French lessons

“So there she is, the Mona Lisa!”

We stood gazing up at that famous winsome smile for maybe 10 seconds.


My husband Richard suddenly looked restless, tapping his shiny right wing tip up and down.

“It’s way overrated. Let’s move on,” he instructed.

And so we did, removing ourselves from the growing huddled mass paying homage to the Louve’s beloved star.

Richard directed me on to yet another room where there was a smaller fan club admiring a Peter Paul Ruben masterpiece adorned with nubile nude goddesses.

“Now THIS is a painting,” he announced, beaming like a proud papa as he looked up.

I quickly learned that day my husband had a strong passion about art, artists, and opinions about both.

And I was about to learn so much more about him in the course of this one special week in France.

For Richard, Paris was as much a home turf as his hometown of Dorchester, MA.

He’d lived in the Marias district of Paris for a year while researching and writing for his graduate school program in art history.

Now a museum curator, Richard was in France on this trip for business, but I was fortunate to tag along to make the visit a honeymoon as well.

For me the trip was a whirlwind of gallery and museum visits, as well as introductions to his French friends and colleagues.

I noticed Richard’s great love of France bubbled through with great enthusiasm in every activity, and in every word of French he spoke.

He showed me his favorite neighborhoods and cafés, historical monuments and churches, with full and accurate detail on each.

And he even introduced me to his favorite art dealer on the Seine who sold old prints and drawings to poor couples like us for the price of a pizza.

As Richard would carefully sort through each work on paper, his boyish grin would appear every time he found something he liked.

And those blue eyes would sparkle.

I learned something else about my new husband on that trip I know I’ll never forget.

For a wedding present, my parents had given us cash for a romantic dinner at a classic restaurant author Ernest Hemmingway frequented many decades ago.

Richard, being a great seafood fan thought the restaurant would be the perfect place for me to meet up with my first raw oyster.

And I did.

It also was my first and last encounter with one of those slimmy sliders.

Feeling weak after I dragged myself back to the hotel, I spent the rest of my honeymoon in the bathroom.

Turns out that oyster was one very bad boy.

But Richard was very good.

Never blinking an eye, he continued to hold my hair back why I worshipped the commode in front of me for three days straight.

Richard and I had only known each other 11 months when we married, but my hunch about him was right.

He was a compassionate and caring person who taught me so much.

I like to believe each memory we created is a masterpiece, something to still savor and admire.

We married on a snowy Saturday, 28 years ago today.

Though Richard passed away the day after Christmas from complications related to dementia, I’m now busy creating new memories.

I may even back go to that old Hemmingway haunt in Paris someday for another meal.

But next time, I’ll be asking for ham and cheese on a baguette.

As I believe I learned one French lesson particularly well.