I don’t even know how or when this started, but my sister Aimee and I once had a joke about French kids loving pencil cases. It has to do with a certain tidiness we find in the French school child, perhaps partly imagined, as we have never been in French school ourselves.
But I’ll never forget when I received in Florida a handmade booklet created by my cousin Jeanne and her fifth grade class, telling us all about their lives in their village of Viré. How they wrote so carefully on their wee little sheets of graph paper! The penmanship! I asked my cousin recently and she said they took all of their class notes on graph paper, so that certainly helped dissuade from the big, loopy style that females seem genetically disposed to in America.
It had been years since we’d mentioned the pencil case thing, and I had forgotten all about it, until I wore a 1940’s navy top with polka dots under a Mont Saint-Michel eyelet sweater one night when I was home from Christmas, like a petite écolier, and my sister Aimee took one look at me and said, “You look very French. Like you should be carrying a pencil case.”