Nous sommes très heureux de t’accueillir à Nantes.
(Dear Lexi, we’re very happy to meet you in Nantes.)
Late August. I popped open my Gmail to find a note from a woman named Nathalie, who introduced herself as my host mom and told me about the family I would soon join. Today, it’s my pleasure to introduce them to you.
Nathalie, my host mother.
You are truly a Renaissance woman, if there ever was one. And I rarely go a day without wondering how you do it all. It’s the sheer amount of things you do but also the effortlessness with which you do it that renders me in a constant state of awe known as “WHOA DUDE.” You have made me question the American notions of feminism, proving singlehandedly that a woman who maintains the household is far from secondary. In our maison, it’s apparent that you are far, far from inferior. You stand at the helm of the home and the family but have mastered the art of being une femme d’affaires (business women) too. Working alongside my host dad and chef of the restaurant, you manage a full-time business operation with a dual presence of skill and grace. You carry yourself with sureness, easily commanding the attention of a room should you choose to do so.
Though I find myself at a loss to truly describe it in speech or on paper, your marriage is one of the most successful I’ve ever seen. Is this janky to note? Maybe, but it’s important. The relationship between my host dad and you both at home and at work is one of impressive equality, even while the roles may differ.
You are an impeccable chef, even if it’s my host dad who is the chef of the family. I marvel at how you maintain such a level of fitness, though it seems that life is your main form of exercise. You’ve raised five children and have hosted 10 exchange students alongside my host dad. Even while I see implicitly the pride you take in your children, you’ve made it seem like raising a big family is an easy feat. I know it couldn’t have been. At home, you cook, do the laundry, sew, organize, email, faire le ménage (clean the house), and keep things running in order without second thought. And you appear impeccably dressed and beautifully put-together through it all. Much like my own mother, you are a superwoman of sorts.
Pascal, my host dad.
You are the Master Chef, quite literally. After competing on the TV show “Master Chef” last year, you finally decided to quit your old job and pursue your lifelong dream to be a chef. You opened a restaurant bearing the family name in downtown Nantes. You cook with immense respect for the French tradition, while adding your own creative flair to give each dish its personality. As an entrepreneur, you are like my own dad. You work at the restaurant every day of the week when it’s open and for every meal at that. I see you only in the mornings; while I wish I saw you more sometimes, I have so much admiration for how you appreciate your craft.
When you are home, we almost always talk about food. With the communication barrier stronger here than with my host mom, food is our natural common ground. I tell you what I know about Napa Valley, and you explain how you make the best dang roasted potatoes on the planet. (Hint: it’s all in the butter). You explain Daylight Savings in French to me the best you can and cut me some slack when I totally mess up with kissing at mass on Sunday. On your day off, you tend to the garden in the rain, even though it soaks you to the bone. After all, is it not that same rain that gives the plants life?
I’ve seen plenty of instances of love, but you cherish your wife in a way unlike any I’ve seen. You treat her with a tenderness that makes me impossibly weak in the knees. It is not in grand, sweeping declarations of petty love but rather, the little things you do. The way you lightly brush your lips in a kiss across her forehead at breakfast. And the way you sweetly reach for her hand on the walk to church. The way you’ll cook for her like she’s the most important restaurant critic there ever was. The way you simply look at her with inexplicable appreciation. As if her presence is better than all the presents you could ever receive.
She, your family, and your food are everything to you. Forgive me, if you’ve caught me staring at such unconditional love.
Cyriaque, my host brother.
(Almost) 15. Spunky as all heck. Deserving of his own post before this post turns into a novel.
Melissa, my sort-of host sister
Amazingly capable of firing back sass at host brother. Hot dang, there’s a lot to say on this one. Also deserving of her own post.
So to my deuxième famille, thanks for having me. Like any family, we are not perfect.
But we do a pretty darn good job of making it work. Without second thought.