Up Close: French Lessons with Stéphanie Grossier

….Photographed and Dotted By Leslie MacKinnon

“Parlez-vous le français?”

On a recent sunny afternoon I found myself considering that question while having slight anxiety on the way to tea with my new French neighbors. I was having flashbacks to four years ago … on my first visit to France . One of my dearest friends, Liz Andrews, had married  a man from Degré, and their son was being Christened. Later in the trip and during our stay in Paris, I brazenly ordered dinner for my husband, my parents and I at a very fancy restaurant (recommended by The New York Times, nonetheless) while using my best high school French; only to be told by our waiter: ‘Pleasssse. Miss. Speak in English, it’s much easier to … understand’.

The Andrews family homestead in Degré….nice digs, eh?

I need not have given myself worry lines, however, because the charming Stéphanie Grossier made me feel instantly at home in her sunlit apartment on top of the Carruth Building in Lower Dorchester. Walls of windows had me slightly distracted by the setting sun, passing birds and stunning views of the Blue Hill Reservation area in the distance. We chatted over Mickey Mouse shaped apple gateau (cake en francais!) and cups of  tea. Our four children didn’t let the language barrier get in the way of their good time and proceeded to squeal with delight  as they played ‘tag’ on the small balcony hanging many, many feet over Dorchester Avenue. Despite the children’s risk taking adventures, I felt warm and comfortable as Stephanie encouraged me to use my limited French vocabulary and at times offered gentle corrections on my pronunciation. I actually felt quite proud of how much I remembered from um, the early ’90’s. Maybe I could go back to that Parisian restaurant and try again with Monsieur Waiter.

My new friend Stéphanie and her adorable family moved to Dorchester from Marseilles when her husband Romaine acquired a research position at MIT.  They settled in our humble ville after seeking a place that ‘reminded them of home’. Marseilles and Dorchester? Sister cities? What could they possibly have in common? According to Stephanie: beaucoup de choses! For example: close proximity to the ocean; a good place for families and delicious baguettes. That’s right – delicious baguettes courtesy of Green Hills Irish Bakery, which Stephanie gives her stamp of approval. And before they purchased a coffee pot after their move, her husband found grateful refuge in Flat Black‘s authentic espresso and cappuccino. Stephanie says that a day doesn’t go by in Dorchester without encountering  French speaking people from Haiti, Guadelupe and France.

Back in France, Stéphanie is a practicing Social Worker concentrating on Child Welfare. Here in Boston, while her husband works at MIT, she raises her two small children and offers French Lessons for adults ($30 an hour) and children ($20 an hour). She can be reached at stephgrossier@gmail.com for more details.

I plan on signing up for a few lessons of my own since I plan to return to France sometime soon. Yes, you heard that correctly, Andrews family. Get ready for another MacKinnon visit! In the meantime I’ll practice the basics thanks to  lessons with Stéphanie and this little ditty, Foux Da Fa Fa, by my boys The Flight of the Conchords.

Photos of Stéphanie and daughter Charlotte in their home here in Dorchester.

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