Reflections on art, fitness, family, politics and literature that hit me like bricks as I chauffeur my children from place to place...
A pink taxi
September 18, 2010
The title of this entry has to be in French. It means School Supplies. It has to be French because it covers many more items than any other school system. Unless I don't know what the Japanese require, and I could be sure that their list is as intricate as the French one. The department stores, supermarkets and stationary stores wait till early August before they assail you with the reminder of the ending summer holidays, the ones you dream to be indefinite and endless, as a child (not as a mom). The dreaded word "Rentree" is spelled in large letters on the store windows or even worse can be found in 1950s style cursive in advertisements. The 1950s style cursive is still required 60 years later and it explains why the list of school supplies is so complex. French students use pencils for their draft. They use ball point rarely (even though BIC is a French brand). Perhaps that is why BIC also does disposable lighters (for Gauloises consumption). A French educated third grader should know how to use an ink fountain pen: Waterman, Pelican are the most famous but there is also Reynolds. (The nostalgic adults end up buying Mont Blanc). That fountain pen has its paraphernalia: the ink capsules (lucky we don't carry bottles) and its eraser which is a magic white pen that can delete a mistake in ink. The correction must then be written in a certain blue correction pen. Most of us have had inky fingers, inky clothes, inky pencil cases. Indeed we are required to carry our pen and corrector, pencil, eraser, ruler, sharpener, three colored pens in a pencil case. Each colored pen is for a purpose: corrections, under lining, answers etc. Our handwriting must be showcased and conserved in note books, small format in primary school and large format in secondary. The pages are quadrilated in Seyes, which are lines that are drawn for handwriting. The t must end at the second line up, the j must go down to second line down. The l will go up to the third line and the f will go down to the third line. Capital letters will go up four lines. There is a single millimeter between each line so the handwriting is a work of precision. These pages also come with perforated holes for folders. French teachers love folders and they make us add our lessons to folders. If we hand them exams or compositions, they require pages to be doubled which means we hand in four pages that open up like a book. As hand writers, we learn to become picky about the paper we buy because we want our fountain pens to glide on the surface. We often buy Clairefontaine or Canson. We can tell the grain of the paper at the early age of ten. French brains are trained to be carthesian so we have all the mathematical tools, the rulers, the compass, the "equerre"(T square) and the "rapporteurs" (protracters). We measure angles and draw circles from the early third grade. Often we are required to perform these geometrical elaboration on milimetered paper. We are not all fortunate enough to go to France to buy these items. My family wasn't for a long time. Perhaps this has made me "self conscious" and ever since I have set foot in France I have always amassed the school supplies, like a squirrel preparing for winter. My parents have given us free reign in that department telling us nothing was too much for school or books. We treat my kids to the same exuberant school supplies shopping. We hoard on notebooks, folders, pens etc. When I walk into a stationary, the smell of paper sends me on a rush. I either look for the special personalized item ie a decorated notebook or the ultra classic, simple Clairefontaine paper.
The pink taxi runs from 7 am to 7pm. It picks and drops off my 3 kids at school, ballet,judo, aikido, violin, climbing, riding, squash, basketball, skiing, skating, swim team, friends, grandparents and teachers. The car, not pink, but a black SUV, drives to Carrefour and Coop. To Club stretch for pilates and Aviation club for weekly workouts. It is driven by a woman who navigates on the radio, gets DJed by her 4 year old or sometimes quietly reflects. The thoughts are about politics, family, humor, literature, art or fitness. Sometimes they are excruciatingly longwinded, other times they are gossipy and hot.
I hope you will all enjoy!