On the Upbeat, Positively Carolan

Americans in France

I sighed and dropped onto the lumpy couch in the small main room of our apartment at 52 rue de Coulmier in Orleans, France. The wash was out of the way at last — the chore consisting of heating a pot of water on the gas hotplate in our oh-so-rudimentary kitchen, then hauling it through the cramped quarters, mixing it with cold from the single silver faucet in the huge porcelain basin in the bedroom and hand-scrubbing a few of our baby’s diapers at a time. And finally hanging the diapers outside to whip dry in the spring wind.

Our baby lay asleep in the quaint French crib we discovered in a small shop stuffed with temping enfant accoutrements. How the French catered to children! As an American GI family in 1955, our cute little Dena was practically our passport wherever we went, with smiles, friendliness and murmurs, “Joli petit, joli petit, mai oui.”

Suddenly the staccato sound of high heels in the marble entryway. The mademoiselle across the hall in animated conversation. I listened hard but couldn’t make out a word. Besides, it was time to feed Dena, not to mention giving the tiny apartment a lick and a promise, stoking the wood heating stove every 20 minutes, starting dinner and starting a letter to family in Portland.

Promptly at 5:30 John walked in from his Army Signal Corps clerk-typist position at Caserne Coligny, the US Army’s Communications Zone for all its European forces. He had security clearance for his job, but I really didn’t know what he did and didn’t think about it all that much.

“Hi, honey,” I turned my face up for his customary coming-home peck. “How’d it go today?”

He tore off his tie as he brushed my mouth with his. “I’m bushed.” He moved to the antique armoire, hung up his uniform. “This office stuff is worse than work!” A pause at the crib. “Daddy’s li’l angel havin’ a better day of it, is she?” A quick tickle in her midsection and Dena grinned and blinked those big brown eyes.

I couldn’t wait, singing out, “Honey, guess what? We have a treat tonight! This kid figured out how to do a beef roast in the pressure cooker!”

In loafers and fatigues John scuffed across the pock-marked quarry tile floor. “Well all right! I always knew that good old American ingenuity could overcome a little thing like no oven.”

to be continued




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