"When the bell rang for lunch Frances sat down next to her friend Albert. "What do you have today? said Frances. "I have a cream cheese-cucumber-and-tomato sandwich on rye bread," said Albert. "And a pickle to go with it. And a hard-boiled egg and a little cardboard shaker of salt to go with that. And a thermos bottle of milk. And a bunch of grapes and a tangerine. And a cup custard with a spoon to eat it with. What do you have?" " - Bread and Jam for Frances
I have been Frances for three years now. It began the fall of 2007 when I was selecting an interpretive speech to compete in for NCFCA. I picked up A Bargain For Frances and instantly I could hear my voice, see my expressions, and within minutes I had pre-blocked the whole speech. I didn't have to try. I was Frances.
Granted, I hadn't been six years old in a long time. But her wide smiles, confusion, and insightful (and often spiteful) rhymes resonated with me. I went on to compete and go to Nationals in the speech. It was the only speech I ever consistently enjoyed giving - the only one where I didn't have to think. Just be.
I don't know if it was I giving voice to Frances- or Frances giving voice to me. As the years have passed she has become a strange, silly sliver of who I am. My mother still stops me on occasion to say, "That was a Frances expression." "You said that like Frances." (You can all be happy I didn't mold to Thelma.)
This week I saw more evidences of Frances. On Wednesday one of my classmates sat with me during lunch. My mother packs me a fantastic meal. And as I ate it was as if a tiny bell (I'm not sure I was even fully conscious of it) was ringing in the back of my head. An urge. A voice.
I wanted someone to ask me, What do you have for lunch?
"I have home-made spicy black-bean soup made with chillies. And a handful of dried cranberries. And a bag of snap-pea chips from Trader Joes. And a thermos of orange juice. And a whole, ripe nectarine with a knife to cut it up with. What do you have?"
I kept my impish glee to myself. But yesterday when I ate my lunch I couldn't help but think Frances thoughts.
And she made the Triskets and the whole-grain crackers and the Cambozola and Parmesan and the bag of apricots and the thermos of grape-juice all come out even.