The last two weeks have been a little different, as the girls are staying with their grandparents, further south and west in our arrondissement, while their parents paint their apartment. Luckily, their father's family lives very nearby, and the girls have a commute that is about the same, though it runs through a slightly different part of the quartier. Yesterday, on our way home, C asked if we could stop at Monoprix to get a new notebook for her music assignments. She had 5 euros, and after finding a good deal on the notebook, she was hoping to buy them each a snack as well as one more thing, which she was very excited about.
She tried to explain it. "It's chewing gum, you see, but it's different. It comes out long and keeps going and going, from a sort of dispenser that's round. Do you see?"
I thought I did, but wanted to be sure I knew what to ask for.
She said, "I know the name. The name, it is called 'Oooo-ba Booooo-ba!'"
I looked at her. "What?"
"Ooooo-ba Boooo-ba!!! Tu vois?"
Ah, yes. I do see. I asked, "C'est comme du Scotch?" (It's like tape?)
Both girls were nodding and smiling, before turning back frantically to the gum displays. I started to giggle.
"Oh, you mean 'Hubba Bubba'."
C then dragged me to the checkout line, where she described said product (with me as backup to pronounce the name, should it be needed.) We were sent back to the same isle of bonbons, chocolats et confiseries, with no luck. We left the store, searching for someplace, any place, that would have the elusive gum tape.
Luckily, the local Presse (newspaper/magazine store) had it, at a steep 2.50 euros for one roll. With enough monnaie left to purchase viennoiseries for a snack, we perched on a bench and waited for the bus to take us closer to Grandmother's quiet 7th floor apartment.
"Ronica, tu sais faire des bulles?" (Do you know how to blow bubbles?)
I did, though it was a tough challenge to explain it in French. They kept trying, and failing, on the walk home. I reassured them that they just needed more gum, their pieces were too small.
Today, after returning from their sculpture classes at the Louvre, we had lunch, practiced piano, read and played computer games. Later, we went outside to the little garden, where the girls played and practiced again blowing bubbles.
I again tried to explain, but with varying levels of success.
P had a sizable amount of Hubba Bubba Citron (Lemon), and flattened it carefully, stretching it over the tip of her tongue. "Blow!" I said.
She did, and the gum fell from her mouth onto the grass.
C and I looked at it, looked at her, and burst out laughing. She said, "Ce n'est pas drôle!" (That's not funny!) But we assured her that yes, it was too funny! She was fighting laughter, too, as she bent to pick the gum out of the grass and pop it back in her mouth.
"It's my fault," I said. "I forgot to tell you that the gum goes between your tongue and your teeth, not on the other side. Don't worry, it happened to me, too, when I learned how to blow bubbles!"
Telling their grandmother, later in the day, about their attempts got her laughing as well, and she told me that she did not know how to blow bubbles herself, and thought it was kind of disgusting. (I agreed.) "But, for the kids, it's kind of fun!"
She said she didn't know how, because when she was a little girl, there was no gum or candy. She grew up in Paris during the Nazi occupation during WW2, and the first gum she had was from American GI's who came to donnent un coup de main (to lend a hand) and drive out the Germans. She had never tasted it before, and it was such a vivid memory for her--after the years of ration cards and hardship.
And here I am, over 60 years later, the American babysitter teaching her grandchildren to blow bubbles. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.