Everything Spectacular and Ordinary

Everything spectacular and ordinary | Normandy, France

When I visited Mont Saint-Michel, I had been living in France for only three weeks. It was a two hour bus ride from Rennes to Saint-Michel and I remember watching the green pastures and farm houses along the way. The drive isn’t terribly long, but you have to walk more than a mile from parking to where the castle sits on the hill, making it rest on its very own island. In fact, it was built specifically at that height so that when the tide washed in the island was protected from enemies in the sixth and seventh centuries. I thought of how being surrounded by water has always been comforting for me, and I stepped gingerly to avoid crushing shells as we walked towards the steps leading up to the top. 

It was there on that island that I remember walking with the guided tour thinking, there is so much history here, and then I turned around and recognized a girl about my age. I asked a friend on the tour with me, is she with our tour group? She looks familiar. My friend shook her head and stated that she had never seen her before. So I did what anyone would do when they see someone they recognize in a foreign country- I went up to her and asked. As it turns out, I went to high school with her, and recognized her mother as an English teacher that friends of mine had. They were on vacation and her mother had been wanting to take the trip for a long time. We had a great time laughing at the ridiculous coincidence that we would be in the same place at the same time. Guess who else is here, the girl said to me smiling. We walked outside towards the front gates of Saint-Michel and she said, there she is, and I turned around, reacting immediately, embracing my high school French teacher. 

 

On an island. In Northern France. On a random afternoon in July, nine years and an ocean away from high school. Standing at the bottom of a castle laden with so much proof of the past and there was my own history embracing me back. I was thousands of miles away from home and seeing my French teacher and her remembering me so precisely brought me to a wordless and grateful moment. Neither of us had forgotten each other and I thought of everything that had to happen in order for that moment to transpire. Everything spectacular and even mundane, ordinary things. She was so kind, so thoughtful and I marveled at how much I had grown up, and how she had changed in different ways. I could see it as we pulled apart, smiling widely at each other; both of us able to transpose the memories of each other from a decade before with who we had become. Two women in a different country, surrounded by history and strangers and friends and French language. I still remember how she held my hands facing me, the open air and the summer afternoon filled with so much light; I could see how it shone into all of the shadows and cracks of cobbled stones beneath my feet. There was so much light.