French Class

The Louvre

I started French class again last night, because as my friend Herbie said, with four days to go to the wedding why not pick up an extracurricular? I’m in section 204, which feels worlds away from where I started almost two years ago in 103; being surrounded exclusively by the language on a daily basis for eight weeks this spring didn’t hurt, either. My comprehension in hearing it and confidence in speaking are leaps and bounds above where I expected them to be, and I’m really proud of myself. Two years ago I decided I wanted to become fluent in French, and I’m on my way there.

Last night as we were waiting for Rachel, our teacher, to arrive, an older gentleman in his late 60s, new to the class, and I struck up conversation. “Je m’appelle John,” he said. Oh, I thought, That’s nice. He has the same name as my dad. “Je suis architecte.” Well that’s a coincidence, he even has the same occupation as my dad.

I told John as much, more preoccupied with the fact that I was rattling off in French without having to stop and think of the words than anything else.

“Vous avez le même prénom et profession de mon père,” I said.

“What was your father’s last name?” John asked.

I told him, and his face froze. He repeated it, searching, I thought, his recollection for any sort of chance encounters with a fellow Philadelphia architect over the course of their careers. Philadelphia is an extremely small world, one that shrinks even smaller when you add in a specific niche profession. It’s likely their paths had crossed.

“John Godfrey?” he repeated again, this time with a rise of disbelief in his voice.

It turns out, this new student in my French class, this sweet white-haired architect named John not only knew my father, but had been very good friends with my father in the 70s.

Suddenly all my French vocabulary failed me.

He asked about my brother Eric, who was just a kid back then, he asked about my brother’s wonderfully kind mother Eileen –a woman so gentle and generous it defies logic, so kind that this relative stranger in my French class had to tell me how he remembered her as being incredibly nice, and this was 40 years ago. French Class John knew my father. He knew my father’s sculpture at the firehouse on Market Street, they knew all the same old architects, they lived on the same tiny street in Queen Village. He knew my dad’s old Saab, and he told me how it had taken oil and gas in the same tank to run.

“We were like this,” he said, making the universal symbol for close, twisting his first two fingers together.

Suddenly all my English vocabulary failed me, as well.

I called my brother immediately after class on the walk home, and his reaction was just like French Class John’s had been. My brother told me how one night, when he was eight, his parents and John and his wife had gone out to dinner, leaving Eric alone at French Class John’s apartment near Rittenhouse Square. But it was okay, he said, because they had a small color television, and he was glued to it all night.

My daddy. He never really leaves me.

22 thoughts on “French Class

  1. Aww what a sweet story! You must be missing your dad so much right now so how utterly lovely to have this perfect reminder of him.
    I can’t believe you’re getting married on saturday! (and are still finding time to blog!)

  2. What a touching story! Life is full of surprises. And- it´s nice that your father had a Saab, a Swedish car ;-)

  3. I really love these coincidences even though they are much more than that!

    It’s crazy to think Saab’s are no longer being produced at a steady rate (I rarely see them); although, their track record of breaking down probably propelled that short demise. My neighbors during childhood owned a Saab and continually had problems with it.

    An early congratulations to your wedding! Can’t wait to hear (and maybe see) about it.

  4. Cried like a baby. John, he was always mentioned in Daddy’s stories. Between you meeting John in French class and the lamp turning itself on twice last night, I’m a little freaked out, but happy to know that Daddy will be attending. Not once….twice!!!

  5. Stories like this make me love life and the infinite ever after so much more. I love that our loved ones never leave us. Thank you for sharing this. It’s given me back the hope that had been sucked out of me today :)
    Congratulations on your up and coming wedding! I just know your dad will be there. And so proud.

  6. This is a wonderful story and it’s always lovely to hear about how our parents are remembered by someone else – thanks for sharing something so close to you Erin

  7. Le monde est très petit ! C’est incroyable trouver un vieux copain de ton père dans le cours de français !
    J’aime beaucoup la sculpture de ton père, tu as la chance de que soit dans un lieux public, ça doit être très émouvant le voir de temps en temps en milieux de passants.
    Hier soir, j’ai regardé tes photos de l’album que t’avais réalisé (365 days). J’ai beaucoup aimée parce que depuis que j’ai suit ton blog que je me toujours demandé a quoi ressemblé ton “vraie” entourage, ta ville, ta rue…Je suis contente de savoir un peu plus sur toi!
    Jeudi Erin ! Dans deux jours tu est mariée pour la vie!! Je te souhaite the best :) xoxo

  8. First, I smiled reading this. Then my jaw just dropped. And now there’s a tear or two (probably even more) in my eyes. Such a wonderful thing to happen anytime, but especially now, right before your big happy day! Amazing! Good luck to you!

  9. Erin! What a small world. You know he really is with you always and it’s so heart warming and touching.

    So one of my secret goals was to do a family French class because I wanted to learn it with Nora.. but they canceled it :(

  10. this is so very sweet. it brings tears to my eyes. but also, i’m always sensitive on this day. but this, this is really special and i think he is there for you, and sticking around to be even more present for your upcoming wedding. hugs xo

  11. I love the synchronicity. Though I’m a wizened old ice-heart who likes to think that when we die, that’s it- we *are* energy and electricity after all, and who’s to say it can’t still be directed and controlled in little ways to remind our loved ones that we’re still floating around, little atoms of us…

    Lovely, lovely, lovely.

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