Nos Arrive

Outside the temperature was minus thirty Fahrenheit, air speed held steady around 450
mph, and the local time at our destination was 8:02 AM. Air France flight 63, service
from JFK to Aerogare Charles De Gaulle was currently somewhere southeast of Gothab,
Greenland. I stretched my legs, yawned, and wound my wristwatch nine hours ahead. We
were halfway there.

Both asleep, Lukas lay spread out across Christiane’s lap, his cute little eight month
old belly rising and falling in a hypnotic rhythm. He’d been a good boy on the flight so
far. Sophie was behaving admirably too. Sitting next to me, she was still wide awake,
overtired, with her blue-green eyes lost in a Tom and Jerry in flight entertainment trance.
Safely zipped up in his pet container on the floor, Jersey the cat wasn’t making a sound.
So far so good, I closed my eyes and pondered our new life in Paris.

My wife is German and our plan at first had been a Killingworth, Connecticut to
Munich, Germany relocation. Sophie and I spoke pretty good Deutsch. But a few months
before the big move the company’s plans suddenly changed. No more Munich, if we still
wanted to go to Europe, our options were narrowed down to either Brussels or Paris.
France? Belgium? A For Sale sign already swayed out front of the house, everyone
knew of our bold adventure; excited guests were anxiously waiting to plan their visits.

Even if we had wanted to, there was no turning back. Instead we plotted a new course,
ordered language CD’s, picked up travel guidebooks, and enrolled Sophie in lessons.
Christiane had taken French in high school. The rest of us were going to be starting from

A move to Brussels seemed enticing at first—the housing was more affordable—but
we quickly zeroed in on Paris. How could we not? So what if I’d never been there before
in my life. It was Paris!

During the waiting months I worried from time to time about integrating into French
culture and I wondered how many stay at home dads there were over there. But the kids
kept me too busy to agonize much. It was a good thing. There was new snow to play in
and new Franklin books to read. We also still had those pesky middle of the night —
who’s turn was it now?—baby bottle feedings and the occasional poop streaked leg
kicking diaper changes to deal with. There just wasn’t enough time to get worked up
about the move.

It was going to be okay. I wasn’t a greenhorn after all. At the dinner table at Oma und
Opa’s house, I’d proudly gone from clueless mute to an almost fully functional German
speaker in just a few years. Rumor had it that once you learned one language the next one
would be easier. French would open the door. I would fit in okay. All that I needed to do
was get my skills up to speed as fast as I could.

Aérer la vitesse, température extérieure, l'heure locale à la destination...

It was true that I hadn’t dreamed my whole life of becoming a stay at home dad. We
met at work and Chrisitiane had the better career. It wasn’t even close. When Sophie
came along, it just made sense for me to stay at home. And I took my job seriously.

Keeping the kids safe, happy, and reasonably well behaved was tough work-especially
with a wife whose job requires a lot of travel.
The Paris move was coming at a good time. I wanted to be a good stay at home
father—one of the all time greats--but I had to admit that recently the local parks and
playgrounds were starting to become a drag. Maybe it had a lot to do with the long, dark
winter. It can be tough staying at home when you can’t get outside. Whatever it was, my
second guessing and feelings of doubt and boredom were beginning to reach the surface.
A big exciting change was just the thing.

I pictured myself behind the stroller, pushing the kids through the City of Light.
Armed with books and crayons we would find quiet cafés to draw and read. There were
famous museums, parks, and cathedrals to visit. We’d never run out of new things to
explore. It was going to be like a vacation.

Ouch! Something hit me hard in the ear and I awoke from my middle of the night
30,000 feet up daydream with a start to find a four year old frowning at me from close up.

“Papa, you fell asleep again!”

“Sophie, I wasn’t really asleep. But we need to sleep. It’s midnight. Look,” I motioned
towards the other passengers and whispered. “Everyone is sleeping. We need to get some
rest too.”

A passing flight attendant stopped short, knelt down at our side, and asked us if we
would like a boisson or something else. There was glitter around her eyes and she had
olive skin. There were other differences too, but I couldn’t pin them all down. She had
spoken French to me. She’d mistaken me for a Frenchman.
Boisson. That was a drink. I shook my head and smiled, “Non merci.”

The flight attendant floated away. Sophie eventually drifted of to sleep then I closed
my eyes too and smiled at the snapshot in my mind.

Southern New Jersey Man Converses in French with a Frenchwoman for the very
First Time!

We were on our way.