offer to help my host mother, Simone, with dinner even though she always politely declined-meaning she chuckled, probably remembering me telling her that I possess absolutely zero cooking skills. Sometimes though, if I didn’t have too much to do, I would stay in the kitchen with her and talk for a while. She would ask me about food in the United States and about what kinds of meals we would eat at home and then I would ask her about the dish she was making. It was a great way to learn food vocabulary as she would pull out ingredients and then teach me the word for it.
My host father Jaques on the other hand preferred to playfully tease me than discuss cooking. Every afternoon if I came home early enough from school I would find my host parents playing poker with their downstairs neighbors and often times they would invite me to have tea and cookies with them. One afternoon as I helped Simone clear the dishes off the table so that they could resume their game of cards, Jaques couldn’t find the pen he used to keep score. I helped him look around but we couldn’t find it. I asked if it was his favorite pen and he said, well it just writes nicely. Then he looks up at me with a straight face and says, “You hid it from me!” I paused for a moment, then realized he was joking and went along with it, so I told him that I had hid it and would only give it back if he won the game of cards. Everyone laughed and they resumed their game. After that, anytime Jaques couldn’t find something, whether it be his glasses or the newspaper, he proclaimed: “cay-zee is hiding it!”.
One of my favorite memories was on the last dinner I had with Simone and Jaques. The two of them would playfully bicker once in a while and that night was no different. Jaques was giving Simone a hard time because she left the drapes open in the dining area of their apartment and he said, “Hey, close the drapes or the neighbors can see us!” Simone said, “Oh well, I don’t care!” And then she proceeded to stick her tongue out the window in the direction of the neighbors. This is funny in it of itself, but it’s even funnier when you remember that they are both in their 80’s.
Living with the Thibaults really contributed to my French, but more than that, living with a French family gave me a unique access and perspective into the lives and values of the French. I couldn’t have asked for a better family to have spent my study abroad experience with, and I am very thankful to have met them.