We agreed to take Pierre for three weeks because a friend of ours was desperate.
I wish I could say that it was a noble overture of hospitality...but it wasn't.
And then a funny thing happened...
Beth is a recruitment director for an organization that brings international students to the US and was feeling the weight of a looming deadline to place 44 French students in host homes for three weeks this summer. She couldn't place more than one student in each host home (they weren't supposed to speak any French while they were here) and 19 of the remaining 20 students were boys. Apparently, foster kids aren't the only difficult boys to place!
We had considered it at the end of the school year in June when a note came home in the kids' backpacks but then dismissed it because of the timing. Host an international student, during the craziest part of our summer?? No way. However, when Beth's e-mail came, I could practically hear the tears splashing on the keyboard between each line and we agreed to live life interrupted. Host parents didn't have huge practical responsibilities to the kids. We were just expected to "do life" with them, treat them like our kids and talk to them. They were here to learn English. How hard could that be? As long as he knew the craziness that is a house with 5 little kids, then send him along!
He started out, in my mind, as yet another summer obligation. I didn't know him and I was struggling with my own kids, for the first time longing for the end of summer. But it took approximately half an hour to realize that a blessing had walked through my door disguised as 6 feet 2 inches of blonde-haired, French jock. He loved our kids from the moment he entered our home, immediately showering them with thoughtful gifts from France. He jumped into helping whenever he could (even mastering the precarious balancing act with the broken top rack of our dishwasher - we were all doing the happy dance of praise when our landlord fixed it the last week he was here). His English is excellent and he engaged adults and children in genuine conversation whenever he had the chance. He didn't bring any form of entertainment with him because he was here to be "American." He ate what I put in front of him and asked for suggestions of quintessential American food to order at restaurants. He was surrounded by a circle of teenaged girls in the lobby every Sunday after church but he was friendly and not at all arrogant about it, equally engaged and friendly with the teenaged boys who welcomed him. He willingly let us plan activities for him with people he'd never met and allowed my children to torture him at every opportunity even shooing me away when I tried to peel Tiny Dancer off of his lap while she was "squooshing" his face.
|My partners in crime - Erika & Kerry|
(I have a way more fun "Rosie the Riveter" pic but
they made me promise not to post it)
|We LOVE this silly trio!|
(L-R: Pierre, Gauthier & Raphael)
Because we entered the game so late, we didn't have a whole lot of touristy things planned for him but thankfully Kerry and Erika's families teamed up with us to provide A LOT of entertainment, Philly-style - cheesesteaks, a Phillies game, Lancaster country, shopping at the outlets and King of Prussia Mall and even a return trip to New York City (when their bus trip was disappointing) to make sure they saw EVERYTHING they wanted and didn't know they wanted to see. None of us were running ourselves into the ground all at the same time. Other friends jumped into the fun, too. Our neighbor took the boys trap shooting and other friends encouraged their teens to invite the boys along on outings. The village came out in full force to help our French "sons" have a positive experience here in America. It was fun, crazy and, holy schomley, teens who can't drive keep you on the move! I think I'll start praying right now for extra grace when I have 4-5 teens in the house at one time.
|Climbing a vine...|
I told you he's athletic!
The kids (and Guitar Hero) daily remind us how much Pierre is missed. Last night, as Guitar Hero was cleaning up the kitchen, he commented, "This is the time of night that I really miss Pierre. We had some good conversations!" As for me, I still wake up in the middle of the night every couple of days because I had a dream that a French kid was supposed to be somewhere and I was late or didn't know where the child was or even what their name is! This was a common theme when Pierre was here. I kept thinking that we would oversleep and he would miss a day trip.
As we hugged good-bye, I instructed Pierre to e-mail when he got home safely. He didn't. Instead, he called us at 11 p.m. French time, much to the kids' delight. After the typical questions of "how did they like their gifts?", "how was the flight?", "is your family excited to have you back?", "are you zombie tired?" there wasn't much left to say. It had only been 30 hours since his departure but he stayed on the phone a little while longer, in the silence, while his family slept. This momma could feel it, half a world away - he misses us. And we miss you, too, Pierre. Isn't it funny how that happens?