Le Point Rouge, in Marseilles. Nothing to do with today's story, these are photos I took in '92, when I moved to Marseilles to live with this young accountant. Turns out Jean-Marc wasn't cut out for office work (an outdoors type, he is). Today, a story about our son, Max. Just what is he cut out for? P.S. Max turns 17 on May 17th. The next post will go out on Friday. See you then!
la formation (for-maah-syon)
: training, education
Example Sentence (audio file will return later...)
La Formation Militaire Initiale du Réserviste (ou FMIR) est une formation permettant à de jeunes Français volontaires d'acquérir les bases du savoir militaire. Initial military training of the reservist is a training program that permits young French volunteers to acquire basic military know-how.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
We Want You!: The French air force woos our 16-year-old
Week before last I picked up our son from military-training camp. Parked at the local base aérienne, I got out of my car to wait with the other families who were standing around the entrance. I was hoping to strike up a conversation with another mom or dad to learn how their son or daughter came to sign up for the FMIR, or la formation militaire initiale de réserviste. Were some of the parents as reluctant as I had been to allow their child's participation?
...and whose idea had it been to sign up for the reserves—the child's or the parent's? Chez nous it was 16-year-old Max's idea. As required by law, he had signed up for his recensement militaire (story & pictures here), or military registration. At that time he was given the information, I believe, for the FMIR training. He was told he could earn 1500 euros this summer should he be strong enough, physically and emotionally, to complete the 4-week training course. Such a challenge was just too tempting for Max, who showed unprecedented patience in putting together his dossier d'inscription: he scheduled his visite médicale, completed all the bureaucratic paperwork and noted in his calendar the various rendez-vous, including the two-week training camp that would take place during vacances de Pâques.
Still, I had my doubts. And besides, if he wanted to earn cash, surely we could arrange that here at home, where there were vines to care for, a wine cellar to keep clean and orderly, cars to wash, and a lawn that needed mowing. But the truth was, Max wasn't motivated by money, but by a desire to defend his countrymen. Though his impulse was selfless, I thought about his lacking of a larger awareness. He was only 16, what did he know about life and liberty? To be fair, I can't say I know any more than he does, no matter how much more life experience I have had. In fact, the older I get, the less I seem to understand.
The small crowd outside the air force base seemed relaxed, so I casually walked by with a nod and a smile, wondering where to park myself. I heard singing in the distance and decided to followed the melody.
When a barbed-wire fence prevented my wandering any farther, I settled beside the unfriendly divider. On the other side there were several giant avions de chasse. I recognized them from the affiches in Max's room—the air force, or ALA posters that had recently replaced the skateboard posters, which had, the year before, replaced the basketball posters. So many passing themes, would this be just another phase, too? Dare one hope? or was such hope anti-patriotic or, worse, would my hoping that Max lose interest in the military be akin to not showing support or confidence in him for having made a first of many big life decisions? It was time to let him spread his wings... in the air force! Comme c'est ironique!
The singing grew louder and I noticed a bit of movement in the greenery beyond. On closer look, it was a troop dressed in camouflage.
My heart began to flutter as the realization set in: one of those marchers was my son! I watched neat, orderly rows advancing. I tried to understand the French lyrics to the military cadence they were chanting. Was it the equivalent to Sound Off? How little I know about customs or protocol, how little I know about the military in general!
The would-be airmen marched toward the gate, beyond which we parents waited. The marchers' eyes remained glued to the drill sergeant. Not one neck craned, not one mouth cracked a smile. Did our camouflaged kids see us on the other side of the fence?
There was Max! His face was set like stone but it was hard to miss the confidence which emanated from him. His pride reached right through the barbed-wire fence, embracing me.
My eyes began to sting. But there was no reason to be emotional! The tears began to rise. But these were not soldiers returning from war! When the larmes threatened to tumble out, I hurried over to my car for a kleenex and dark glasses.
Why get all choked up? The other parents were holding it together just fine! They were confident and knew the obvious: that these were not, after all, young men returning from a battle!
No, I reasoned, they were not! ...But did they realize they were preparing to go into one?
(Parts 2 and 3 next week)
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comment box. Thanks, in advance, for your response to this story and for sharing your experiences. Click here to comment.
A note to our voluntary proofreaders: the next story in the collection is "Pêche" about a couple of peach thieves. Keep this story, improve it, or scrap it? You decide! Click here to begin proofreading.
la base aérienne = air force base
FMIR = la formation militaire initiale de réserviste = initial military training for the reservist
chez nous = for us, in our case (literally "at our house")
recensement militaire = military registration
le dossier d'inscription = registration file
une visite médicale = a medical visit, a physical
les vacances (f) de Pâques = Easter break
un avion de chasse = fighter plane
une affiche = poster
ALA (l'Armée de l'Air [ALA]) = the French Air Force
comme c'est ironique = how ironic!
une larme = tear
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Mama Braise (upper left) helps me to demonstrate motherhood and the hard-to-face decisions that our children make for themselves. Pictured are Smokey and his 5 sisters. "Mom, I want to live in America!" "Mom, I want to join the army!" "Mom... mom... mom!!!"
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