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  • Mr Soderstrom had been our high school French teacher for only one year when he invited us over to his house for a French dinner. And by house, I mean a one room apartment in the basement of someone else's house. We didn't expect more than that. Everyone knew that he spent all the money he earned teaching at a small all-girls school, as well as the money he made selling his plasma every week, on his annual trips to France and Italy. He wore the plasma-donating scars proudly, like a scout badge for "trips abroad."

    He served un petit salade, avec jambon, petit pois et fromage. And Chartreuse. And wine. Lots of wine. At least it seemed like a lot to me and my four 15 year old classmates, squeezed into his subterranean abode. Deirdre drank the most, making her her a bit giddy and loud. She became a nun only 2 years later. We discussed things teenaged girls talk about -- boys, other teachers, rehearsals for the upcoming play, only occasionally asking what things are like in Europe. And none of it was in French.

    My Mom picked us up a few hours later and never mentioned anything about our boozy group of high school girls who had just a few hours alone with a single, male teacher in his tiny basement. I suppose that would never happen these days.

    Standing on the Mediterranean beach in the south of France recently, I struggled to explain the story of Mr Soderstrom and the underage wine party to some locals. It was tough. My French isn't very good, you see.
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