“Cawa, comment dit-on ‘adieu’ en anglais?” one of my CE2s at Condorcet asked as she planted a sticky kiss on my cheek at the end of our last class Monday morning.
I would get that question a lot over the next few days.
In English, we say “goodbye” no matter if someone’s leaving for a little while, for a long time, or even forever.
In French, au revoir and adieu both mean “goodbye.” Au revoir is open-ended, containing the promise that you’ll see each other again—vous allez vous revoir. But adieu is final, promising only that you’ll see each other again before God—à Dieu.
Au revoir is goodbye for now. Adieu is goodbye forever.
All week I said adieu to my students with sing-a-longs of “The Wheels on the Bus” and “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” With final games of bingo. With heated rounds of “Simon Says.” With chewy, fruity bonbons. Even with teary eyes to Jack Sparrow’s class.
My students said adieu with hugs and bisous. With hastily scribbled goodbye notes. With carefully drawn pictures. With demands for my autograph on torn pieces of notebook paper or on the backs of hands. Even one with delicately painted glass pots.
Some teachers didn’t say adieu. Some didn’t even realize it was my last day until I asked them to take a picture of me with their classes.
But all the teachers at Rouget de l’Isle said adieu with coffee and cookies during recré. With a card they all signed—some in French, others in English. With a cookbook of recipes du canard et de l’oie à la gersoise. With a beautiful book of watercolors and poignant words about Auch and its surrounding villages and countryside. And the principal even wrote me a letter of reference.
And in the weeks to come I will say lots of au revoirs—to friends who have become a second family, to Auch, and to France—but not too many more adieux.
Some doors are meant to be closed, others to be left ajar.