Jun 29, 2015

Spectacle Debacle, Part IV: Bonne Fête Papa


In previous years, the end of the year debacle has always involved us running, literally, from the kermesse (school carnival) and theater shows over to the gym for the gymnastics gala. So imagine my surprise when they tell me that this year, the kermesse and gala are on two separate weekends. I envision a stress-free, calm, debacle-free end-of-June, end-of-school performance schedule. Ha!

Weekend 1: We find out Pippa is in two shows at school on Saturday morning, June 20, before the gymnastics gala -- musical comedy and theater. All goes well, and we feel remarkably pleased with ourselves as we head back for a civilized lunch before we go to the gymnastics gala. It's a first! While we are eating, Gigi calmly announces that she needs a black tank top and black gym shorts, which she doesn't have, for her costume. For the gym gala. Which we are going to in 20 minutes. And so it begins.

Pippa is supposed to do a gymnastics demonstration on the beam, including two very hard, new tricks, one of which she only gets 50% of the time, and the other 50%, she occasionally hurts herself. So if you're wondering about the quality of the video when I film her,  it's because I am so nervous for her, I am literally shaking. She almost makes her first trick -- a back walkover-handspring combo -- and opts at the last second for the easier and safer dismount (cartwheel-back tuck instead of roundoff-back tuck). Overall, she is very proud of her performance, and I spend much of the show in tears (mostly joy, with a few sympathy tears for the inevitable gymnastics disasters).

This year the theme of the gymnastics gala is the modern Olympics. It starts 50 minutes late and runs for a good 4 hours (and yes, I mean that literally).

Pippa's gymnastics number is Belgium-themed (Anvers, 1920) which we fear will involve waffles and fries, but it turns out to be much classier than that, set to music by Jacques Brel (who's neither alive nor well).

[For those of you that are actually interested in watching the videos, the three red girls practically look like identical triplets when in costume. So Pippa is the 2nd (middle) "red" girl on both the front and back tumbling passes. And Youtube has blocked it in certain countries, because of copyright issues with the music, and there's just nothing I can do about that. Sorry.]

Gigi's is the US (Los Angeles, 1932), done to the Charleston (handy, because Pippa did a Charleston number last year, so we still have the costume).

My friends and I are wondering how bummed the coach is who drew the 1936 Berlin Olympics slot. All the girls do to "be" German is wear the colors of the German flag -- the modern German flag, that is: red, yellow, and black. The music is very neutral. There's not a swastika in sight. The girls do not perform a swastika-shaped kickline. Can you imagine a 1936 build-up-to-WWII, Hitler-taking-power gymnastics routine, done by 10-13 year old girls, in France? (Only if you've seen "Springtime for Hitler" in the Producers.) The mind almost boggles.

Both Gigi and Anthony give up and leave after Pippa and Gigi have performed, but I stick it out till the bitter end so that Pippa can par-tay with her teammates.

The following day, June 21, is Father's Day. And Fête de la Musique. And the Summer Solstice. And a few more rehearsals and performances barely worth mentioning (and some, not even worth going to).

I make Father's Day lunch reservations at noon, and manage to get 2pm tickets -- again! -- to climb back up the Tour St. Jacques, but with the family this time. I figure it's a view they should all see. You can tell in the photo below just how thrilling the girls find this.


I get an e-mail around 10am that the restaurant won't be opening until 12:30pm, so we have to ask for speedy service. But this is France, after all, and the service is not speedy; we are absolutely wolfing our food down at the end to get to the tower by 2pm, only to find out that though I have confirmation that the payment went through, they have no reservation for our tickets. After no amount of complaining has any effect (this is France, after all), Gigi and I race back to the apartment to get her dance clothes, then race back to the tower for a 3pm visit where they're squeezing us in. Gigi finishes the tower visit and runs to rehearsal. The rest of us wander around somewhat enjoying Fête de la Musique, very much enjoying ripe peaches, and kind of wanting to go home and rest.


Weekend 2: The next Saturday, June 27, is kermesse, the end-of-school carnival, where Pippa performs in two more shows, and I'm supposed to perform in one I haven't practiced for as well as work the face-painting booth. This is immediately followed by one end-of-year party, followed by another going-away party. This is followed by me and Anthony cheering when we realize we are now, officially, done with the annual rota of elementary school end-of-year recitals and shows.

On Sunday, June 28, we have Gigi's dance show. We remembered to purchase the fairly expensive tickets (17€ each). We have re-ordered her costume shirt, after she lost the first one, Bermuda-Triangle-style, inside the apartment. Her performance is in the very lovely and historic Cirque d'Hiver and goes off without a hitch. I love the choreography, and she shines in a starring role. The whole experience would be nearly debacle-free, if it weren't for Gigi mysteriously throwing up all over her bed and herself at 1am on the day of the show. You'd never know it from her performance (the show must go on!).


You can say that we bring this on ourselves by having kids in dance and gymnastics and theater. But the truth is, we just bring this on ourselves by having kids. If it weren't dance and gymnastics and theater, it would be judo, violin recitals, and horseback riding. My friend just sat through 2.5 hours of synchronized swimming. By 12-year old beginners.

Last year, I wrote that "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." I almost had it right. It's not the kids crying this year, it's me, but there certainly is conflict, running, sweating, and panicking! Now let's just see what Spectacle Debacle V brings. I may jinx myself for saying this, but I feel like next year, with both girls out of elementary school, there will be no kermesse, fewer spectacles, and, therefore, much less debacle.

THE CHEESE: Bonne Fête Papa

Bonne Fête Papa is, let's face it, very Camembert-like. That is to say, it's made in Normandy, from raw cows' milk, into a disc, and coated with a thick white mold. It's made by a farm that has fun with its cheese names, however.

Are there differences? Not much, but it does seem less stinky and oozy than a true Camembert. It's still stinky and oozy, mind you, just less so. There's a nice, buttery flavor, with a silky texture.

The name, Bonne Fête Papa, means both "Happy Holidays, Dad," and "Happy Father's Day", depending on the inflection of your voice or the context. It's a strange name for a cheese, but not, I suppose, if your father really likes Camembert-style, buttery, stinky, cows' milk cheeses.


This year, Father's Day falls right on Fête de la Musique day, which is also the Summer Solstice, and also on the same weekend as Gigi's final rehearsal for her dance show, the gymnastics gala (four hours, both girls), and two of Pippa's theatrical end-of-year productions. The reservations for our two Father's Day activities -- the brunch and the tower climb -- both get messed up, causing us to rush around, stress, get frustrated, and generally curse the end of June. Like every year. I think they should move things -- say, Father's Day, the Fête de la Musique, and maybe even the summer solstice -- to February, when we would actually welcome some festivities. But at the end of June?! Bonne Fête Papa, indeed.


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