The only thing I asked of my husband when we got married seven years ago was that no matter what, I wanted to continue my lifelong tradition of celebrating the end-of-the-year holidays with my family. For most marriages this wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but given that my family is spread across Europe, the Caribbean and the eastern fringe of North America, it’s made things a little tricky for us.
Thankfully, we’ve been able to make it work out every year, with holiday celebrations taking place in Guadeloupe, here in Michigan and, this year, at a remote cabin in the woods of northern Quebec, a few hours away from my cousin’s home in Montreal. We had many adventures between Christmas and New Year, including taking our boys snow tubing for the first time and hiking up a frozen stream on crampons, the same thing hikers on Mt. Everest wear on their boots. As an immigrant, being around my family is a great way to recharge my batteries, and this year’s journey into the Great White North also gave me some valuable time to think about everything I’ve accomplished over the past year, and to reflect on all the little things that make me happy. As I did that earlier this week, I was able to finally put my finger on why my business, Aux Petits Soins™ is so important to me — I realized that it’s become my home away from home.
One of the questions people often ask after learning about my French roots is where I prefer to live — Paris (where I was born), Guadeloupe (where I mostly grew up), Montpellier (where I went to grad school) or here in Michigan? The answer is that each city/country has its own advantages. Before having kids, all I really cared about was being able to have a successful career so I could afford to fly to see my family as often as possible — sometimes just for a long weekend. Everything changed, however, when I became a mom.
I am who I am because of my family, my religious values and my French and Caribbean cultures, and it’s vitally important for me that my children have these same influences in their lives as well. That’s why I’ve made sure that both my boys would be bilingual by only ever speaking French to them, but I won’t lie — raising a dual citizenship child is an everyday challenge. The French language is their passport to have access to the French culture, but it takes a village to raise world citizens.
That’s why I’m grateful to live in Lansing. The baby and children’s programs at APS grew out of a demand from parents I knew and strangers I met who heard me speaking French to my boys and asking me to teach their children, too. Later, some of these same people asked me to teach them as well, which allowed me to build my adult program. This formed the foundation for the French center I continue to work on, which is allowing me to recreate a little slice of France right here in the heart of Michigan, providing a space and a community where my kids can fully embrace being French.
And so this year I realized that APS was my way to create a village for anybody in mid-Michigan who has an interest in the French language and culture … including me. I would be homesick without it, and probably would have left Lansing by now to live closer to my family. But thankfully, APS has allowed me to bring the cultural traditions I grew up with to me, starting this week with Epiphany. Growing up, I did my part to kick off the month-long celebration by walking to a local bakery on the first Sunday of the new year to pick up a king cake for my family. I remember the younger ones eager to find a charm inside their piece, which would bring good luck for a year and the title of “king/queen for the day,” while those in the older generation would claim that they would rather not so they would have more of the sweet frangipane filling in theirs.
When I moved here to Lansing, I couldn’t find a bakery selling king cakes, so I started baking my own. This annual tradition started with my close friends; eventually I introduced it to my APS students, and it has now become something I share with anyone in Lansing who wants to celebrate with me. Next Sunday, Jan. 12, I will host the Fourth Annual King Cake Party, and for the first time some of the kids will have the opportunity to bake their own pastries. And it’s been fun to see the young ones acting the same way my cousins and I did as kid wishing for a charm in their king cakes!
Epiphany is just the start of the beginning-of-the-year celebrations that involve sweets. And fortunately, I now get to celebrate these and the rest of the French annual traditions with my village here in Lansing again this year — just one reason why I #lovelansing.