By the age of five, I was a Francophile. I don’t know how or why it happened but I knew that in France people wore berets. I wanted one. My mother had a Scottish tam, very similar in shape to a beret, and once when I put it on my head and turned around to be admired, everyone laughed. Of course at the age of five my head was small, and the hat was big, so I probably looked pretty funny. I retreated to my room, packed my favorite dolls in a paper bag, and announced to all that I was running away. I was going to France where I could wear a beret and no one would laugh. My sister started crying and begged my mother not to let me go. Instead my mother held the door open for me as we walked out onto the porch. It was already dark outside. She casually asked me how far I thought I’d get that night. I said I would get to Gram’s apartment in the University District. I knew the way. “And after that?” The next day I would be able to make it to my other grandparents’ house in Ballard, and from there I would have to take a ship. She looked into the darkness and indicated I had made a good plan. “But it is certainly dark out here,“ she reminded me. “Perhaps you should get a good night’s sleep and start out in the morning.” I thought it over as my sister sobbed in the background.
I went back inside.
Fifteen years later I finally made it to France. My first purchase? A beret that I wore proudly while walking down the Champs Elysees. No one laughed.
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