How We Met: French Twist
Claire Mailhot and Nick Simard
Claire Mailhot and Nick Simard’s relationship began her freshman and his sophomore year of high school at St. Bernard’s in Uncasville. They were both in the jazz band—she a pianist, he played saxophone. “We would look at each other and make monkey faces during rehearsals,” Claire recalls. That is how their very long romance that spanned two continents and two decades began.
The following year, Nick and Claire dated for two weeks (“a very brief high-school romance,” she calls it). She wasn’t ready for a boyfriend, so they went back to being friends.
The next school year, Nick and Claire had become such good friends that they knew each others’ families well. She was the oldest of five, and he was an only child. Her house was full of singing, dancing, and was always loud. Nick’s was a “sanctuary,” she says. His mom grew up in Germany and spoke French and was “so cool,” says Claire. Mrs. Simard also was a high-school French teacher who led summer trips to Paris. For Claire’s 16th birthday, she received a card inviting her to Paris. She went with Nick, his parents, and other students. “It changed my life forever,” she says.
In high school, Claire was in chorus, competed in All State and New England music festivals, and performed in high-school musicals. After graduation, Nick and Claire kept in touch throughout college—she was in Washington, DC, and he was in Philadelphia—and he would come down to watch her shows, but they both dated other people. She saw him then as a “loyal friend and supporter.”
After Claire graduated, Nick’s mom was retiring, and Claire asked her how she had learned to speak French. She told her she had been an au pair in France, so Claire—still infatuated with Paris after her high-school visit—became an au pair in Paris, where she kept up with music by studying at the Sorbonne and Conservatoire.
Meanwhile, Nick’s mom was taking one last trip to Paris, so his parents came to visit her, and they talked about Nick the whole time. That prompted his mom to call him and persuade him to come visit Claire.
During Claire’s second year in Paris, Nick visited. His best friend Philip came along, and they both talked about not wanting to ruin their long friendship by dating. Philip told her, “Calm down, you don’t have to marry the guy!”
Finally, after knowing each other for about ten years, “We fell in love. Or realized we were in love,” she says.
They started dating long distance and would fly back and forth every six weeks to visit each other. At that point, she was teaching English in French schools and singing in Paris, but she came home early to be with Nick. They were married in May 2006—and Philip was the best man. They did not honeymoon in Paris but rather in Hawaii.
After living in Queens and Redding, they settled in Ridgefield this past January. Claire chairs the Music and Performing Arts Department at Wooster School, and Nick is the chief marketing officer at Inspiria Media, which he founded.
For spring break, they went to Paris, this time with their own little students—children Amelie and Gabriel.