Some pictures from home, and, as Maurice Chevalier would say, thank heaven for little girls.
une fillette (fee-ette)
: a little girl
Audio File: listen to the French word fillette (file by Wikipedia):
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A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
(A story I told my daughter, in the dark, early morning hours before school started.)
Waiting at the bus stop in Bandol, warm inside our car, Jackie revised her textile lesson while I spied some of the technical vocabulary on her study sheet....
"Ourlet. Ha! I know that word. It's on the tip of my tongue... Oh yes, "hem"! Now to pronounce it: ohr.... ohr... ohr-lay!"
"Mom!" Jackie sighed.
I left my daughter to revise, turning my attention to the holiday lights that circled high up into the municipal arbres. The tree garland reminded me of Arizona, where our palo verdes and even our cactuses are illuminated this time of year. And just like back home in Phoenix, there were palm trees here, their trunks circled high with holiday lights!
As I admired the twinkling trees, a shiny spot tickled the corner of my eye. I looked over to discover the glittery backpack of a little girl who had just gotten out of her father's car.
I watched as the father adjusted the backpack. The little girl helped by lifting her lopsided ponytails out of the way. Next, the fair-haired darling spun around, lifted her face and her smile was met by a tender kiss as her father reached down and bid her bonne journée.
Look at that sweet little girl! I said to Jackie. But as soon as I spoke my eyes filled with tears.
Those little sagging socks at her ankles, that crooked part separating her pigtails, those pink and purple pom-poms that dangled from her backpack. How it all brought me back.
"You are all grown up now!" I looked over at Jackie, whose tie-dyed hair fell over her study sheet. Well into her teens--and with the groovy locks to prove it--she would soon trade fad for formality. Lately, she spoke of wanting a more soigné or sleek look. I could just see her cutting off her blond locks in favor of a glossy, dark carré, or blunt cut. The day was coming.
I ran my hand across my 16-year-old's soft head as we watched the little girl turn toward the bus.
"Elle est mignon!" Jackie agreed.
The more I watched the little girl, the more I saw childhood slipping away as it now stepped, with its sagging pink socks, onto the bus....
"Look at my eyes. I'm crying!"
"Maman..." Jackie reached over and kissed my cheek.
I didn't mean to be over-dramatic by pointing out the tears. But I had learned, not too long ago, to let 'em see you cry!--a stretch after years of never letting 'em see you sweat!
As my daughter lay her head on my shoulder, I told her a family history:
"When your dad and I split, twenty or so years ago, I went to gather my thoughts at a nearby cafe. But those thoughts I'd been carefully collecting were suddenly blasted as I glanced over at a nearby table.
The woman sitting there laughed with joy as she held a newborn baby in her arms. When my eyes hooked on that infant, a deep pulling began to rake through my body, collecting tears as it advanced. I quickly paid for my coffee and rushed off as tears poured out. I had never before felt that maternal instinct. And now it was too late. The father of my unconceived child had said it was over between us."
My throat grew tight as I told my daughter the story of her near non-existence.
"But I came back! And I had you!" I said, giggling. It was time to lighten up the conversation!
"No, you had Max..." Jackie pointed out, in typical sibling rivalry.
"Yes, but then I had YOU. And what would life be like without my little girl?" I turned and looked out the window once more, in wonderment.
The man beside the car in front of us watched his little girl climb the stairs of the bus. When her glitter and pom-pom backpack disappeared into the bus, he turned to me and smiled. Then he got into his car and drove off... as mysterious, as forgiving, and as promising as Father Time.
* * *
To respond to this story, click here. Wondering about that split? Read about the one-way ticket home Jean-Marc bought me here, in Words in a French Life (the intro chapter!).
New rental in Provence! La Baume des Pelerins, in Sablet--spacious, comfortable the perfect place to return to after a busy day’s sightseeing, bicycling or hiking.
La voici! (Here she is!)
The irises to the chair: Psst! "Don't turn your back on us!"
Say this now: Today I will imitate my dog. I'll turn sticks into flutes and I won't mind the critics when they say I'm doing things backwards.