At 9:05, the first students of Mrs. Hunter’s third period French class at Holy Cross begin to file in through the door. A few glance curiously at an elderly man smiling in the back. The rest just go to their seats, oblivious to the visitor. Today is Monday, November 18, 2002 and the visitor is Marc Hering, the grandfather of one of the students in the class. The stranger, still smiling, goes to the front of the class, and in broken English he says “Bonjour, my name is Marc Hering… I am here from France…I will tell you about my life”.

He plunges into stories of his childhood and of his children in a confusing mixture of French and English with Mrs. Hunter translating when necessary. At one point he pauses and looks pensive. Slowly at first he explains how he came to visit America and why he has American grandchildren. In a mixture of French and English he says, “when my son, Lionel, was twelve he went to America for seven months, all alone… I very much admire my son…He went back when he was seventeen to go to school in Bath. He had no money and had to find a family to live with… He went to UMF for four years and got married… Now he is very well off and I am very proud… I wish I had made the same choice as my son.” After this speech he stops to take questions. At first no one raises their hand. Finally one boy timidly raises his hand. Marc pounces on him with joy, shakes his hand, and calls him a courageous boy. The question is simple. “ça va?”

At these simple words a grin lights up Marc’s face. He’s so happy someone asked him a question in French that he laughs out loud and congratulates the boy and replies rapidly in French. Then he returns to the front of the room, leaving the boy confused. This joyous reaction though encourages some other students to ask questions, which are answered quickly and excitedly and often lead to more stories.

In the next class he talks more of Morocco, where, we find out, he lived for 40 years until he was ordered by the Moroccan government to leave all his money and possessions and flee from Morocco. He spoke of all his losses with a smile and when asked why he replied, “God, has given it to me and God has chosen to take it away… I am lucky because I still have my health. “

After that more serious moment he quickly changes the subject to driving and describes vividly how he totaled three cars the year he got his license. This adds allot of humor to the atmosphere and Marc enjoys describing his misfortunes to the class.

Suddenly he says his grand-daughter is his wife, laughing at the bewildered looks of amusement on everyone’s face. Seizing the opportunity he launches into a decription of Arabic customs. He begins by telling us Arabs can have four wives and marry quite young. The man will pay a certain amount of camels or sheep for a girl as young as twelve and when she is around twenty he will get another. When finished explaining this he goes around and proclaims the worth of each of the girls then asks the boys how much they will pay.

All too soon the French classes are finished for the eighth grade and our foreign visitor bids the class good-bye and leaves. For the rest of the day though the students talk excitedly about him and wonder at his life.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.