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Déjeuner du Matin is the first poem I learned in French. The poem is easy for first semester French students to understand and to learn. Poet Jacques Prévert’s simple language carries a dramatic punch. I was pleased to recite the poem because I felt, at the time, as though I were really speaking French even though the poem was the extent of my facility with the language.
My fascination with French began when I registered for the first semester of college classes. My adviser, Mr. Sydney Patzer, was an older man with white hair and a carefully trimmed mustache. Distinguished and quite dapper, he looked as though he stepped from a 1940s movie set.
“If you’re going to major in political science,” Mr. Patzer said, “you’ll want to study French, of course.”
The first class the first morning of my first semester of college was French 1. The instructor was Madame Ruth Parlé Craig. And, everyone called her “Madame.”
“Bonjour, ma classe,” Madame said as she bustled into the room, arms full of books and papers. Rubenesque, with redish blonde hair streaked with gray and pulled back from her forehead into a tight roll at the base of her neck, she was dressed in a rust colored two piece suit. With short quick steps, Madame walked to the front of the classroom where she dropped her books and papers on top of the desk and pulled a class roster from the pile.
“Good morning, everyone,” she said. “This if French 1. I am going to call the roll. I ask that you sit in the same seat each time we meet. I have a photographic memory and take roll by doing a memory pattern. If you’re not in the same seat, you will not be counted as present.”
Madame finished calling the roll then, without consulting the list, identified each student correctly. From that moment, I was in love with Madame, French, and tous les choses françaises (everything French). Midway through the semester, I became a French major.