Ooh, la la!

17 May

As a mother of young kids, I sometimes have occasion to find interesting things in my pockets or my purse. Like the time I reached for my gloves in my coat pocket only to find a pair of Boo’s underwear. After about two seconds of staring blankly, I realized that we’d removed them at gymnastics one day because they showed so much beneath her leotard.

The saving grace: they weren’t dirty…you know what I mean.

And then, of course, there are the times too many to count when I find used Kleenex, candy wrappers, and smashed up – and therefore rejected by anyone under the age of 10 – granola bars.

I’ve eaten a lot of smashed up granola bars in the past few years.

Today I found half a roll in my purse. And, rather than being cross, I had to smile. As I stood there in the parking lot of a large local store, I was transported in time to the lobby of an enormous French department store, 25 years ago.

The wonderful Parisian skyline – taken by me about 24 years after this story took place!

My mom and I spent spring break of my junior year of high school in Paris. As we lived in Germany at the time, and as my dad flew for Pan American Airlines, this wasn’t the big deal that you might have initially thought. While the family-owned hotel we stayed in was not free, the air tickets at least were, so this helped make such trips possible. We also economized on food…which was why having a roll in my purse triggered such a memory.

Mom and I decided to investigate Printemps – a famous French department store which handily happened to be quite near to the Paris Opera house – of Phantom of the Opera fame – which we wanted to see. After leaving the opera house (a disappointing visit, as there were no tours available at the time) we crossed the street to Printemps and joined the crowds entering the regulated doorways.

It was 1987, and Europe was terrorist-sensitive. So, after pushing through the revolving doors, customers were then subject to bag searches.

At lunch that day my mother and I hadn’t been able to eat our rolls…and, being cost-conscious (and the French baguettes being so delicious), we had wrapped them in a napkin and taken them with us. In my purse.

It was at that moment that a French cliché became a family story. And a French gendarme had a good laugh.

“Ooh, la la!” said the tickled policeman. “Le pain!”

I blushed. Mumbled something like, “Yeah, I mean ‘oui’.” And he waved us on, still chuckling, still amused by our American ways.

Up until that time, I don’t think I ever really believed that French people truly said, “Ooh, la la!” I thought it was just a movie thing. Just a myth, just a stereotype.

“Ooh, la la! Le pain!”

As Mom and I walked away we couldn’t help but laugh.

I was still embarrassed, though. But hey, it was delicious “pain” – what can I say?

The goose pate, though…that’s a story for another day…


16 Responses to “Ooh, la la!”

  1. treadlemusic May 17, 2012 at 7:11 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing that. It is memories like that we carry with us as little treasures to be taken out and ‘hugged’ and carefully put back for another day! Hugs…….

  2. ceciliag May 17, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    That was a great moment! My mother in law does that too. Is it an american thing? How embarrassed you must have been and thrilled to have had a chuckle with the security guard!! c

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 17, 2012 at 8:34 am #

      Perhaps it is an American thing, I don’t know – or Scottish…to not waste! Yes, it was embarrassing…but yet not humiliating…and the guard clearly did not mind! I think I was afraid that he’d think I’d stolen it for a minute there…but then he laughed and it was ok!

  3. Minnesota Prairie Roots May 17, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    My mom used to tuck wrapped crackers into her purse on the rare occasion when she and dad dined out at a fancy supper club. We kids were so delighted to get those crackers, which were so tasty and savory. I thought about slipping a bag of oyster crackers into my purse last evening when my husband and I dined out for our anniversary. But then I was just so hungry that I ate them. I did, however, bring home my left-over potato chips for the teen. And, no, I did NOT stuff them into my purse.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 17, 2012 at 9:29 am #

      I remember those little packets of crackers! I loved those, too, the rare times we’d eat out. Happy anniversary to you!!

  4. Just A Smidgen May 17, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    At a hotel in Hawaii (an all-inclusive) we pick up a few extra buns for the kids’ mid-morning snack:) Le pain!

  5. Malou May 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    My pocket these days have many of those little things because of my little girl – hair clips, tissue paper, half-eaten candies wrapped in tissue paper, crackers, etc. 😉

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

      Yes! You understand! I forgot to mention hairclips…definitely! We’ll miss all that someday, won’t we?!

  6. cravesadventure May 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Beautiful post and what a great experience to have with your mom! Happy Thursday:)

  7. whatimeant2say May 17, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    What a wonderful, fun memory!

  8. Marti Smith May 18, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    I remember trying to bring baklava out of Greece. The customs agents in Athens told me “You can’t have this!” but it was only because they wanted to keep it for themselves. They assured me that their country’s baklava is the greatest and well worth choosing to take home. Still, one does not expect guards, customs agents and people like that to joke about such things! (I love that your guy said ‘oh la la!’)

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