It is nearing the end of the school year (July 4th for French primary schools), and that can only mean one thing: a seemingly endless string of performances for which we are ill-prepared. Of course, I love every second of the half dozen 3-hour shows in which my children appear for a total of 2 minutes and 40 seconds, which I see from behind a wall of other people's view screens.
Spectacle Debacle Part I: Our first spring, the hip-hop teacher regularly fails to notify us about the end of year show until, well, the end of the year. I am too late for tickets and end up having to sneak in to the dress rehearsal. I'm so grateful for the free, outdoor performances that are unexpectedly tacked on to the schedule at the last minute.
The girls' Tahitian dance end-of-year show is uncharacteristically extremely well organized. They inform us of the June 23 date months ahead of time, with multiple written reminders and links to buy tickets. Unfortunately, they forget to confirm the rental of the theater with the theater itself, and we are informed at the last moment that the show has been canceled. Here is a Tahitian dance practice video (but remember, this is from two years ago, so Pippa looks particularly young). I can hardly stand the cutie-patootie level of the hip-shaking. You will notice that Gigi spends the entire video gabbing with her neighbor. Classic.
You might assume this lackadaisical approach to scheduling is because it's hip-hop or Tahitian dancing, two cultures not exactly known for their Swiss-like precision. But the girls also rehearse all year in French after-school theater classes for a show whose date is announced only at the beginning of June, when we all believed the show was supposed to be in early June. As we have scheduled a vacation around the supposed Tahitian show date, we end up being out of town during the French show for which the girls have practiced all year; Pippa cries.
Spectacle Debacle Part II: Despite all vows to make the end-of-year here better the second time around, Gigi realizes she needs to provide costumes for herself and two friends for their performance the next day, for which they've rehearsed for three months. You would be amazed at how difficult/impossible it is to find plain white T-shirts for kids in Paris, once it is "officially" tank top season. We are told "all the children who need them for end-of-year costumes have bought them out." Yes. Those would be the families who did not wait till the last second. Thanks for rubbing that in.
At the school performance, Anthony gets an extra special show when the mother sitting right in front of him holds up her smartphone in camera mode to take pictures, but accidentally clicks on an album of naked photos of her crotch. After the unwanted groinal exposure (in a Catholic school no less), he goes on to enjoy Gigi and her classmates in a West Side Story medley, my particular favorite being "I Want to Live in America" sung in real French accents with fake Puerto Rican accents.
And, if you've ever had the thought while watching the Jets fight the Sharks that a bunch of theater boys dancing and singing is not the most terrifying of gang conflicts, you should see the entire thing staged by a bunch of fifth graders, including four in glasses, one on crutches, and one in a wheelchair.
We feel like we've learned our lesson from Spectacle Debacle (why doesn't that rhyme?) Parts I and II in years past. However...
Spectacle Debacle Part III: This year, we buy tickets to see Gigi's show at the Théâtre du Châtelet well in advance. A week before the show opens, we are told that they have exchanged the children's groups in the cast, so that Cast A (performing half of the shows) will now be Cast B (performing the other half) and vice versa. We must exchange our tickets at the last minute.
On Saturday, Gigi has her last performance of The King & I. She is devastated it's over; Gigi cries. Pippa is in five shows, spanning three hours, at her school. Even I am in a show here, as part of a parent's choir. Besides singing, I am also supposed to be helping with face painting, but I manage to catch the most important four of Pippa's five performances. In one of them, the choir director accidentally skips over the song in which Pippa has her solo. Pippa cries.
Despite any lessons learns in rounds I and II and III, we can rest assured that there is bound to be conflict, running, sweating, and panicking next year for Spectacle Debacle IV. And that at least one of our daughters will cry.
THE CHEESE: La Feuille du Limousin
La Feuille du Limousin, "The Leaf from Limousin", is a reference to the symbol of the Limousin region, a land known for chestnut trees. Both the cheese and the French chestnut leaf upon which it is modeled are teardrop-shaped.
Whether it's a leaf or a teardrop, it's a cute shape, a pleasant reference, a poetic name, and a delicious cheese. And with the mold, it is as least a little green. When aged, as with this example, it's a firm goat's cheese that crumbles yet is creamy in the mouth. It has a tang to it but is only medium-strength in the power of the goat flavor.
It's a relatively recent cheese, made only since the 1990s, with raw goat's milk in a region not historically known for goats. This lactic cheese evolved through trial and error, until the cheesemakers of the area came upon a winning formula and decided, very methodically and purposefully, to give it both a form and name that would be memorably linked to the area. The cheese can be sold and eaten very young, demi-sec (half-dry), and more fully aged. It's currently made by a dozen farmhouse producers who, as of 2003, had 850 goats among them, providing 460,000 liters of milk, ending up with 98,000 cheeses.
Once the several day manufacture process is complete, the cheese is aged from eight to twenty days (not 1-3 weeks, mind you, but precisely 8-20).
Technically, the connection is a leaf. As in: every year, I tell myself I will turn over a new leaf and be really calm, really organized, and really prepared for the end-of-year show season, only to realize that much of it is beyond my control, and that I am neither calm, organized, nor prepared.
Practically, however, the connection is teardrop-shaped. As in: every year, one (or both) of our children end up in tears, and Anthony and I practically do, too, as we try to run around and make it through three weeks of grueling and unpredictable performance scheduling, including a half dozen shows in three locations for three different family members on one single day.