“Now, let’s go to the candy store and blow all this money…” Tom looks at me, in all seriousness, as we are heading through the bustling square from the ATM machine to the car to meet Julie. I burst out into uncontrollable laughter, I’m not even sure that is ladylike these days. We had just eaten lunch at Le Restaurante of Old Horsehoes (Le Fer a Cheval) and were given instructions to wait by the car until Julie came back from purchasing…I forget what it was exactly…maybe another Foi Gras Sandwhich with a side of fries at McDonald’s? While I am busy envying some little girl in a white fur coat with matching white tights and white boots, who gets to go on one of those quarter slot machine horsey rides (I can’t tell which made me more jealous, the horsey ride or the awesome outfit), Tom has cramp-on-ed his way down the road towards the adult ATM slot machine. I race after him and we walk together the rest of the way to the fountain of wealth, where grabs his Euros and heads to get his sweet tooth operation underway.
When the whole fiasco is done, we leave carrying an orange bag (which to any species out in nature would be screaming “Keep away!”) stuffed full of jelly beans, some weird fluffy things I could not identify, fudges, and enough sweet bells and baubles to fill a hollow leg. Tom and I work to keep his confectionary confessions on the DL, because otherwise Julie will bust him and hide the goods. It’s a rather adorable example of how these two look out for each other, enjoy having a good time, and know each other inside and out. The good news is…despite Tom’s hidden candy addiction, they are both devouring their vegetables like two grizzly bears who stumble upon a raspberry patch and begin to question their commitment to carnivorocity. You just wait, we’ll all be drinking veg-tastic blends with spirulina and kale before this trip is over!
Julie was born and raised in Maine, her father the pilgrim, and founder of the Hannaford’s food stores. (For this reason alone, my mother would love her, since my mother would probably cut off her left arm to support all that Hannaford’s stands for) If you can imagine the kind of person who accepts others as a “dear, dear friend” in the blink of an eye, you have just imagined Julie. She reminds of a photographer friend/former high school teacher of mine in NH, Marsha Vandermey (those of you who know Marsha will be able to use the reference); they are the same astrological sign (Virgo), and have the same never-squelched energy and zest for life.
Both of these women have also been responsible for my exposure to hypothermia in my work for them, and they are crack-of-dawn black coffee drinkers. I can see the wheels in Julie’s head turning, probably inventing things much more useful than a wheel, as she plans her day, and mentally reorganizes her glove compartment, all the while balancing her mug of coffee in her right hand and re-grounding her chi with her left-wing. Her muesli cereal, to fuel her for the morning on the slopes, chills out at her side. In her mid-70’s (though I wouldn’t give her a day past 56), she is fit as a fiddle and healthy as can be. She maintains her girlish figure (as in she is literally a size 14 in GIRLS’) by indulging in her love for skiing, yoga, power-walking, swimming…you name it, this woman does it, and she will travel all over the world for it. Every winter, she threatens Tom that he cannot eat any chocolate for two months if he doesn’t join her in her chalet in France. So here we are in l’Argentiere, where Julie goes out everyday to make snow angels on the ski slopes, and downhill on the Olympic Women’s Run (that is no joke). She is an avid skiier and has a zillion ski friends, with just as many stories, to prove it. Speaking of friends, Julie has friends all over the world, some of whom are sultans, princes, pre-madonnas, Madonna, and probably even Queen Sheba herself. We will be meeting many of these as she has all of her friends over for dinner, tea, crumpets, and lively conversation a-plenty. After my first conversation with Julie, my ego was too big to fit through the door, because she is such a complimentary person. Thank goodness for self-depreciation. She has a true interest in other people and focuses on their strengths and accomplishments in every conversation. If you want someone who makes you feel like a million bucks, Julie is not your girl, she makes you feel like ten million more.
Tom Mullins, also in his mid-70’s, was the Associate Director of Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He has been to nearly any country you can think up in your big bad, soaring imagination. I have observed thus far that he is quite organized, with his iPhone, iPad, and scratch pad. His ability and passion to organize may surpass my own… although granted, he has had slightly more experience than myself. Speaking of experience, in asking Tom some questions about himself, as he is quite a human mystery, he handed me a well-typed 3-page handout covering all of the major topics such as his education, marriage, children, and occupational experience. The paper says it all, but I know in reality, it barely skims the surface of all that Tom’s kind face and mysteriously-sparkling, doe-like Bambi eyes have seen and embarked in throughout his life. He is an everlasting ATM machine of knowledge, and stories, and all it takes to hear one is to know the PIN number. He also has a great sense of style, and when he is not updating his Twitter at 3:27am, he is using this fashion sense, along with his debauneer charms to captivate the attention of ladies far and wide. Julie says that Tom has girlfriends in every country and sees it as her personality responsibility to rescue him from the dodgy ones. Today, Tom and Julie are headed to Italy for Julie to ski the morning through, and Tom to have a chat with his long, lost Italian waitress girlfriend. It’s a win-win for both of them! For many, Tom remains a complete mystery, in all of his Transcontinental travels and suave ways.
Besides skiing, one of the favorite past times of chalet guests is to conjure up stories about Tom’s many past lives, to which, Tom does not protest. He just continues to twinkle on, and offers us all some of his decadent Swiss chocolates.
Julie and Tom are truly a match, only a brilliant author like Shakespeare himself, (or the infinite possibilities of life itself) could devise. Every time we hop into the car to go somewhere, the love in the air permeates through the Fiat like perfume. When it comes to life, love, and the pursuit of Foi Gras Happy Meals, they truly understand the concept that there is no time like the present!
What are they doing with a girl like me in France? How did I get so lucky? Simple answer, Julie dislikes cooking! One man’s trash is another raccoon’s treasure! I am along for the ride, cooking, cleaning, poo belling, and witnessing as they sail on their love boat, launch a thousand ships together like kites in the wind, and most importantly talk about which candidate will win the election. All the while, I am sure to drink the same wine Tom does, and take careful notes in hopes that some of his kind-nature and chic stylings will rub off on me; maybe if I learn to ski like Julie, I can even bring back some of the keys to unlock the life of my dreams as well.
Here is to Tom and Julie, mes nouveax amie!
Until the fat lady’s vocal chords share their melody,
— Emily —