To Drop, Or Not to Drop In

'WE'RE just dropping in for a minute," we said. I hadn't said those words in years. And yet they tumbled out like hands slipping out of the sleeves of a favorite old sweater.

We were in a mountain town in the Alps where every vacation - winter, spring, summer, fall - the family gathers in all its Frenchness. I am the only out-law, the only non-French. And for many years I was the only non-French in the entire village. Now the rest of Europe is seeking pristine Alpine air, and Haute Savoie has become almost cosmopolitan.

But not for dropping in. The French do not drop in.

This particular day, I was with an American friend who also lives in Geneva. We were spending the day together while our husbands were skiing.

We decided to go say hello to recent acquaintances, an American couple living in the chateau behind the church. The castle is built on a hillside above the slate roofs of the church and the town hall.

Many steps lead up to the castle's front door. Halfway up, we paused.

"This is OK, don't you think?" my friend said. "I mean, dropping in unannounced?"

"Yes, I love it when people drop in." But as I said it, I realized that "dropping in" seldom happens and wondered if that's why I love it. Would they?

We climbed steps made from logs of wood. I looked up. The castle is three stories high, four with the tower. Our acquaintance is an editor. He works in the tower, four flights from the front door.

My friend stopped. "You're sure?"

"Well, don't you like it when people drop in on you?" Hesitancy glaring.

"Yeah, but that's me," she replied.

We looked down the long path of steps we had climbed. The church bells rang noon. They'd think we were coming for lunch. What a crazy time to drop in on someone! Could we still turn around?

I took a deep breath, climbed the last step. I lifted the brass knocker and hit the door soundly three times.

We waited. I heard steps.

"Someone's coming," I said, no longer certain this was good news. There was some flurry. Was it indecision?

The door opened. It was our editor, his hair unruly, shirt pulled open at the collar, comfortable corduroy pants, and the most wonderful little-boy smile, like a kid on Christmas morning discovering the tree decorated with silver tinsel and ginger cookies.

His wife caught up from the other side of the house. "We're just dropping in for a minute," we said.

"What a delightful thing!" she said.

"Do come in," he said.

We sat on the terrace and stayed more than a minute. The sun felt so good.

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