“What the hell kind of animal is this guy supposed to be?”
After having him in my life annually since the beginning of time I probably should’ve asked myself the same question at some point. Like all religions I guess if they snag you early enough in life you tend to overlook some of the bigger questions. But being a brand new recruit this year, Charlotte’s un-washed brain was observing The Grinch more scrupulously than I ever had, and I simply wasn’t prepared to consider something as mind-bending as his zoological background. Nor was Dr. Seuss I’m guessing. Luckily the scene of the dog getting an antler tied to his head was cute enough to move the conversation elsewhere before I had to answer. Looking back on it I imagine a story like that must be one wild ride for a foreigner, and I had to pause the program often to answer questions like “Did they just sing he has garlic in his soul?”
Rudolph also blipped onto Charlotte’s radar for the first time, and one funny moment was during Burl Ives’ famous intro “You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen…” to which she replied out loud to the TV: “Umm no, I don’t”. The following night she returned the favor by sharing a hugely classic French holiday movie that everyone adores, and honestly I had to graciously excuse myself halfway through. It was odd, quirky, and full of cultural play-on-word type jokes that I couldn’t possibly grasp. On top of that it seems according to French humor in the 80’s, the more everyone screams over each other the funnier it is. The French in real life are much the opposite of this so maybe that’s what makes it funny for them; at any rate it wasn’t my tasse de thé (cup of tea). The love and understanding for another’s culture extends far in an international marriage, but for now we seem to have located one of our kryptonites. Next year we’ll surely give it another go.
What I can get behind however is how they do their Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées. We braved a frigid snowy evening to take a stroll down the converted boulevard, and the differences from America are telling. Where you’d usually see mulled apple cider you instead get booth after booth of vin chaud (hot wine) which is similarly heated in a pot and tickled with holiday spices. I saw more than one sign for foie gras on warm toast, which to me seems like a wonderful blend of gourmet snobbery and handheld everyday convenience. Speaking of the high level stuff, another vendor sold a jolly combo of caviar on a cracker with a shot of vodka. Smoked salmon on an open fire was available with crème fraîche and a salad. Of course you could get more regular stuff as well: cotton candy which they call barbe à papa (dad’s beard) or candy apples which are les pommes d’amour (apples of love). How great is the French language? They also serve an international favorite known as hot dogs, which they call les hot-dogs (hot dogs).
Specialty loose-leaf teas were a welcomed sight and I couldn’t help picking up 100 grams of macadamia-caramel once I got a whiff of it. While paying the girl she asked if we lived here and I said yes politely. Walking away from the booth, Charlotte giggled and informed me that what I thought had been a quiet reserved “Oui” to the girl’s question had come out of my mouth as a loud jubilant “Wwweeeee!!!” I guess my pride for being a Parisian is harder to hide than I thought.
Tucked between all the food and gift ideas was a large fairground-style sledding structure dusted with snow. I surprised Charlotte by agreeing without hesitation and a minute later we were climbing to the top. As a small crowd of shoppers gathered below to watch our wintry descent, I threw a quick glance above the trees: on our left the big Ferris wheel in place de la Concorde, on our right the long dead-straight line of twinkling lights towards the Arc de Triomphe. I popped a mental snapshot, and like I’ve done so many times before I silently said a quick thank you. I don’t know who or what I’m talking to when I do this, but certain moments just feel like they deserve some kind of recognition or appreciation. I tightened up my scarf, squinted into the snow, and gave us a nice strong shove down toward our fellow Whos in Whoville.