Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Tableau Noir

Back in May when the kids started school I found a treasure. Leaning up against a dumpster/skip was a huge blackboard. Knowing how much Ma Fille loves to play teacher it was the perfect find. I left it for the morning and after lunch I circled back around, jumped out of Great White, wrestled the tableau noir into the back and headed for home thrilled with my found loot.

Only one thing made me feel sad and that was that there was a little girl's name written on the side five times.
It made me think about how kids grow up and don't want old toys no matter how cool they are or how much they used to love them. It made me think that maybe this little girl was now a mobile phone carrying teenager with pink streaks in her hair and an attitude. It made me happy for the blackboard that now it would be loved again, written on, treasured.

When Ma Fille saw it that afternoon set up in the playroom, chalk included, she was beyond thrilled. She adored it and I felt all warm and fuzzy and not just a little bit clever for seeing it and then 'dumpster diving' for her.

On top of where the other name was, she wrote hers. Five times. Claiming ownership. She spent hours playing teacher, instructing imaginary students as well as reluctant brothers in her newfound French knowledge.

happy birthday to you
This past weekend we had her birthday party. She wanted a scavenger hunt so I set to work on it. It was so cool. I made up clues and riddles and then translated them into French. One of the clues was to crack the code to find the clue. I wrote the code on her blackboard for she and her friends to find and decipher.

And that's when it happened.

'Where did you find the blackboard?', asked one of the little party guests. 'Oh, I found it by the side of the road. It's fantastic, huh?', I replied. Very, very naive.
And the penny dropped. The name on the board was the same name as the little girl in front of me. She wasn't some adolescent, more interested in lip gloss and boys than playing teacher. And as she looked at the board, her board, with a mix of joy and confusion, my heart sank. I felt sick. We moved on and I tried to reconcile the idea that for some reason her board had been thrown out without her knowing and then I found it and now she's seen it again and oh, crap! what's going to happen.

Later that night as we sat together going over the success of the party, the phone rang.
It was the little girl's mother. She said that her daughter had seen her blackboard here that day and now they wanted it back. They'd never intended it to be rubbish. It was actually something quite precious to their family because the uncle made it for the little girl and something about a cleaner and a move and a mistake and many tears and now happiness and surprise at finding it again.
Huh? Talk about a scavenger hunt.

What could I do? What should I do? Well, I knew the answer to that but I also have a little girl who super rock n' roll loves that juju board.

The next morning they came to take it back bearing croissants and a whiteboard and markers in exchange. It was beyond awkward. I felt horrible and defensive in turn, none of this made any easier by the fact that the entire thing was conducted in French.

Now the board is back with its rightful owner. I don't know what really happened or why it was taken down to the sidewalk and leaned against the poubelles.
I never will.

The whiteboard has been a good substitute. Ma Fille is flexible. And she's learned to be giving and understanding and to do the right thing.

What do you think? Can you help me solve the mystery?


  1. That's too bad for your daughter and very strange about the board being on the side of the road in the first place. Hmmm, I'm guessing it got thrown out without the girl knowing it but when she saw it at your house and told her mom, regrets were felt by all involved.

  2. I'm sure Meredith hit the nail on the head. And it was actually nice that they gave you a white board. But you know they did that because they felt guilty! When my son was young, I painted one entire wall with chalkboard paint. Through all the redecorations of his room, that wall always stayed. When he was little he played with it like ta fille. When he was a teenager, it became a sort of grafitti wall that his friends contributed to. And if the messages were inappropriate (as they often were), I could just erase them. The people who bought my house, left the wall as well and their daughter is now growing up with it.

  3. Meredith, I'm sure you're right. The Mom felt just as bad about it as I did, I could tell.

    I love that idea. I just wish this was our house....but I think I'm going to do as my Mom suggested and buy some plywood and paint it with the chalkboard paint. The whiteboard is nice, very nice, but she says she misses the chalk.

    Yesterday the little girl invited my girlie over to play with the chalkboard sometime which was really sweet and made me want to cry a little bit.

    aidan x

  4. Yeah, I think that other mum was caught with her pants down! Probably told her daughter one story and then had to back peddle when the board was found. I can imagine how awkward it was during the hand over. At least the board will be loved with renewed vigour back in its old home and your daughter seems to have visitation rights!

  5. That's so sweet she invited ta fille over ! But a very awkward situation indeed!

  6. Oh wow, what a crazy story! I can only imagine how awkward that exchange must have been!

  7. Yikes! I'm very proud of ta fille for being so accomodating. She was instrumental in saving the young girls prized blackboard. If someone else had picked it up, the young girl would never have seen it again. I know just what you mean about children moving on from old toys, I get sad everytime I watch Toy Story!

  8. Wow, quelle story! I am so impressed with the maturity of your decisions. How did you do all that in French? Chapeau! Guess the mom won't be throwing away any of her daughter's "crap" anymore when she's at school!! Yeah, get your fille a real chalkboard, its way better than a whiteboard. I don't think I'll ever forget this story ...


  9. That's bulls*t!! I think Meredith is right, the mom decided to throw it out and then got caught and had to do something.
    How horribly awkward! Plus dealing with it all in French was probably a bit difficult as well.
    Your daughter sounds like an absolute gem for being so cool about it x

  10. Just an aside. Why is a blackboard a chalkboard and a whiteboard is not a felt-tipped-inky-penboard?
    Nice story about giving up things when you don't want to.

  11. All,
    This is why I wanted to share the story with you. It was just too weird. Part of me wanted to claim the Texas rule of ownership is 9/10 of the law, believe me. thank goodness for the clear headed husband or i would have been tempted to pretend like i didnt' understand!

    and lesley...interesting aside to your aside. the 'blackboard' was actually green.

    all's well that ends well.


It makes my day to read your comments. They're an answer to my floating words in blogland.