From time to time, while brushing my teeth or chopping celery or running, I come to think of things I regret having done or not having done. Fortunately, I don’t have any really big regrets: my biggest being that I was not able to continue violin lessons when I was 13 because we had moved and there was no music programme at my new school. To this day, when I have a close-up view of a musician playing the violin, I can almost feel the instrument propped between my chin and left hand as I slide the resined bow across the strings, sometimes even hitting a good note (I played for less than a year so good notes were a big deal).
But I do have some smaller regrets, and they are almost all related to things I said or, more often, things I did not say. For instance, I wish I had been able to tell my 5th-grade French teacher just how much of an influence she had on my life.
Madame Bartlett came to my house twice a week for about a month to tutor me in the basics of French that I had missed when, in the middle of 4th grade, I was promoted to the middle of 5th grade and had to catch up. I still remember sitting next to her at our dining room table, she holding up a pen and saying “stylo” and then holding up a fork and “fourchette” and me repeating “stylo” “fourchette“.
Not only did I become totally smitten with the language, something I maintain to this day, I became enamoured of Madame Bartlett…so much so that I wanted to be Madame Bartlett. At the ripe young age of 11, French language and culture became a driving force in my life and I decided that, if I couldn’t be Madame Bartlett, I would be as close to her as possible and I set my vision on a life in France…it took me only 20 years to get there.
Of course I didn’t know anything about Madame Bartlett, I didn’t even know her first name, but I was determined to become the person I thought she was. I continued to study French through my university years and, when I moved to Washington, DC and was looking for a job, I decided that I wanted to work somewhere I could speak French…and I ended up at the World Bank (not bad for a frustrated violinist!). Eight years later, a friend at the World Bank sent my CV to a friend of hers at the OECD in Paris and almost one month to the day after my interview, I moved to Paris. From May 1992 until April 2003, I was Madame Bartlett and I really liked being her/me/us! I wish I could find her now to tell her just what an impact she had on my life. I think she would be agréablement surprise!
I have often thought how great it would be if there were a website where we could post positive things we regret not having said to people; a website where we could leave a note of thanks, fill in searchable details of a time, place and person and hope that the Madame Bartletts of the world would search themselves and find our expressions of gratitude.
If such a website existed, what would you say and to whom?