by Larry Schwirian
It was the beginning of summer in the mid 1980’s, and I was sitting in the living room with my mother, her visiting college friend from Paris, and her friend’s sixteen year-old daughter. I had just finished my freshman year of high school and was looking forward to the freedom of summer. My mother made it clear to me before her friend arrived that I was expected to stick around and entertain her friend’s daughter before I was allowed my freedom. What I hadn’t expected was that the daughter had to be the sexiest sixteen year- old on the planet, and…she spoke no English. As I sat there admiring her, I wondered how I was supposed to deal with this gift from heaven. I spoke no French. My mother suggested I take her down to the ice cream parlor just a couple of blocks away.
My mother gave me a ten dollar bill while her friend explained to her daughter what had been proposed. The daughter, whose name I still didn’t know, stood and walked over to me offering her hand. As we left the house, I grabbed the English/French dictionary, and when we went outside, she stopped, faced me, and, with her finger pointed to herself, said “Jane.” I don’t know why, but I was so flummoxed I pointed to myself, and said “me Tarzan.” She giggled, and we were off.
I was on cloud nine. Here I was with this vision of perfection, an older woman no less, about to show her off to my friends at the ice cream parlor. Only a couple of my classmates were there when we walked in, but they clearly were awestruck by my good fortune. As we looked at the display cases, I pulled out the dictionary and began to try to translate the names of the various offerings; how do you translate “Moose Tracks” into French? After some time, I was finally able to murmur “elan des pistes.” I pronounced it phonetically which I am sure did not sound French. Jane cracked up laughing…I wasn’t sure whether it was the name of the ice cream or my pronunciation that was so funny.
Thank god she settled on the “moose tracks” so I wouldn’t have to do any more translating. We sat down at a table, and I was mesmerized, watching her coyly lick her ice cream cone while I slurped my “Cookies and Cream.” By now, at least a half-dozen more of my classmates had arrived and were watching us watch each other. After we finished and I tried to clean my sticky hands with a napkin, she reached across the table with both hands and took my hands in hers, looked through her bangs into my eyes, and said to me in perfect English, “My name isn’t really Jane, it’s Juliette.” I nearly fell off the chair but was adroit enough to respond, “Well, my name isn’t really Tarzan either…it’s Bond, James Bond.” The entire place erupted in laughter.
As we left the store to return home, she took my arm and proceeded to tell me, in her perfectly French accented English…this whole scenario had been cooked-up by my mother and hers, and Juliette though it would be fun. She apologized if I was offended, but I told her that Tarzan was a real man and could take it. I then proceeded to put my arm around her waist as we walked home…while I plotted my revenge.
When we walked into the house, I slammed the door shut, stomped into the living room, and glared at the two women. Both looked shocked and concerned…then I couldn’t help myself and broke-out laughing. I turned to Juliette, took her in my arms, bent her over, then kissed and slobbered all over her delicious neck …she was as shocked as both parents.
Needless to say, that was not only the high point of my summer but of my whole adolescence. When it came time for them to leave, Juliette approached me, took my hand, kissed me on the forehead, and said, “It’s been fun.”
In the 90’s, after email came along, we communicated periodically, but I did not see her again until my wife and I, along with my mother, attended her marriage in Paris. We remain friends to this day.
Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton. They have led BOLLI courses on architecture, and Larry has led courses on Boston’s history. Larry has been an active member and leader of the Writers Guild as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff. This piece, he says, “Is pure dime store fiction…I was never that lucky.”