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Monday, November 1st, 2010

Life in the Middle


It’s only from a distance of months or years or decades that you can look back and see how one apparently small decision nudged the course of your life in a totally unexpected direction. I don’t really know why I decided to take French my sophomore year in high school. I grew up on the Mexican border; it would have been much more practical to take Spanish. Practicality took the backseat to romance when I was fifteen, though, and I signed up for French.

When I got to college I could have switched to another language, but laziness won out and I continued with French. By the middle of my sophomore year of college I was burning out—I hated the South Side of Chicago (freezing cold or boiling hot, far from the joys of downtown life and in a neighborhood that felt unsafe to my small-town self), where my school was located. The intense academic pressure, combined with a really bad need-to-get-away-from-this college romance had me questioning my desire to return for my junior year. Then I learned that my school offered a year-long study abroad Paris program. Paris. Very few Americans are totally immune to the lure of Paris—and I certainly wasn’t

It was an amazing year in every way. Six weeks before going back to my senior year I fell in love—not with a Frenchman (that would have been too easy!), but with a Lebanese man, also in Paris for academic reasons. He was getting a Master’s in telecommunications. Somehow our relationship survived a year apart and by some miracle I got a job and eventually a visa and work-permit and returned to France. We were married in 2003 and our first son was born in 2006. Our second son arrived late January 2010.

So here we are—a trilingual family—both of us raising children in a culture that is still, after all these years, alien and sometimes downright baffling to us. Our children speak Arabic to their father, English with me and French outside the home, which can lead to some pretty entertaining language mixtures. The first few years of our marriage helped us smooth away some cultural differences, but having children has raised other issues, which I’ll be exploring in this blog.

To protect the privacy of my husband and children, especially since I’ll be discussing potentially sensitive topics, I’m giving my family noms de blog: my husband will be known as Sami, my eldest son Matthew, and my second son Ramzi. And one final note of explanation: the title of my blog refers to a popular French song. Le temps des cerises is summertime—cherry season. It’s sweet and over quickly; much like the parenting-of-young-children phase of life. And, being French, it has revolutionary overtones.

© 2010 – 2013, Mary Hackett. All rights reserved.

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Mary Hackett was born and raised on the Texas/Mexico border. She moved to France in 2000 after graduating from the University of Chicago, and aside from a year back in the US has lived there ever since with her Franco-Lebanese husband and their two sons. They are raising their kids trilingually in English, French and Arabic.

Leave us a comment!

  1. CommentsClaire   |  Friday, 03 December 2010 at 12:12 pm


    I am so happy to have come across your blog – and YOU! – as I am also an expat from the Texas-Mexico border and am raising children in a foreign culture and country…we are a long way from El Paso, Texas, and Madeleine Park — perhaps you imagined that you were trick or treating in Kern Place again? :-D Glad to reconnect! — Claire Baker

  2. CommentsMary   |  Wednesday, 08 December 2010 at 1:21 am

    Claire! Great to hear from you. Great memories of Madeleine Park, and how we miss Kern Place. I hope you and your family are well!


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