A week has passed since the Paris terroristic rampage of Friday, Nov. 13, which killed 129, including two Americans. I am still numb, as to the scope of that attack, the innocent lives lost and how it will change our world, similar to the global impact of Sept. 11, 2001.
The continual news broadcasts from Paris since those deadly events makes me nostalgic for all of the reasons she studied French so many years ago, starting in grade school. The French architecture, the sidewalk cafes, the unique sense of fashion, the cuisine and the accents of those interviewed who witnessed or survived the carnage, all inspire me to rekindle my language skills and once again become fluent.
Anyone who attended Delaware City Schools during the 1970s might remember Ms. Vickers, the stately French instructor who visited Carlisle and presumably the city’s other elementary schools. Ms. Vickers had an intimidating stature, a unique monochromatic style of dress and dark-rimmed large glasses, and her jet-black hair was forever pulled into a tight chignon bun that looked painful. Her appearance was unique to Delaware, and seemed almost theatrical in comparison to most central Ohioans.
Next was Ms. Gerhardt, who was quite opposite of Ms. Vickers, with her approachable style, petite size, large brown eyes and flowing hair. And finally at Delaware Hayes, Ms. Andrews and Ms. Coppins were the French teachers, both single and energetic with boundless enthusiasm for their shared subject of attempting to instill a glimpse of the culture and a love of “all things French” to rowdy high school students. They were the collective definition of the French phrase “joie de vivre!” which equates to “a love of life!”
I continued my French studies at The Ohio State University. Now, barely a comprehensible phrase of the language can now be uttered. What a waste of so many years of study.
During the past few decades, the French seemed to fall out of American graces. Their perceived snobbishness, lax work habits (in comparison to American standards), free medical care, their accented sensuality, daily wine drinking, and guaranteed extended holidays became the brunt of many comedians. Possibly we Americans also were envious of their cuisine and wines, and that no matter how decadent their food, it seems that the French have been immune to obesity.
Now both the United States and France have endured and will share the unified history of terror attacks that killed their innocent citizens and change how their populace conducts life. It is a sad commonality, but one that might reinvigorate a past cultural bond that had gone astray. Maybe Americans can again love all things French again.
And to anyone who remembers Ms. Vickers, Ms. Gerhardt, Ms. Andrews and Ms. Coppins, it is regretful that we lose contact with our high school teachers upon graduation.
Considering their impact upon young lives and those early memories of their influence upon our school experience, to possibly the universities we attended, and the careers we pursued, former teachers are not invited to high school reunions, to my knowledge.
OK, Delaware Hayes Class of 1977: as we approach a milestone reunion in two summers, how about finding a few of our former teachers to include on the guest list?
And maybe by that time, I could rekindle some of those lost French skills for a language that truly is music to the ears.
Mariann Main is a 1977 Delaware Hayes High School graduate, and journalism undergraduate of The Ohio State University. She has a master’s in community counseling and works as a counselor with troubled adolescents. She can be reached at [email protected]