French Friday: The World Is Your Oyster

Wondering words from a wanderer, as migrants keep fleeing their native lands and pressing against borders and gates in the United States and many European countries.


Many moons ago I wandered tree-lined California streets with names I had never heard of, you, a baby propped up in her stroller, eyes wide open on this big new world.

“This is University Avenue,” I read. You giggled. “Here we are on Waverley Street and this is Ramona Circle. Middlefield Road takes us to the park.”

Your belly laugh encouraged me to practice and map this new town in my head, next to Paris metro lines that I knew like the back of my hand.

You adored the playground, even though you didn’t walk yet.

“La balançoire,” I said when I sat on the swing, you, tucked on my lap, the sky a promise above our heads.

“Le sable,” I told you, sand slipping between my fingers. Time stopped when we sat in the sandbox, together, with nothing to do but wander and wonder.

Were you as dizzy with dreams than I was when we slid down “le toboggan,” my arms wrapping your round waist, your laugh catching in your throat as the speed increased?

“Le tourniquet” was your favorite and mine too. The sun played peek-a-boo between the eucalyptuses, heady with a fragrance neither of us had ever smelled before. The merry-go-round continued its route, taking us round and round while never leaving our new corner of the world.

One morning, a squirrel darted in front of us.

“Oh!” you exclaimed, equally surprised and delighted.

“Un écureuil,” I said.

You giggled. To you, every word was a surprise and a delight.

You tried to repeat and your attempts made you laugh again.

One day, you would call “Squirrel! Squirrel!”

Another word filled with too many strange sounds for your mother to ever pronounce it the right way, but it would reassure her that you could: you would belong.

One day, I read this strange sentence: “The world is your oyster”.

I opened my dictionary.

In French, the expression means “le monde t’appartient”.

The world belongs to you.

And one day, you greeted passersby with a loud, cheerful, unmistakable “Hi” that they reciprocated with equal exuberance.

I sighed with relief.

You belonged.

A knot tied my throat.

Would you remember where you came from?

Maybe one day, I imagined,

you will wander and wonder through

foreign streets,

foreign smells,

foreign words,

a baby in the crook of your arm,

hoisted up on your shoulders.

And you will read out loud the names of the streets you wander through.

Words will bump against the roof or your mouth,

linger at the top of your tongue

trip on your lips.

Words that you won’t ever pronounce the right way will belong to your baby,

who maybe one day

will wander and wonder…


Because we are only wanderers who wonder in this oyster-world that belongs to us.


  1. judithworks says:


  2. Oh gosh… I felt a bit choked up by the end of your story. Absolutely beautiful and so very touching.

    • Thank you so much! To be frank with you, I had planned a whole different post. But it didn’t come the way I intended it to be. Instead, these words came quickly and they felt right. Sometimes our guts know best.

  3. Oh, what a lovely post! And don’t feel bad about squirrel; nobody in the world–not even the English-speaking world–pronounces it as we do in America: Skwerrl!

  4. That is beautiful. It’s a lullaby in words.

  5. This is beautiful Evelyne – it’s dreamlike, lyrical and poignant, I love the way you use the naming words as part of the rhythm of the piece.

  6. This is beautiful, Evelyne.

  7. Beautifully written Evelyne, wistful, mélancolique 🙂

  8. Very sweet. Let’s revel in this oyster-world we get to live in!

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