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le sapin

Sapin = Christmas Tree (c) Kristin Espinasse le sapin (sa-pan) noun, masculine
  1. fir (tree); spruce

Avec un morceau de pain, on trouve son paradis sous un sapin.
With a piece of bread, one finds his paradise under a fir tree.

Today's story, about a local Grinch, ran one year ago.

When Max walked into the kitchen announcing, "Papa a acheté un sapin," Papa's bought a Christmas tree, I folded the dishtowel, set it down and took a deep breath. I knew the tree would be trunk-size and not like the giant pines my mom used to drag in. "But that's okay," I learned to reason years ago. "It will be just what we need and, if all else fails, it will be real." Then I entered the living room and that is when every nerve in my body became a live wire. There, in the center of the salon* stood the most abominable tree I had ever laid eyes on.

I knew better than to open my mouth lest the dregs of language, French or English, sling forth. Meanwhile my nerves began to short-circuit and it was only a matter of time before the flow reached my tongue, causing it to torch.
"How much did you pay for that?" said I, lips moving, teeth clamped.
"Twelve euros," said he, slack-jawed. After a moment of silence so thick you could hang tinsel on it, Jean-Marc added:
"You can take it back if you don't like it."
His proposition, delivered with the coolness of a peppermint candy cane, stunned. "It's not for me to take back. YOU take it back!"

Jean-Marc left the room and, with the slam of a door, the virtual tinsel fell to the floor. I stood before the artificial arbre.* A tree should be at least as tall as a child, I reasoned. I stared at the poor excuse for a tree, with its mangled branches here and missing foliage there--a fake fir so cheap it came with ornaments. The longer I stared, the uglier it appeared. "It is the ugliest tree that I have ever seen!" I screamed. With that, I pulled off what decorations Jean-Marc and Jackie had put up, tore the tree apart and shoved it into the stupid bag from which it came. Next, I went to the kitchen and slammed the dirty pots and pans around in the sink.

"You're so complicated," my Frenchman used to say as I struggled to adapt to his country, his ways. Over the years I suspected he had a point. Gradually I set about ousting the surplus and the superflu* -- learning the difference between want and besoin,* all the while simplifying, simplifying! The sum of all that effort now stood before me, concrete in form, via this, the simplest tree.

"But I want a COMPLICATED Christmas treeeeeee!" I cried out, shoving the sponge back into the pan. "I want a showy, superfluous, SUPERCALIFRAGILISTIC spruce!"

Just then I heard the rustle of faux branches and a whisper. "Il est beau!"* Max was saying to his sister. "Oui, regarde," yes, look, she replied. I listened to the clanking of bulbs. Peeking around the corner, I witnessed the scene.

Max had pulled the tree back out of the bag and reassembled it. The branches, still tordues,* now had a colorful array of bulbs, some chipped, some dusty, some new--all carefully hung. There were so many decorations that the empty parts, where branches seemed to be missing, were now filled in.

Jean-Marc was on his knees searching for an electrical outlet. When he found one, he plugged in the lights, stood and turned to reach for the switch but my hand was already on it. When he smiled, I flipped the switch. Next, the tree lights went on and the room came to a hush.

In the silence she appeared: La joie*--an étincelle* here, a sparkle there--Happiness filling the room; its presence so real, so palpable you could hang tinsel on it.

*References: le salon (m) = living room; un arbre (m) = tree; le superflu (m) = superfluity; le besoin (m) = need; il est beau = it is beautiful (tree); tordu(e) = twisted, bent; la joie (f) = joy; une étincelle (f) = spark, sparkle

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Listen to French: hear Jean-Marc recite today's proverb:
Avec un morceau de pain, on trouve son paradis sous un sapin. Download sapin4.wav

sentir le sapin = to have one foot in the grave
passer un sapin à quelqu'un = to dupe someone

le sapin de Noël = Christmas tree
*sapin also = coffin
*sapin is a color (vert sapin)

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