Sunday, June 20, 2021

My Little Viking

June 9, 2021

It is early here in San Francisco, the sound of a bus drumming by, slightly shaking my laptop. Hans, my husband, is snoring away next to me. My 9 year-old grandson Marshall is still deep asleep under his Star Wars comforter. All his stuffed animals are neatly lined up at the foot of his bed. It takes him a while to arrange them just so, before he is ready to say good night. They all have names, Avoman is the most recent addition to this family, a little stuffed avocado with a chain, so you can hang it from a belt loop. And Boba.

Boba almost didn’t make it to Marshalls bed. My grandson had to put on his charm suit while we were walking down Pier 39, saying how 10 dollars would not break Oma’s bank account. When that didn’t work, he pushed his superpower charm button and skipped over to Opa, to try his luck there. And of course, it immediately worked. After all, isn’t it the sole job of grandparents to spoil their grandchildren?

Last night, after we read a story, we both lie on his bed, looking at each other while he puts his little index finger on the tip of my nose and says ‘beep’. He asks me why there are black lines in the crease of my eyelids. I tell him about badly applied eye shadow. He has now developed an all-consuming interest in make-up, something foreign to him, since his mother doesn’t wear make-up. So I get my make-up kit, which is now transformed into a treasure pouch. Everything has to be tested and applied, including lipstick. He looks like a doll. Applying it was fun, but taking it off turns out to be a struggle. He doesn’t like the feel of cotton balls on his skin. Read more...

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

France, the US and Germany: Old Friends, New Friends

This is a timely post, as President Biden is in Europe, repairing our ties with our major allies. 

Several of the books I read recently are about history and war (the two sometimes seem to be almost synonymous). They include Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, by Sarah Vowell, The Kaiser’s Web, by Steve Berry, and The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn.
The first of these books involves France’s role in America’s war of independence. The second book is about Germany in World War Two and thereafter. The third one is about France and Germany during World Wars One and Two. 
I grew up in France, and I remain an inveterate Francophile. France has played a huge role in the history of the Western world during the past two and a half centuries. However, Anglo-Saxon culture - beginning with its language - still dominates the world, and Germany is viewed as the primary European country, certainly in economic terms. For France, there also remains the stain of its prompt defeat by Germany at the outset of World War Two. There are those who enjoy reminding us of this, poking fun at the supposedly cowardly French. An example is Bill Bryson, who wrote in his otherwise delightful travel book, “Let’s face it, the French Army couldn’t beat a girls hockey team.” And of course, we are often reminded how indebted France is to the US for liberating it from the Nazis in 1944-45.  Read more...